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June 26, 2019

Roll Call: Diamonds are Reps. Linda Sánchez and Nanette Barragán’s best friend

Diamonds are Reps. Linda Sánchez and Nanette Barragán’s best friend

Even though Reps. Linda Sánchez and Nanette Barragán will be the lone female lawmakers at Nationals Park, surrounded by more than 70 male colleagues and coaches, the only thing that might give it away is their ponytails. Sporting cleats, batting helmets and their favorite jerseys, they’re just some of the guys.

“They treat us like equals. They make us work just as hard,” Barragán told me of her male teammates after one of their last practices before Wednesday night’s Congressional Baseball Game.

Sánchez, who watched from the sidelines last year thanks to a broken hand, was the only woman on the Democratic roster for 13 years until she encouraged her fellow Californian to run for Congress. To her surprise, the recruitment would end up being a home run. “I didn’t know how good [Barragán] was until she got elected to Congress and came out for the team,” Sánchez said of her fellow second baseman.

Barragán, who also shows off her skills in the Congressional Women’s Softball Game, remembers the first time she stepped up to bat at Nationals Park — it was one day after a gunman opened fire on an early morning GOP practice in 2017. The city was still shaken, but the roars that erupted from nearly 25,000 cheering fans in the stands drowned out any first-time jitters. “I’ll never forget that moment,” Barragán said.

This year’s game comes on the heels of the 47th anniversary of Title IX, the federal law that provides equal opportunities in academics and athletics, regardless of sex or gender. As Sánchez sports a jersey with the number “IX” on the back, the D.C. Girls Baseball team, the only girls’ baseball program in the region, will be in the stands cheering on both congresswomen.

“I hope it just sends the message that what they’re doing is the right thing, and they, too, can play on a major league baseball field,” Barragán said.

The second-term congresswoman knows what it’s like to bust barriers. She once petitioned her high school to try out for the boys’ baseball team — and ended up making the junior varsity squad.

Still, women have taken two steps forward and one step back when it comes to sheer numbers in the congressional game.

Three women burst onto the scene in 1993: Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell and Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lambert.

That would turn out to be a high point. Cantwell no longer plays, while the other pioneers are no longer in Congress. In recent years, the count went up again — but then Republicans lost standout Mia Love to a re-election defeat.

So when will more women get into the game? “We gotta run for Congress first to make that happen,” Barragán said.