- The Washington Times - Monday, January 9, 2006

Baseball is back.

No, not the Nationals, but the Senators. The national pastime has once again taken the pitcher’s mound in Supreme Court confirmations hearings.

Last year, it became the cliche of the hearings for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who led off by asserting that he would call cases the way an umpire calls balls and strikes.

Senators fielded a full roster of baseball-isms yesterday with the start of hearings for federal Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., himself a big fan.

Yesterday’s first home run came from Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican.

“We do not evaluate an umpire’s performance based on which team won the game, but on how that umpire applied the rules inning after inning,” he said. “We do not hire umpires by showing them the roster for the upcoming season and demanding to know which teams they will favor before those teams even take the field.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, was calling the game a little differently.

“If the record showed that an umpire repeatedly called 95 percent of pitches strikes when one team’s players were up and repeatedly called 95 percent of pitches balls when the other team’s players were up, one would naturally ask whether the umpire was really being impartial and fair,” he said.

As the hearings — and the increasingly strained baseball metaphors — dragged into extra innings, Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, offered Judge Alito a little hope. “You have only two more pitchers and then you get to bat,” Mr. Brownback said.

When Judge Alito got to the plate, he avoided baseball metaphors, though he did feel it necessary to pay homage to the national pastime in describing his good upbringing.

“I attended the public schools,” he said. “In my spare time I played baseball and other sports with my friends.”

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