HAZLETON — U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, is training once again to pitch in the annual Republicans vs. Democrats Congressional Baseball Game on June 13.
Barletta, according to his communications director Tim Murtaugh, has been throwing in the bullpen for more than a week in preparation for the big game.
Murtaugh should know a little something about baseball — his grandfather, Danny Murtaugh, managed the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1960s, including during the dramatic World Series victory over the New York Yankees in 1960.
“He believes he can still gas it to up to 80 miles per hour, and can still snap off a curve or two,” Murtaugh said of his boss.
The proceeds of the event benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs. The game will be played in Nationals Park, home of the National League’s Washington Nationals.
Murtaugh said that since 1909 the Congressional Baseball Game has been the only annual partisan showdown beloved by all and enjoyed by thousands. Republicans hold a 38-36-1 advantage in the 75-year-old series.
On the website for the game, it states: “Every year, with a few interruptions, Senate and House members of each party team up to settle scores and solidify friendships off the floor and on the field. Members usually sport the uniform of their home states and districts, and although proportional representation is not required, elected officials of many states play to win every year. Over the last century the Congressional Baseball Game’s popularity has contributed to its evolution into a fundraiser for two worthy and effective DC area charities, The Washington Literacy Council, and The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington.”
Barletta, who was a pretty good baseball player back in the day, dreamed of going pro. His idol was Mickey Mantle and his favorite team was the Yankees. He played center field like Mantle and taught himself to be a switch-hitter, also just like Mantle. Shortly after he was married, Barletta convinced his father that he should drop out of college and head to Tampa, Fla., to participate in a tryout camp.
“I was a lead-off hitter. I could bunt and steal bases. But I didn’t make it,” Barletta said in a 2007 story in The Times Leader, even though he could get from home plate to first in 3.7 seconds. “They found out I couldn’t hit a curve ball. So I came back home and went to work for my dad in the construction business.”