Quest for Nationals gnome crowds Metro system


A garden gnome likeness of Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth sits near the dugout during a baseball game. (Alex Brandon/AP)
August 5

It was a midsummer’s eve, the Washington nine was playing the team from that other celebrated East Coast city — New York — and as if that were not enough, the first 25,000 people to show up at Nationals Park could get a giveaway garden gnome.

Baseball fans, eager to see the Nationals play the Mets and also desirous of getting their gnomes, mixed with the usual hordes of home-bound commuters.

It made for a crowded night in the Metro system.

It was “really, really crowded,” said metro rider Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch.

To try to alleviate the crowding on the platform at L’Enfant Plaza, a key transfer point for those heading to the game, Metro transformed one of its Yellow Line trains, which does not go to Nationals Park, into a Green Line train, which does.

Brotherton-Bunch had been riding the Yellow Line in the expectation of being taken home to Northern Virginia. But when her train reached L’Enfant Plaza, where the Green and Yellow lines diverge, a flood of baseball fans surged onto it.

She rode with them to the Waterfront station, where she got out and headed back to L’Enfant to catch another Yellow Line train.

So many people were on the platform waiting for the Green Line, she said, that “it took forever” to finally get on a Yellow Line train to Virginia. A trip that normally takes 10 minutes took her an hour.

While Brotherton-Bunch was in the system, in the hour between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., a baseball fan named Michael Kerman boarded the Yellow Line in Crystal City, hoping to transfer at L’Enfant to the Green Line headed for Nationals Park. He wanted one of the garden gnomes.

Kerman’s primary baseball loyalty is to the Mets, he said. But he feels no animosity toward the Nationals. He and his fiance are fans of Jayson Werth, the bearded Nationals outfielder who was depicted by the gnome.

He had planned to be at the ballpark in time to get one.

But it was not to be. When his train pulled into L’Enfant, he said, he saw the thousands waiting for the Green Line and decided that his best course of action would be to ride a few stops farther and transfer to a relatively uncrowded Green Line train.

By the time he finally reached the ballpark, after passing through L’Enfant again, and finding his train so crowded that nobody could board, he was too late.

The Nationals said that all 25,000 gnomes had been handed out by 6:15 p.m., almost an hour before game time.

Kerman apparently missed the last gnome by minutes.

“I’m very frustrated,” he said by cellphone from the ballpark.

A Metro spokesman said crowds were heavy, but there were no “operational issues.”

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