Congressional baseball game’s “designated heckler” Ed Perlmutter takes his last swings before retirement

· Jul. 29, 2022, 4:00 am
Rep. Ed Perlmutter surveys the final practice at Nationals Park before the 2022 Congressional Baseball Game, July 28, 2022. Perlmutter says the competition plays an important role in helping members of Congress build friendships.

“It doesn’t get better than this,” said Rep. Ed Perlmutter, looking out across the field of Nationals Park as his Democratic and Republican colleagues got in a final practice before Thursday night’s game. 

Perlmutter has played in the Congressional Baseball Game every year he’s been in Congress, usually donning a jersey from a school in his district. This year, for his final game before retirement, it’s Westminster’s Standley Lake High School.

When the coaches put him in, Perlmutter usually plays in the outfield. But his real position on the team?

“I’m a designated heckler. That’s my job. I just love yelling at everybody,” he said jokingly.

And this morning’s practice sees Perlmutter in fine heckling form.

20220727-PERLMUTTER-BASEBALLCaitlyn Kim/CPR News
Rep. Ed Perlmutter stands on the sidelines of batting practice, preparing to heckle players ahead of the annual Congressional Baseball Game, July 28, 2022.

“Oh, no Westrup’s up next?,” he taunts, eyeing Ohio GOP Rep. Brad Westrup who’s in line to take a couple of practice swings. “This is going to be fun, this is going to be fun.”

Smiling, Westrup calls back, “no heckling.”

Perlmutter revels in this self-appointed role. He calls it his way of encouraging all the players. 

New York Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jefferies described him as a “super heckler.”

“His job is to motivate us, and he does it in multiple ways,” he said wryly.

20220727-PERLMUTTER-BASEBALLCaitlyn Kim/CPR News
Rep. Ed Perlmutter generally plays outfield on the Democratic team, but his real role is as the game's 'designated heckler.'

The game — Democrats versus Republicans — has been going on for over 100 years. In modern times, it’s become a charity event that can draw a crowd of more than 18,000 and raise over $1 million for local Washington D.C. non-profits. 

And some of the players (although maybe not Perlmutter) are really good. GOP Rep. Greg Steube hit a homerun at last year’s game. According to Roll Call, Perlmutter is a career .250 hitter with three stolen bases and eight runs scored.

Politicians are naturally a competitive bunch, but this game gives them more than just bragging rights for the year ahead. It’s actually a place where members of the two parties can get to know one another outside the often partisan halls of Congress. Perlmutter said it’s one of the few chances for members, men and women, senators and representatives, to build camaraderie, regardless of which side of the aisle you’re on.

“That’s what builds friendships and trust and relationships, where you can go to somebody and say ‘Look, I really need some help on this (bill). You got some ideas? If you’ve got some ideas I’d like to incorporate them. Let's move this thing forward,’” Perlmutter explained. “And you know on a couple of bills that I’ve had, it’s made all the difference in the world.”

20220727-PERLMUTTER-BASEBALLCaitlyn Kim/CPR News
At the final practice before the 2022 Congressional Baseball Game, Rep, Ed Perlmutter pauses to chat with former GOP Rep. Jack Kingston, now an assistant coach for the Republican team, July 28, 2022.

As he talks about the friends he’s made playing over the years, Republican Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, comes up to rib Perlmutter, as if on cue.

“This guy is the absolute worst. He never shuts up,” Davis deadpans.

The two have been friends for a long time, Perlmutter said laughing. And Davis, who plays catcher for the Republican team, is to blame for his most memorable moment on the field — a crucial out in the 2019 game.

“He just takes me out at home plate,” Perlmutter recalled, “that’s my favorite moment.” 

“He should have slid later,” Davis parries. “He slid too soon.”

The 2022 Congressional Baseball Game is a bittersweet moment for Perlmutter, the lone Coloradan playing this year. He’s retiring from office after this term and will have to hang up his cleats. So he’s making the most of the practice, not just getting his jibes in, but taking photos and selfies with his friends on the field of a major league stadium. 

20220727-PERLMUTTER-BASEBALLCaitlyn Kim/CPR News
Rep. Ed Perlmutter's final baseball card of his congressional career. He's played for the Democrats since arriving in the House in 2007.

Looking out at his fellow congress members, Perlmutter said a little wistfully that yes, it’s sad, “but it’s time. I’ve injured myself so many times playing in these games and at practice.”

Perlmutter is one of a handful old-timers, Davis included, that won’t be back playing on the field next year due to retirement. But the Democrat still has one more game on the schedule. He’s one of the coaches for the Congressional Women’s Baseball Game that takes place in the fall. 

And as Perlmutter observes, there is an added bonus to being a designated hecker: It’s something he can still do from the stands. 

A fact he jovially reminds the players at practice. 

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