Whose politicians are better? MS or AL? They'll settle the score ... on the softball field?

After the University of Mississippi's softball team was swept by the University of Alabama's earlier this year, it would appear Mississippi lawmakers are looking to reverse their luck.

The Mississippi House of Representatives will play the Alabama House on June 22 in a charity softball game at Trustmark Park in Jackson at 11 a.m.

Mississippi House Speaker Pro Tem. Manly Barton, R-Moss Point, said he was approached by Alabama House Majority Leader Scott Stadthagen, R-Hartselle, about playing a friendly game to raise money for charity.

"We talked over a period of couple days; I sat down with our leadership… A lot of us thought it'd be a lot of fun and might be something we could do," Barton said. "So, I basically called (Stadthagen) back and said we're all in."

Stadthagen and Barton both said the two-day event will also prove a great opportunity for Alabama and Mississippi lawmakers, as well as state leaders, to convene and discuss policy issues and other legislative agendas for the upcoming 2025 session.

"Even when we go to conferences, we don't get a chance to really sit down and get to know our neighbors," Stadthagen said. "We handle a lot of the same problems that they do, and it'd be good to start building that relationship moving forward and go from there."

The event's activities will begin Friday with a banquet, a tour of the capitol building and Jackson and a chance for legislators to meet and have a roundtable discussion. The next day, the two teams will face off in a nine-inning game at 11 a.m.

Mississippi House Speaker Jason White, R-West, shakes hands with Speaker Pro Tempore Manly Barton, R-Moss Point, on the second to last day at the Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson on Friday, May 3, 2024. On June 22, the Alabama and Mississippi Houses of Representatives will face off in a softball game.
Mississippi House Speaker Jason White, R-West, shakes hands with Speaker Pro Tempore Manly Barton, R-Moss Point, on the second to last day at the Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson on Friday, May 3, 2024. On June 22, the Alabama and Mississippi Houses of Representatives will face off in a softball game.

"The leadership of both states that are going to be there are going to meet and have a discussion," Stadthagen said. "I'm really excited about that almost as just as much as the game just because there's no telling what the outcome of that meeting is going to be."

After the Alabama team plays, Rep. Troy Smith, R-Enterprise, said the Mississippi National Guard has agreed to play the Mississippi team in two seven-inning games and will even drop the starting ball from a helicopter as part of their participation.

Over the last few months, Barton and Smith have gathered a team of about 36 players from the House to participate and have been practicing ahead of the game later this month once a week since late April to prepare.

During the latter part of the 2024 session as lawmakers were debating issues such as Medicaid expansion and K-12 education funding, several House members, including House Speaker Jason White, R-West, affectionately likened the team to the "Bad News Bears," a movie about a fictional children baseball team known for its lack of skill.

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Rep. Sam Creekmore, R-New Albany, who will be playing in the outfield, said he likes the team's chances after losing by only one run during a practice game last month against the Mississippi National Guard.

"I have a feeling there'll be a lot of trash talking going on," Creekmore said. "That (practice game) was encouraging to me because they were a lot better, but we also got some ringers on the team as well. Some of us are younger guys."

As for the Alabama team, Stadthagen said his players have had years of games with the Alabama Senate already to prepare them for playing Mississippi, a tradition he started years ago.

Stadthagen said one of the main reasons he started the game with fellow Alabama lawmakers was to give them a way to cool down tensions between chambers in the middle of a session. It also serves as a way for lawmakers to donate to charity.

"When we do it with the (Alabama) Senate, tensions are kind of tight towards the end (of the session), and when we play this game, it allows us to let it all go and it's great for the camaraderie of the of the chambers," he said. "It really helps the (legislative) process."

This year, because the game is being held in Mississippi, Smith said state's delegation chose the charity, which is the Batson Children's Hospital in Jackson.

"We feel like (this event) is going to be something that's going to grow, and what better way to raise money for the benefit of children with special needs," Smith said.

Barton added that the Mississippi team has already agreed to play Alabama next year in Montgomery, and he and other House members are even speaking with state senators to gauge their interest as well.

For those interested in attending, people will have the chance to buy tickets at the gate.

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Grant McLaughlin covers state government for the Clarion Ledger. He can be reached at gmclaughlin@gannett.com or 972-571-2335.

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: MS House playing AL Lawmakers in softball game at Trustmark Park

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