By Elise Viebeck,
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise is ready to reclaim his starting position at second base, one year after a gunman fired on a baseball practice and nearly killed him.
The third-ranking Republican is slated to play Thursday night in the annual Congressional Baseball Game between Republicans and Democrats at Nationals Park. The contest is expected to raise at least half a million dollars for children’s charities in Washington.
“I earned the starting job back again,” Scalise (La.) told Fox News on Thursday, in a joking mood. “That was great, but it tells you how bad the talent level is that a guy like me who can barely walk out there right now can make it.”
“But I can field balls, and I can still make the throw to first,” said Scalise, who has undergone nine surgeries and physical therapy.
Scalise’s return to the field will be emotional for the lawmakers, staff and family members whose tightknit community was turned upside down by the attack of gunfire last year. The shooter, who was killed when Scalise’s security detail returned fire, targeted Republicans during an early-morning practice for the Congressional Baseball Game, one of Capitol Hill’s few long-standing bipartisan traditions.
A day later, as congressional leaders donned “Team Scalise” gear and the two teams gathered to play before a record-breaking crowd, the Republican whip was still in and out of surgery. A bullet had entered his hip and shattered his femur. Infections followed. At times, doctors did not believe he would survive.
Some lawmakers credited the violence with bringing greater civility to Capitol Hill, though it was unclear how long it lasted or what effect it had.
“I think it did reignite some civility — reestablish may be a better term,” Rep. Joe Barton (Tex.), who plays for the Republicans, told CNN on Thursday. He said members have been more “genial” and “cooperative” than before.
Scalise said he was moved by the care he felt from around the world. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called him at the hospital along with Bono, the lead singer of U2, he told Fox.
It is unclear how much he will play of the seven-inning game, which begins at 7 p.m. Scalise’s mobility was limited by his injuries, and he typically walks using a crutch.
The other looming presence over the game will be President Trump, who celebrated his 72nd birthday on Thursday and who Scalise invited to the game. Trump called Scalise a “friend,” a “patriot” and a “fighter” in the wake of the shooting.
Asked if he thought the president would make it, the Republican lawmaker shrugged.
“He’s probably got jet lag,” Scalise told Fox, referring to Trump’s recent trip to Singapore. “He’s like, nonstop. I don’t know if he ever sleeps.”
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