WASHINGTON — It was the first play of the congressional baseball game on Thursday at Nationals Park, and one of their own had been forced out at first. Still, the Democrats were on their feet cheering.
In a moment that simply could not be made up, Representative Raul Ruiz, Democrat of California, sent a grounder to the right side of the infield that was tracked down by none other than Representative Steve Scalise, Republican of Louisiana.
The significance of the play was not lost on the elated crowd: Exactly one year ago, a gunman had opened fire on the Republican congressional team during its practice in Alexandria, Va., wounding four people, including Mr. Scalise.
Mr. Scalise, who suffered severe bleeding and damage to his organs, walked onto the field on Thursday night with a crutch. He was stepping in for Representative Kevin Brady, Republican of Texas, as the starting second baseman.
“He should feel demoralized that a guy that was literally in the hospital having surgeries about six weeks ago beat him out for the starting gig,” Mr. Scalise, whose movement is still limited, said minutes before the game began.
As Mr. Scalise recorded the first out, the crowd, which had earlier in the evening paid tribute to him, leapt to its feet and roared with respect. It was a brief but welcome moment of bipartisanship, the kind this tradition is intended to evoke.
“We’re feeling on top of the world,” said Representative Barry Loudermilk, Republican of Georgia, who was on the field last year during the shooting.
Although the political atmosphere in Washington is increasingly fractious and partisan, the grand stage of Nationals Park allowed for the emergence of across-the-aisle gentility.
Case in point: When a fan sitting near the Democrats’ dugout called out to Representative Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama, to ask him to sign his program, Mr. Brooks was happy to oblige.
“There you go; you can use it as a dart board now,” Mr. Brooks joked.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, some thought, or maybe just hoped, that the trauma could give way to lasting unity and empathy — that the experience of living through an event that has become as quintessentially American as the pastime they were reveling in could change the political climate of Washington.
Those hopes did not last long.
Facing uncertain prospects in this fall’s midterm elections, congressional Republicans have retired in droves; nearly one in four players on the baseball team