The Washington Post

Nationals aiming to play opener despite damp forecast

With a good chance for rain on opening day tomorrow, Washington Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner indicated early this evening the club will probably try to play as scheduled or move the game to Friday afternoon rather than play at night.

The forecast calls for showers throughout Thursday, much like the weather today that presumably limited turnout for NatsFest.

“They have the one day off,” Lerner said of fans attending Opening Day. “They can’t really come on Friday, so we really want to try to get it in if we can. I don’t think looking at the forecast that [Thursday] evening’s really a possibility. I think it would get pushed off to Friday just because it will be warmer and more comfortable for the fans.”

Rain began falling shortly before the gates opened today at Nationals Park, where the club was conducting its promotional event for fans that included a Q&A session with players and coaches as well as photo opportunities.

Planned outdoor activities such as a meet and greet with players originally scheduled to take place on the warning track had to be moved under cover of the concourse. Several hundred fans did brave the weather to watch starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg throw lightly near the Nationals bullpen as he recovers from ligament replacement surgery in his right elbow.

Other players worked out briefly early in the afternoon, but eventually the grounds crew rolled the tarpaulin over the infield when the precipitation was at its heaviest, wiping out batting practice. At roughly 6:30 p.m. as the weather improved, the tarp came off, and the grounds crew performed maintenance before re-covering the infield.

The Nationals announced yesterday that NatsFest would take place rain or shine, and despite the disappointing turnout, there appear no plans to move the event to the winter, when many other clubs conduct similar events.

Lerner said ensuring that all players, including marquee minor leagues like Bryce Harper, would be able to participate was the most important factor in deciding to hold NatsFest the day before opening day.

“First of all, in the winter time you don’t know who you’re going to get,” Lerner said. Players are “at vacations, or this or that, but I think if we had good weather, this would have been a big crowd.

“You get to see everybody, and also we wanted to bring up Bryce and Stephen, and [fans] get to see he’s still alive and well, and I think it would have been a great scene out there with batting practice if we could have pulled it off, so I would think, my guess would be they’ll try to do the same thing next year and see if we can get better weather next time.”

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering multiple beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He also covers Fantasy Football.


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