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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Members of the U.S. Congress took the field for their traditional Republicans vs. Democrats baseball game on Thursday, with many wearing hats to honour Representative Steve Scalise, who was critically wounded by a gunman as his Republican team practiced a day before.
When the members of the Republican team were announced at Nationals Park, mention of Scalise's name drew a standing ovation from the areas designated for Republican, Democrat and nonpartisan fans alike.
President Donald Trump did not attend but in a video address shown on the stadium's giant screen praised the friendly nature of the annual charity event.
David Bailey, a Capitol Hill police officer who was part of Scalise's security detail and helped bring down the shooter, also was injured in the Wednesday incident but had recovered enough to throw the game's ceremonial first pitch.
The Democrats won the game, 11-2, but loaned the trophy to the Republicans until Scalise is better.
Both Republican and Democratic leaders at the game encouraged a sense of unity in the wake of the shooting during an otherwise politically rancorous time in Washington when the parties are sharply divided over healthcare legislation and investigations of the members of the Trump administration.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stood side by side to shout: “Let’s play ball!” and the crowd chanted "U-S-A! U-S-A!" as the game began.
Scalise, 51, a Louisiana Republican who is the No. 3 House Republican, remained in critical condition at a hospital a few miles from the stadium after undergoing a third surgery on Thursday. He was hit in the left hip, suffering injuries to internal organs, broken bones and severe bleeding, in Wednesday's shooting.
For the game, which began in 1909, members of the Senate and House of Representatives donned uniforms representing teams from their constituencies, and many topped them with hats from Louisiana State University, Scalise's alma mater, as a tribute.
In addition to Scalise, a police officer, a congressional aide and a lobbyist were shot on Wednesday morning when a man opened fire as the Republican lawmakers practiced for the game in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia.
Nearly 25,000 tickets were sold for the game and it was on track to raise more than $1 million, roughly double what it did last year, organizers said.
Ticket sales picked up after Wednesday's shooting, eventually setting an attendance record, the organizers said, as attendees such as Alexander Hilten, 16, of Arlington, Virginia, decided to come to the game for the first time.
"A lot of times in politics we have divisions but it shouldn't come to violence," he said. "It's cool that they're putting it on even after the shooting. It just shows how resilient these politicians are."
The Capitol Police Memorial Fund was added to the list of charities that will receive money raised by the game in honour of two members of Scalise’s security detail who were at the Wednesday practice session and returned fire. The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and the Washington Literary Center are the game’s other beneficiaries.
(This version of the story corrects typographical error, paragraph 2, day of shooting, paragraph 8, spelling of Hilten's name, paragraph 12)
Reporting by Amanda Becker; additional reporting by Lacey Johnson; Editing by Bill Trott