WASHINGTON, DC—An 8,976-foot foul ball off the bat of Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman crashed through the U.S. Capitol Building rotunda Sunday afternoon, prompting both the Nationals and the opposing Pittsburgh Pirates to gasp, turn to each other in shock, and immediately run full speed out of Nationals Park.
"As soon as I hit it, I knew it was headed straight toward Capitol Hill—I just kept saying to myself, 'Not the dome, not the dome, not the dome,'" Zimmerman said. Both teams, all four umpires, and the 32,457 fans in attendance winced in horror, however, as the ball kept carrying, made a loud smashing noise, and left a gaping hole in the rotunda's neoclassical architecture.
"We are so dead," Zimmerman added.
As the teams grabbed the bases and scrambled out of the stadium, the Pirates yelled to the Nationals that they were in "big trouble." The Nationals refuted that claim, screaming that "if [Pirates left-fielder] Jason [Bay] could run at all, he would've tracked down the ball and caught it" before it struck the 200-year-old structure, which stands 1.7 miles from the ballpark.
However, as soon as the teams heard the Capitol Building's front door swing open, they put their differences aside and sped frantically back to their hotel rooms.
"Congress is going to be so mad," said Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson, peering out his window, expecting to see the 535 members of the House and Senate pull into the hotel parking lot. "This was the worst time to do it, too, because they're already in a bad mood, what with the election stuff and the war and the recession, and all."
"Aw, man, we're never gonna get that ball back," Johnson added.
The team, however, has urged outfielder Lastings Milledge to dress up in a suit, sneak into the Capitol Building, retrieve the ball, and make the necessary repairs on the shattered sandstone walls of the dome before anyone notices.
According to eyewitnesses in the Capitol, the ball smashed into the dome at about 3:35 p.m., tore through the Apotheosis Of Washington—a 150-year-old, 4,664-square-foot fresco painted on the inside of the rotunda—and broke the arm off of a National Statuary Hall sculpture of William Jennings Bryan. The ball then bounced into the Senate Chamber, where it interrupted a vote on a $542.5 billion defense authorization bill, and landed directly in the mashed potatoes of early-dining Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), covering him with gravy and prompting him to exclaim, "Zimmer-maaaaannnn!"
Although McConnell had no evidence at the time that Zimmerman was responsible for the damages, he was the chief suspect, as he is the only National able to hit the ball farther than 300 feet. Furthermore, Zimmerman dented McConnell's 1998 Buick LeSabre last week when he overthrew first base by 15,000 feet on a routine grounder.
"This is unacceptable—Capitol rotundas don't just grow on trees, you know," read a statement drafted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi following the event. "Not only are these damages going to cost a fortune—a fortune—to repair, but we specifically told the Washington Nationals baseball organization a thousand times before the season started to be extra-careful and to try not to hit the ball to left field."
The statement went on to demand that the Nationals pay for all the damages, which total over $400 million—more than five times the entire team payroll. Because of this, players are expected to either find part-time jobs to cover the cost or work off the expenses by taking positions as congressional aides in the offseason.
The Pirates have promised to chip in $5, claiming that is all they have right now.
"This stinks," said Zimmerman, who attempted to persuade local resident Henry Adelson, a Nationals season-ticket holder and D.C.-area insurance claims adjuster, to take the rap for him and say he was the one who hit the ball. "We shouldn't have to stop playing just because the lousy U.S. Capitol got in the way. And also hitting the Capitol Building should be an automatic home run."
On Tuesday, Congress announced an initiative to move the Nationals franchise from D.C. to Oklahoma City, Portland, or anywhere far enough away that a batted ball or errant throw will not cause significant damage to American landmarks.
However, President Bush has called such actions "unnecessary" and "too harsh," saying that all will be forgiven if the players come down from their hotel rooms, say they're sorry, promise to be more careful, and allow Bush to participate in team batting practice every day from now through the 2016 season.