Chris Deluzio: From catcher to congressman

Written by Punya Bhasin
Courtesy photos
April 10, 2023

Chris Deluzio’s life of service started when he was the catcher on his little league baseball team — a position that, according to his former colleague and longtime family friend, has made him a team player and politician people can count on.

David Hickton, the founder of Pitt’s Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security, said he knew Deluzio both as a child and as a colleague, and said Deluzio has kept the same exemplary leadership abilities he had as a catcher on his baseball team. 

“He was a catcher when he was a baseball player, and a catcher is kind of like the quarterback in football,” Hickton said. “He's just a natural-born leader at his core.”

Deluzio, who now serves as the U.S. Representative for Pennsylavnia’s 17th Congressional District, said he remembers attending high school and not knowing what he wanted to do with his life. But when the 9/11 attacks happened during his senior year, he came to the same conclusion as so many others around him — he would pursue a life of service to his country. 

With his newfound life goal and purpose, Deluzio joined the Naval Academy right out of high school and graduated in 2006 with a degree in political science. Deluzio said the Naval Academy taught him many things, one of which led him to his current position as a congressman.

“I learned a pretty simple lesson when I was at the Naval Academy… the idea that there is something more important than all of us, that's this country,” Deluzio said. “That you ought to put others ahead of yourself, and so those values are things I learned pretty young, and that shaped me today and the way I try to represent our region down in Washington.”

After graduating from the Naval Academy, Deluzio served in the Iraq War, where he said he experienced pride in fighting for his country — a fight he continued to pursue after his three deployments through an extensive law career.

Deluzio, who graduated from Georgetown University's law school in 2013, worked at the Brennan Center for Justice on the Voting Rights and Election Security teams before returning home to work as a policy directory at Pitt Cyber, where he focused on voting rights, election security and the intersection of technology and civil rights.

Hickton said Deluzio’s best characteristics aren’t just seen in the spotlight, but also in all the work he does behind the scenes. 

“I've seen the kindness that he's exhibited in the community, I've seen this in the kindness that he's exhibited with his co-workers and I see how kind he is when nobody's watching,” Hickton said. 

While Hickton said he misses his former colleague at Pitt Cyber, he is proud of Deluzio’s new position in Congress and couldn’t think of a better man for the job. 

“When he indicated that he had an interest in going into elected office, which didn't surprise me because I remember talking to him about that when he was a young boy, I was all in on that,” Hickton said. “When it developed that there was an opportunity for him to run for Congress, I

was 100% in favor of it.”

Deluzio said the principle of serving others guides many of his legislative decisions as a U.S. Representative, including one issue close to home — supporting unions. Deluzio, who was a part of the Pitt faculty organizing committee, said the success of the faculty union has continued his belief in the strength of people when they work together. 

“I was a proud member of our Pitt faculty organizing committee and we won a pretty resounding victory, and I was really proud of the small role that I played in helping us get the victory for the workers,” Deluzio said. “I'm certainly going to be fighting in Washington for laws that put workers and unions on an equal playing field with our employers.”

Image courtesy of Chris Deluzio

For James VanLandingham, a mailer currently on strike from his job at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Deluzio’s steadfast support of unions was shown not only through his words, but his actions. 

At Deluzio’s first State of the Union Address as a Congressman in February, Deluzio invited VanLandingham as his guest, a spot typically given to close family or friends. 

“He came to Pittsburgh and he walked our picket line on the North Shore and he is definitely a pro-union man,” VanLandingham said. “After the midterms, he reached out to the Communications Workers of America and said that he wanted a frontline union worker, a striking union worker that's on the front line and living the union life.”

VanLandingham said he was honored by Deluzio’s invitation and that the exposure from a striking worker attending the State of the Union helps people understand “the trials that we are going through as unions against these big corporate monsters.”

“He means what he says and he says what he means,” VanLandingham said. “He doesn't sugarcoat anything.”

Deluzio said his advice for nearly everyone he meets, including all of the young students who are unsure of their next step, is to find their footing in public service. 

“Do public services whenever you can,” Deluzio said. “Whether you're someone who's going to pursue a career in public service, or work in a variety of ways when you're doing things to help our community, our region, our country, I think it can be tremendously rewarding, and a source of great pride in your work.”