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Not Just Another Girls' Night Out

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, left, laughs at a joke made by Sen. Susan Collins, middle, as the congressional women's softball team gathers for a group meeting at Guy Mason Field in D.C. last night. (Marcus Yam/The Washington Post)

A measure of progress in the quest for equality: There are now enough women in Congress to field a softball team.

Well, technically they passed that threshold years ago -- heck, the Senate alone technically now has enough ladies for a starting lineup and a nearly complete second-string! Somehow, though, no one ever got around to organizing a game until last night, when a congressional women's team suited up for a charity game against female staffers on a Glover Park field.

A Title IX-generation thing? Not really. In six weeks of practice, one of the standouts was 72-year-old Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) "I saw her hit last night," marveled Marcia Stein, head of Young Survival Coalition, the breast cancer charity that benefited from the match. "But they're all pretty good hitters."

Rep. Grace Napolitano practices fielding before the game. (Marcus Yam/The Washington Post)

"We've got a pretty good group of women," said the team captain, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who cooked up the idea last year. She played varsity softball in high school, though others copped to a little less playing time: "Like, for a hot minute in seventh and eighth grade!" confessed Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.).

"Oh, Donna is a very good catcher!" gushed Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine). The vibe was both bipartisan-bonding and you-go-girl: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) gamely stepped onto the field with a skirt and pumps below her pink team shirt; Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) gave a pep talk to nervous pitcher Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.): "It's really all on us in the outfield!"

Well, sometimes nerves are there for a reason: Emerson walked the first batter. The umpires stopped the first inning -- "mercy rule!" -- after the mostly 20- and 30-something staffers scored five runs before the congresswomen could notch an out. Soon the staffers led 12-0.

And then -- the rally. Edwards drew a bases-loaded walk, and the team swarmed Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) like a home run queen as she strolled home. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) doubled in the seventh, kicking off a white-hot hitting streak. In the end: a respectable loss, 14-8.

And naturally, speeches: Schultz took the mike to cheer the spirit of bipartisanship and the final fundraising take of $40,000 -- before she was whisked into an ambulance with the ankle she broke sliding into second.

By The Reliable Source  |  July 15, 2009; 1:03 AM ET
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