Washington — Lobbyist Matt Mika, an Oakland County native, was in critical condition after being shot multiple times by a gunman early Wednesday while volunteering during practice in northern Virginia for the annual congressional baseball game, his family said.
After surgery at a local hospital, Mika, 38, was in critical condition in the intensive care unit, where his family said they expect him to stay for several days. Baseball is one of his "great passions," they added.
"While the attack today was a terrible surprise, Matt’s presence on the ball field, helping longtime colleagues and friends, was not," his family said in a statement. "He is a very thoughtful, fun-loving person who is competitive and loyal; all things which contributed to his continued commitment to the Congressional Baseball Game.”
Mika previously worked on Capitol Hill for two Michigan congressmen, and is now director of government relations in the Washington office of Tyson Foods, where he has worked for six years, according to the company. Mika wasn't scheduled to play in Thursday night's game but was helping to coach the players.
"We’re deeply concerned about him and his family," the company said in a statement. "We appreciate the outpouring of support for Matt and please ask that you keep him, his family and everyone affected by this senseless act of violence in your thoughts and prayers."
Mika was shot in the chest, according to his friend Dan Harder, legislative director for U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester. Harder was also helping out at Wednesday’s practice.
The annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity is more than 100 years old. This year's game will go on as planned Thursday at Washington Nationals Park to raise money for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation and the Washington Literacy Center.
Bishop and Reps. Jack Bergman of Watersmeet and John Moolenaar of Midland were also at Wednesday's baseball practice and were uninjured. Republican Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the only lawmaker shot, was in critical condition Wednesday afternoon at MedStar Washington Hospital, according to a hospital statement.
“Matt Mika works hard and he is friendly to everyone he meets," Moolenaar said. "Matt has a strong passion for our national pastime. He would always be at practices at 6 a.m., full of energy, and I enjoyed working with him in preparation for the annual baseball game. I join with Matt’s countless friends across the country in praying for him and his family during this difficult time, and I hope he makes a full recovery.”
President Donald Trump said Wednesday the shooter, an Illinois man named James. T. Hodgkinson, was initially taken into custody but had died of his injuries. Two Capitol Police officers were also injured in the shooting incident, as well as a congressional staffer.
Heather Beers Mitchell said she grew up in Southfield with Mika and lived just one block from his family. They attended Southfield-Lathrup High School together, Mitchell said.
Mika, she said, is "brilliant as they come," earned good grades and was a standout baseball player in school.
"He is very friendly and never saw a stranger growing up," Mitchell told The Detroit News. "(He) included everyone, no matter age, in the neighborhood. Matthew was one we knew would succeed in life."
Another childhood friend, Dorne Adams, said Mika was a big sports fan and they played baseball and football together. Adams said he often sees Mika when Mika visits Michigan during the holidays.
"He was a really engaging guy, a real people person," Adams said. "I'm sure he got hit because he was concerned about everyone else's safety."
Mika played baseball at Adrian College, from which he graduated in 2001 with a degree in criminal justice and political science. He later earned a master’s in public administration and public policy from Western Michigan University in 2004, according to his LinkedIn profile.
He went on to work for now-former state Rep. David Palsrok of Manistee, serving as his campaign manager in 2004, and later becoming his legislative assistant.
Mika worked on the Hill in Washington starting in 2005 for U.S. Rep. Dave Camp of Midland as a legislative assistant, and then for Rep. Tim Walberg of Tipton, as a senior legislative assistant, focusing largely on agricultural issues.
Walberg said he just had seen Mika Tuesday evening at a Washington reception hosted by the Michigan Republican Party. Walberg first met him when Mika worked on his campaign to elect Walberg to his first term in 2006, and he became "almost like a third son, if not a well-loved nephew."
"Matt was never without movement," Walberg said. "He was always in motion and always looking for something additional to find out a more complete understanding of, say, an agriculture issue, or to develop the contacts necessary within the interest field to have a network that made him more valuable to me and the interests he was serving."
Walberg described Mika as "a consummate athlete" who played football as well as baseball at Adrian College and often returned to the campus for Homecoming and other alumni events and for visits with coaches and faculty.
"I remember he was with me when I tossed the coin at the start of a football game there one time, and it was a highlight for him to go back on the field," Walberg recalled. "Please keep him in your prayers."
Staff writer Nicquel Terry contributed.