05:48 - Source: CNN
Bystander captures moment shots ring out

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A congressional baseball game tradition is to wear paraphernalia from local teams

It's unusual however to see a congressman wear the insignia for a high school team

CNN  — 

Tennessee Rep. Chuck Fleischmann made a promise to a group of kids from the Howard High School baseball team in Chattanooga that he intends to keep Thursday night when he steps onto the field for the congressional baseball game.

It was a harrowing day for the congressman, who was practicing for the congressional baseball game Wednesday morning when a lone gunman opened fire on the practice field in Virginia.

Still wearing his red Republicans jersey and baseball garb, he learned for the first time that the Congressional baseball game would go on. He looked up at reporters and said, “I did not know that.”

“Wow. I’m gonna play,” he said.

Not long after, he told reporters that instead of wearing his prized and worn orange University of Tennessee hat that he gripped in his hands, he’d be wearing a high school baseball hat – in honor of a team that inspired him this year.

Howard High School is a low-income school in Chattanooga that went decades without a baseball program, Fleischman said. Then, with the help of a coach, players’ determination and donations from the community, the school came together to refurbish its field and build a team this year. It’s their first baseball team in decades, Fleischmann’s office told CNN. And earlier this year, Fleischman had a chance to practice with them.

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“I told those kids I would wear their hat tomorrow, and I will wear their hat tomorrow. So you’re gonna see me in a Chattanooga State uniform with a Howard High School hat,” he said.

It’s a long-held tradition at the congressional baseball game for members of Congress to wear their local team’s gear for a game, but few members choose to wear high school garb.

“This is a great story, something that will come out of this,” Fleischmann said.

Fleischmann was standing between third base and home plate Wednesday morning at the congressional baseball practice when he heard a rapid succession of gunfire and hit the ground.

He said that the gunfire kept coming.

“Easily five minutes,” Fleischmann said.

Fleischmann picked himself up and ran to the dugout where he huddled with others, waiting for it to end.

“I kept telling people ‘stay down,’” he said hours later. “‘Stay down, just stay down.’”

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“I called my chief of staff while we were under attack. I called him and I said ‘look, we are under attack. This is not good.’ I said ‘call for help.’”

But despite being shook up and deeply worried about his colleagues who were hurt, Fleischmann said that he was not going to “let the bad guys win.”

“I spend a lot of time in the district and here, being out with the people, and I love to be with the people. Not everyone agrees with every vote I cast or every speech I give or the like, but I have never faced violence,” he said.