Politics & Government

Lawmakers set to honor Fresno State team

WASHINGTON -- Political plaudits are next for Fresno State's national champion college baseball team.

San Joaquin Valley lawmakers have already praised the team on the House floor and have drafted a formal resolution honoring the Bulldogs. The commemorative resolution will be formally introduced when Congress returns after the Fourth of July recess.

And at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House is weighing multiple congressional requests that President Bush schedule a rare private meeting with the Fresno State players.

"This is very special for all of us," Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, said on the House floor Thursday night. "I can't wait to hopefully greet the team here and invite them to our nation's capital and possibly even get a White House visit."

Nunes joined Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, for what's called a "special order" after the House finished the rest of its business Thursday. For about five minutes, the two Fresno-area congressmen shone a light on the Bulldogs' upset victory over the University of Georgia to win the National Collegiate Athletic Association World Series.

"They went from the underdogs to the wonder dogs, and they accomplished this after spending over 40 straight days away from home," said Costa, himself a Fresno State alumnus.

The baseball commentary will now be retained for posterity in the June 26 issue of the Congressional Record, alongside the special order comments of other lawmakers praising pharmacists, honoring Maryland's John Hopkins University and raising alarms about Zimbabwe.

The next commemorative step will probably come the week of July 7, when Valley lawmakers formally introduce their resolution praising the team. The resolution has been written, but legislative counsel must still give it a final review. Such resolutions are standard congressional practice, and provide lawmakers up to 20 minutes on the House floor to speak highly of constituents.

In recent weeks, for instance, the House has passed similar resolutions congratulating Virginia's James Madison University, honoring the late musician Louis Jordan and recognizing famed golfer Chi-Chi Rodriguez.

But the real gleam-in-the-eye is seen among those who hope the White House will extend an invitation to the Fresno State team. This could get a little tricky, despite the fervent hopes of advocates like Fresno Mayor Alan Autry.

Usually, only the college football champions merit such a one-on-one, personal audience with the president. Standard White House practice is to invite all other collegiate championship teams to group meetings either in the spring or the fall. On Tuesday, for instance, Bush welcomed 20 championship teams from 15 campuses to the South Lawn of the White House.

Some of the teams assembled this week, like the University of Oregon men's cross country team, had to wait seven months before they got their White House meeting.

"One of the things I tell people is, is that if you work hard and become a repeat champion, I look forward to welcoming you back to the White House," Bush told the assembled athletes. "However, this time it's not going to work. My eligibility has run out."

Before the term-limited Bush leaves office in January, he is likely to hold one more group sports day for college champions. Customarily, because of the College World Series timing, that is when Fresno State would attend.

There are always exceptions, though; this year, for instance, Bush has met separately with the University of Kansas men's basketball team and the winner of the 2008 Women's Bassmaster Tour, among others.

Nunes has talked about obtaining a similar special invitation with the White House legislative liaison staffer. Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, has likewise sent a note to the White House, where he's hoping to strike a chord with the former managing general partner of the Texas Rangers.

"You never know," Radanovich's press secretary, Spencer Pederson, said Friday. "Bush is a baseball man."