By Amanda Becker
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Members of the U.S. Congress took the field for their traditional Republicans vs. Democrats baseball game on Thursday, with many wearing hats to honor Representative Steve Scalise, who was critically wounded by a gunman as his Republican team practiced a day before.
When the members of the Republican team were announced at Nationals Park, mention of Scalise's named drew a standing ovation from the areas designated for Republican, Democrat and nonpartisan fans alike.
President Donald Trump did not attend but in a video address shown on the stadium's giant screen praised the friendly nature of the game.
David Bailey, a Capitol Hill police officer who was part of Scalise's security detail and helped bring down the shooter, also was injured in the Wednesday incident but had recovered enough to throw the game's ceremonial first pitch.
Both Republican and Democratic leaders at the game encouraged a sense of unity in the wake of the shooting during an otherwise politically rancorous time in Washington when the parties are sharply divided over healthcare legislation and investigations of the members of the Trump administration.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stood side by side to shout: “Let’s play ball!” and the crowd chanted "U-S-A! U-S-A!" as the game began.
Scalise, 51, a Louisiana Republican who is the No. 3 House Republican, remained in critical condition at a hospital a few miles from the stadium after undergoing a third surgery on Thursday. He was hit in the left hip, suffering injuries to internal organs, broken bones and severe bleeding, in Thursday's shooting.[nL3N1JD02C]
For the game, which began in 1909, members of the Senate and House of Representatives donned uniforms representing teams from their constituencies for the game and many topped them with hats from Louisiana State University, Scalise's alma mater, as a tribute.
In addition to Scalise, a police officer, a congressional aide and a lobbyist were wounded on Wednesday morning when a man opened fire as the Republican lawmakers practiced for the game in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia.
More than 20,000 tickets had been sold for the game as of 4 p.m. on Thursday and it was on track to raise more than $1 million, roughly double what it did last year, for charities, its organizers said.
The Capitol Police Memorial Fund was added to the list of charities that will receive money raised by the game in honor of two members of Scalise’s security detail who were at the Wednesday practice session and returned fire. The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and the Washington Literary Center are the game’s other beneficiaries.
(Reporting by Amanda Becker; Editing by Bill Trott)