WASHINGTON – Nine months after a shooter opened fire at the Republican team's congressional baseball practice, the players are back on the field practicing for their 2018 charity baseball game.
"To be in the dugout and see the marks and bullet holes there was a surreal experience," said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Wednesday's opening practice was the first time Flake, who's been on the team for 18 years, returned to the scene of the crime.
Others, like team manager Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), have returned many times, anxiously awaiting the first practice.
"I'm very proud of the team," Barton told reporters. "I'm proud of the resiliency they exhibited last year."
Media was invited to attend the first practice at the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia – along with heavily armed members of the US Capitol Police and Alexandria Police station.
Members reflected Wednesday morning on how they likely would not be here today were it not for US Capitol Police Officers David Bailey and Crystal Griner. The two heroically took down the shooter last June minutes after he began firing at the lawmakers, while both sustaining injuries themselves.
Also in attendance was 25-year-old Zack Barth, the legislative aide of Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX), who was shot in the leg during practice last year. He gives all glory to God for getting him through this past year.
"I get through it through faith. I think that's the only way you can make sense of something like this," Barth told CBN News. "The Lord has a plan for all of us and He's going to deliver us from things like this."
Watch Our Quick Interview with Zack Barth BELOW:
“I get through it through faith. I think that’s the only way you can make sense of something like this. The Lord has a plan for all of us and He’s going to deliver us from things like this.” - Zach Barth, 25, an aid for @RepRWilliams, leaned into his faith after being shot pic.twitter.com/141ZSDb4gq
— Abigail Robertson (@AbigailCBN) April 25, 2018
"For me, it presented me an opportunity to give my witness. So I think that out of something terrible some good can come," continued Barth.
Barth still works for Rep. Williams, and the two say they have formed a special bond after both being injured last year.
"It's almost like having a younger brother," said Williams. "We share this. We know the feelings, and even now it's hard to talk about it and describe it without getting a little emotional."
Williams told CBN News he started his day in prayer.
"I think we all said a prayer – I know I did – that now we're back and glad we're here," said Williams.
The lawmakers were especially encouraged to see Matt Mika, a lobbyist, and longtime coach of the team who almost died after suffering from two gunshot wounds: one to his chest just millimeters away from his heart, and another to his left arm.
"This is really special," Mika told reporters after practice. "We can start over. Baseball is great."
But noticeably absent was Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), who is recovering from a planned surgery he had last week to address injuries he's still dealing with from his gunshot wound to the hip.
In a statement from Scalise read by Rep. Barton, he said, "I'm really glad to see practice start up again… It's so important to continue this annual tradition."
This year's 109-year-old charity baseball game takes place on June 14, 2018, in Nationals Park, exactly one year after the shooting in Alexandria.