Ed Perlmutter, the ‘designated heckler’ of the Congress baseball game, takes his final shots before retiring
When coaches place him, Perlmutter usually plays in the outfield. But his real place in the team?
“I am a designated heckler. It’s my job. I love yelling at everyone,” he joked.
And practice this morning sees Perlmutter in full horseplay form.
“Oh, no Westrup is next?” he scoffs, eyeing Ohio GOP Rep. Brad Westrup, who is in line to take a few practice swings. “It’s gonna be fun, it’s gonna be fun.”
Smiling, Westrup recalls, “No heckling.”
Perlmutter revels in this self-proclaimed role. He calls it his way of encouraging all the players.
New York Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jefferies described him as a “super rowdy”.
“His job is to motivate us, and he does that in multiple ways,” he said wryly.
The game – Democrats versus Republicans – has been going on for more than 100 years. In modern times, it has become a charity event that can attract over 18,000 people and raise over $1 million for local Washington DC nonprofits.
And some of the players (but maybe not Perlmutter) are really good. GOP Rep. Greg Steube hit a home run in 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 bragging rights for the year ahead. It’s actually a place where members of both parties can get to know each other outside of the often partisan halls of Congress. Perlmutter said it’s one of the few opportunities for members, men and women, senators and representatives, to build camaraderie no matter which side of the aisle you’re on.
“It’s what builds friendships and trust and relationships, where you can go up to someone and say, ‘Look, I really need help with this (Bill). You have any ideas ? If you have any ideas, I’d love to incorporate them. Let’s get this thing moving,” Perlmutter explained. “And you know, on a couple of bills I’ve had, it’s made all the difference in the world.”
As he talks about the friends he’s made playing over the years, Republican Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois approaches Perlmutter, as if the timing is right.
“This guy is the absolute worst. He never shuts up,” Davis deadpans.
The two have been friends for a long time, Perlmutter said with a laugh. And Davis, who plays wide receiver for the Republican team, is to blame for his most memorable moment on the court – a crucial outing in the 2019 game.
“He just takes me to home plate,” Perlmutter recalled, “that’s my favorite moment.”
“He should have slipped later,” Davis parries. “He slipped too soon.”
The 2022 Congressional baseball game is a bittersweet moment for Perlmutter, the only Coloradan to play this year. He retires after this mandate and will have to hang up his crampons. So he’s making the most of practice, not just making his jokes, but taking pictures and selfies with his friends on the field of a major league stadium.
Looking at his fellow congressmen, Perlmutter wistfully said yes, it’s sad, “but it’s about time. I got injured so many times playing those games and training.
Perlmutter is one of the few veterans, Davis included, who will not return to the court next year due to retirement. But the Democrat still has one game on the schedule. He is one of the coaches for the Congressional Women’s Baseball Game which takes place in the fall.
And as Perlmutter observes, there’s an added benefit to being a designated Hecker: it’s something he can still do from the stands.
A fact that he cheerfully reminds players in training.