The annual softball game took on added significance this year, given the state of partisanship in Hartford and especially in Washington, D.C. The event came just three weeks after a shooting at a practice for the Congressional Baseball Game in Alexandria, Virginia.
“It’s about Independence Day and this is something that we all can agree on — how great our nation is and all the things we need to do to celebrate our nation,” McFadden said. “And that’s one area that we have in common: The RTC and the DTC both hold our nation in high regard and so we come together on this day to celebrate.”
Al Alper, chairman of the Wilton Republican Town Committee, agreed. He said the political rhetoric used at the national level isn’t seen locally, “whether you’re talking about Obama when he called Republicans enemies, to Trump and his tweets.”
“We’re all friends and neighbors first, involved in politics secondarily,” Alper said. “And we all get in involved in politics for the same reason: We want the quality of life for our family to be sustained and so we raise our hand to sustain that.”
Eric Fanwick, who coached the Democrats again this year, said he doesn’t understand the anger expressed at the national level today. During college, he interned for state Rep. Stewart McKinney, who often spoke about the political divide in the late ’70s. McKinney represented the Fourth Congressional District from 1971 until his death from AIDS in 1987.
“It’s like that now except it seems like it’s on steroids,” Fanwick said. “I’m baffled because the unemployment rate is, what, 4 percent, inflation is 2 percent. I don’t know what all the anger’s about. I just don’t see it.”
The softball game, Fanwick said, is a good way to bring the two parties together at least on the local level.
“We’re just here to have a good time and to celebrate the Fourth and it’s all in good sportsmanship,” Fanwick said. “As you can see, no one is taking this too seriously.”
The game is traditionally umpired by the town’s first selectman. This year, due to First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice’s unavailability, Second Selectman Michael Kaelin assumed the role — and without any affiliation.
Kaelin previously played for the Republicans but recently changed his affiliation to unaffiliated before the 2016 November election because of the “negativity and divisiveness” seen during the presidential campaign, he said.
“It’s nice being in the middle and unaffiliated,” he added.
The game drew several spectators, including Marsha McLaughlin and her sister, Christine, who stopped by on their way to the garden to cheer on the Democrats. Halfway into the game, state Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, and Selectman Lori Bufano joined the Republicans near the dugout.
Coach Joe Favarolo led the Republicans to another victory this year, following last year’s shutout of 21-0. The game concluded after the fifth inning, with a final score of 21-1. The two teams lined up and shook hands before the Republicans were handed the coveted bucket trophy.
“It’s really a lot of camaraderie I see on this field,” Favarolo said. “We play and have a lot of fun.”
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