By Scott Grant
On June 17, 2017, Congressman Ron DeSantis stood at home plate in Nationals Stadium with a bat in his hands. He was hitting fourth for the Republicans in the annual Congressional baseball game. Congress has been playing these games, pitting the Democrats vs. the Republicans, off and on since 1909.
The day before, a crazed gunman had opened fire on the Republican team’s practice at Eugene Sampson Park in Arlington, Virginia. The shooter fired 60 rounds, wounding five before being shot to death by police. House Whip Steve Scalise was in critical condition. The terror of the day before hung heavy in the air that night.
DeSantis faced down pitcher Cedric Richmond, a Democrat from Louisiana making his sixth straight start in the game. The future governor swung at the first pitch and laced an opposite field line drive to right center. As the ball came off his bat and he trotted toward first base, DeSantis must have smiled and pictured himself drinking a cold RC Cola.
Back in 1991, DeSantis’ little league coaches rewarded opposite field hits like the one the Congressman had just executed with an RC Cola. They must have been pretty good coaches. They took Dunedin National all the way to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, New York. At the time, Ron DeSantis was one of the best 12-year-old baseball players in the state.
Back then, everyone called him “D.” Sometimes opponents heckled him for having an initial as a name. In a critical game against Seminole for the state title, DeSantis responded to the taunts of “why don’t you have a real name” with a two-run homer. DeSantis got two more hits in that game and struck out five in three innings of pitching.
In the Southern Regional tournament, the future Governor got four hits against a team from Mississippi and a win on the mound against a team from Marietta, Georgia. A final win against Lake Charles, Louisiana, advanced the team to the Little League World Series, the dream of every 12-year-old baseball player in the world.
In Williamsport, the players wrote the letters W.W.T. on the brims of their baseball caps. It stood for “We Want Taiwan.” At that time Taiwan was the perennial favorite to win the tournament. Unfortunately, the team from Dunedin suffered two heart-breaking losses and were eliminated. Their only win was a drubbing of Saudi Arabia. DeSantis struck out 11 and homered in that game.
Dunedin National is still one the best Little League teams to come out of the Sunshine State. Four players from that team were drafted into the pros. Ron DeSantis might have been able to sign a professional contract as well. Instead, he went to Yale where he was captain of the baseball team. And then to Harvard, and then to the Navy, and then to Afghanistan, and Congress — and you know the rest.
Scott A. Grant is a local Pop Historian and author. By day he is president of Standfast Asset Management.