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A pitch for bipartisanship: Michigan Democrats, Republicans plan softball game

baseball diamond
Michigan lawmakers will play in the bipartisan Legislative Softball Night on Sept. 20 at Jackson National Stadium in Lansing. (Bridge photo by Jonathan Oosting)
  • Michigan lawmakers to compete in bipartisan softball game
  • Organizers hope to help colleagues build relationships
  • Event is set for Sept. 20 in downtown Lansing

LANSING – Democrats and Republicans in the Michigan Legislature will square off next month on the softball diamond, where organizers hope to encourage bipartisan camaraderie while raising money for charity. 

The first — and perhaps first annual – Legislative Softball Night is set for 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 20 at Jackson National Stadium in downtown Lansing, home of the minor league Lansing Lugnuts and a brief walk from the state Capitol.


The bases will be moved in, the game shortened to five innings and the stakes decidedly low. But first-term lawmakers who drew inspiration from an annual Congressional Baseball Game in Washington D.C. are hoping the event can help bridge what they’ve come to see as a frustrating political divide. 


“For our democracy to survive, we need people who have diverse ideas and general disagreements to be able to exist in common spaces,” Rep. Alabas Farhat, a Dearborn Democrat who took office in January, told Bridge Michigan. 

“At a macro level, that's what we're hoping to do. And on a micro level, we’re hoping to have some fun and hopefully raise some money for a good charity.”

The City Rescue Mission of Lansing, a homeless shelter that operates next door to the minor league baseball stadium, is expected to take donations at the door. The event will be open to the public. 

Longtime observers of the Michigan Legislature told Bridge they could not recall a similar bipartisan sporting event between Republicans and Democrats. 

The closest would be roughly two decades ago, when legislators played against Capitol press corps reporters, public relations agents and lobbyists, said Zach Gorchow, executive editor and publisher of Gongwer News Service, a subscription news service that covers state government.

"It definitely would be a new thing unless it happened way, way in the dark ages," Gorchow said. "That'll be fun."

Farhat is organizing the event with first-term Republican state Rep. Tom Kunse of Clare. Despite political differences and an age gap, the pair developed a friendship and have spearheaded bipartisan dinners in Lansing.

Those dinners have helped colleagues realize that “nobody has horns” and “nobody has a tail” on the other side of the aisle, Kunse told Bridge. "These are all just people here for the right reason."

While Farhat played baseball in high school, and Kunse said some colleagues he’s recruited for the GOP team have significant experience on the diamond, they’re both downplaying any competitive expectations for the game. 

"This is a funsies thing," Kunse said. "We're coming out and we're gonna raise money for charity. If you want to bring back your high school athletic stories, this probably isn't going to be the time."

There is, of course, "politics in everything," Kunse acknowledged, describing spirited negotiations over uniforms that lawmakers will wear for the game. 

The bipartisan compromise: All lawmakers will wear gray shirts. Republicans with red numbers, corresponding to their legislative district. Democrats with blue.

Farhat said he is still working to round out the Democratic roster but is planning to invite high-ranking officials from the party, which has narrow majorities in both chambers for the first time in 40 years. 


Kunse has already attracted 10 Republican colleagues to join his team, he told Bridge, including House Appropriations Vice Chair Sarah Lightner, Assistant House GOP Leader Andrew Beeler and Assistant Floor Leader Graham Filler.

The representatives will let state senators to play too, and they’ve even invited Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to throw out the first pitch, Kunse said. 

The governor hasn’t committed to the event, and “her schedule is probably busier than mine,” Kunse acknowledged. 

But the invitation shows just “how bipartisan it is,” he said. "Stop by to have a hot dog. Throw a pitch. We're all just people."

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