Last Updated Jun 15, 2017 11:21 AM EDT
Republican congressmen were preparing for their annual congressional baseball game against House Democrats Wednesday, a charity event meant to be a partisan showdown than somehow transcends politics,at the field in sleepy Alexandria, Virginia, and the scene turned into what one member described as looking like he was back in Iraq.
The Congressional Baseball Game for Charity, scheduled for Thursday night under the lights at Nationals Park, is an opportunity for members to adopt a more lighthearted -- although still competitive -- tone. It's a break from the cutting partisan patter of their day jobs. But what Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Florida, described as a usually "jovial" practice for the partisan showdown, changed instantly.
"It's one of the few things that we do with the Democrats that's supposed to be for fun," Rooney told CBS News, after five people -- including Louisiana Republican Majority Whip-- were sent to the hospital after the shooting. "... Not for a minute do I ever think that I'm putting myself in danger by going out to baseball practice at 6:30 a.m. in the morning."
The game, first organized in 1909 by then-Rep. John Tener of Pennsylvania, has continued annually since then with few interruptions. More than a century later, at time when the nation and Washington, D.C. are divided over President Trump, health care and a host of other hot-button issues, the annual game is a chance for some semblance of unity.
Eerily enough, British Ambassador Nigel Kim Darroch was slated to throw the first pitch Thursday, in honor of the victims of the.
"For one night each year, politicians put aside their partisan differences and battle it out on the diamond," the Congressional Baseball Game for Charity says on its Facebook page. "This annual event pits Republican members of Congress vs. Democratic members of Congress in a game of fast pitch baseball. But no matter what the scoreboard reads, the real winners are the charities that benefit from the tens of thousands of dollars raised."
This year, the proceeds from the $10 tickets are intended to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, Nationals Dream Foundation and Washington Literacy Center.
"We take this game very seriously. I mean obviously we want to win, but it is for a good cause," Rooney continued.
Wednesday afternoon members said Thursday's baseball game will continue as planned.
The shooting is already uniting, as Democrats offered prayers and support to their Republican colleagues.