Playing partisan politics

Republicans beat Democrats in biennial softball match, 26-6

last time, Democrats won the contest, but Kerry lost to Bush in the election

October 22, 2006|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,Sun Reporter

The last time Carroll County Democrats challenged local Republicans to an election year softball game they won, by one run. But then John Kerry, their candidate, narrowly lost to President Bush.

Things didn't go the Democrats' way at a biennial bipartisan game last week, but they hoped it would be a good omen for the coming gubernatorial election.

"Republicans slaughtered the Democrats," Josh Kohn, the game's organizer, said of the 26 to 6 score. "Everyone had a ball. People were saying maybe the opposite will happen in the election. It will be interesting."

Under a hazy sky that emitted a brief drizzle rain, Carroll residents found respite from the tense political season on the diamond at Westminster City Park.

Apart from two councilmen and one Democratic Central Committee member, the crowd was a more apolitical bunch playing a loosely regulated game.

Kohn had trouble fielding a full team of Republicans - a surprising problem in the GOP dominated county - and had to recruit employees from Kohn Creative, his marketing and graphic design firm.

"Nobody really asked me what my affiliation was, they just assumed Republican since I'm a businessman," said player Steve Hossler, owner of David's Jewelers in Westminster. "I don't get in the political scene. I mostly stay neutral and vote for who I want to vote for."

The underdog mentality may have fueled the Democrats to victory in the game two years ago. This year's match, however, lacked the same bells and whistles. Life-sized cardboard cutouts of Bush and Kerry were prominently stationed on the infield then. Any batter who hit the ersatz candidates was promised a home run.

The overcast conditions dissuaded Ronald Schroers, Westminster's director of parks and recreation, from setting up a sound system outside, as he had two years ago to accompany a dance team from McDaniel College that performed .

No cut-outs of Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. or Democratic Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley graced the infield.

"When the presidential election comes up, this is going to be more full-blown," Kohn said. "This is kind of an interim year. There's not as much hoopla."

Still, the players looked spirited in their long-sleeve team T-shirts, white for the Republicans this year and gold for the Democrats. An image of a donkey clutching a bat before an elephant winding up for the pitch was embossed on the front of the shirts that read: "Republicans vs. Democrats: It's All About Being American." An ad for Carroll Magazine, a Kohn Creative publication, ran on the back of the shirts.

The game lacked any red state/blue state mentality. "We don't want to clearly divide it that much," said Schroers, a Republican and member of the Hampstead Town Council.

With all the parents at bat, there were plenty of children at the game. Some donned helmets and took the field. Most shared their parents' political preferences.

Though she apparently has a good voice, Kaitlyn Distler, 10, couldn't be persuaded to sing the National Anthem to kick off the match. Her friend, Sadie Allgeier, also 10, launched into a cheer for the Democrats.

A momentary crisis flared when Sadie caught a strong fast ball in her glove and the force knocked her to the ground. Dr. Robert Wack, chief of pediatrics at Carroll Hospital Center, checked her on the field. Sadie emerged unscathed.

Kohn's children, Grace, 9, and Ben, 11, kept score on the sidewalk, using rocks for chalk. Grace blew a silver whistle around her neck as players crossed home plate. Politics seemed to bewilder her a bit.

"A lot of people I know are on the Democrat side," said Grace, a Sandymount Elementary School pupil. "I've seen a lot of the signs [in the county], but I can't tell you if they're Republicans or Democrats."

Lisa Breslin, who directs the writing center at McDaniel, brought two college students out to play with the Democrats. One of the students, Djerdj Matkovic, 22, had never played baseball before in his native Serbia.

"Let's go democracy!" Matkovic said, before lobbing a foul ball high over the umpire's head.

When the Republicans were clobbering the Democrats, after six innings, the teams decided to call the game. But first, they all celebrated over beers at Harry's Main Street Restaurant.

"Nobody takes politics as lightly as I do," said Wack, a Westminster City Councilman who joined his Democratic teammates again this year. "As a Democrat in Carroll County, you have to have a sense of humor."

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