DETROIT (AP) — A Michigan congressman who worked with a man critically wounded when a gunman attacked a Republican baseball practice outside Washington said Thursday that his former aide is driven, passionate about agricultural issues and "starting to show his feistiness again."
Matt Mika, a lobbyist for Tyson Foods and a former aide to Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, was shot in the chest and arm during the attack Wednesday in Alexandria, Virginia. His family released a statement Thursday saying he suffered "massive trauma," needs breathing assistance and will need more surgery.
Walberg told The Associated Press that he spoke with Mika's family late Wednesday when he visited George Washington University Hospital, where the 38-year-old remains in critical condition.
"The most important thing is (Mika) is responsive, conscious and starting to show his feistiness again," Walberg said. "I think that will stand in good stead for a full recovery from this horrible, horrible shooting."
Mika's family credited first responders, the medical team and Mika's "fighting spirit and grit." They said he was in intensive care and "lucky to be alive."
The former college athlete was an assistant coach of the GOP team's baseball practice ahead of the annual Republicans v. Democrats charity game. Rep. Steve Scalise, the U.S. House majority whip, also was critically wounded during the attack that injured several people. Police killed the gunman.
Walberg said he has known Mika, now director of government relations for Arkansas-based Tyson Foods' Washington office, since he came to work for him during his first congressional run in 2006. Mika served as an aide to Walberg and became, the congressman said, "a well-loved nephew."
Walberg said he last spoke with Mika late Monday at a Michigan Republican reception in Washington, where he saw his "infectious personality" on full display. Walberg declined to discuss details of their conversation, but said he admired what he heard.
"He was talking of some significant moves forward in his own personal life," he said.
Walberg recalls Mika's "passion for anything he did," particularly his embrace of agricultural issues — important in Walberg's southern Michigan district — despite growing up outside Detroit and lacking a farm background.
"He did everything possible to know that issue," Walberg said, noting that Mika's jobs since leaving the Capitol have been agriculture related.
The congressman said Mika's status as an "overachiever" goes back to his days playing football and baseball at Michigan's Adrian College.
"He's not a big guy but he has such a big heart and a big personality," Walberg said. "That has continued on."
Walberg noted that Mika was a "wonderful asset" to the GOP baseball team, waking up early in the morning to help out "when he didn't have to." The charity game was still scheduled for Thursday.
"He can pitch, he can field and he can provide an example for members of Congress to have to step up a bit," Walberg said.