In a change that appears minor but that will likely prompt passionate debate in certain circles, the Nationals have amended their policy on fan movement at their stadium.
Previously, ushers at Nationals Park would stop fans from going to their seats during at-bats. They were dedicated at this work, and even had little stop signs to assist them, reading “Please wait for a stop in play.”
This policy sometimes led to crowds waiting at the top of stairwells. Occasionally, fans would miss their chance to move to their seats between at-bats and then have to wait for a second stoppage. There was also the occasional squabble between a fan who wanted to go right now and an usher who wanted his stop sign obeyed.
As of Wednesday night’s home game against the Orioles, that policy is no longer in effect, the team confirmed.
“Throughout the course of the season, we regularly look for ways to enhance the fan experience and we always encourage our fans to share their feedback,” a team spokeswoman said in a statement.
While this seems minor, I had three fans ask me about it in the 24 hours after the new policy went into effect. One season-ticket holder told me he hoped the change wasn’t permanent, and that he is “a fan of at least trying to herd the cats.” Another season-ticket holder told me that Wednesday night, “there were a ton of people wandering down trying to find their seats during at-bats.”
“It wasn’t a perfect system, but it at least made people aware of the etiquette of waiting for at bats to be over to move,” the season-ticket holder wrote. “Personally, I wish everyone waited until between half-innings, but I know that’s not always realistic.”
As a frequent ticket-buying fan myself, here’s where I come down on the issue. When I’m seated, I’d sure like everyone to wait until a stoppage in play, so that no one interferes with my view or even makes me stand up and suck in my stomach during play. On the other hand, when I’m waiting at the top of the aisle with a kid who just wants to eat her chicken tenders, I’d sure like the ushers to allow me to go claim the seat I paid for with my hard-earned blog dollars so I can rest these weary bones instead of standing in a tight space with a small crowd.
The obligatory Reddit thread about the change already has prompted (reasonable) disagreement about its impact.
“Glad to hear about this change,” one fan wrote. “Other ballparks don’t have this policy and don’t have problems. … Stopping people at the top of the section never worked because the game starts again before most of them reach their row.” (This is true.)
“I disagree,” another fan wrote. “The old policy at least made people aware that maybe they should wait when getting up or move quickly to find their seats. It obviously doesn’t always take, but any little bit helps.” (This might also be true.)
“I think I fall on the ‘policy is not necessary” side,’ another fan wrote. “As people have indicated, even if you hold people at the top of stairs until the AB is over, by the time they get to their row they’re probably standing right in front of people as the next AB starts. And I haven’t seen any other ballpark with a policy like this. I do think we all need to continue to do our part in educating fans who may not know the proper etiquette.”
“There were people going up to their seats during AB yesterday and I was like UGH [BLEEP] SIT THE [BLEEP] DOWN WE’RE TRYING TO WATCH THE [BLEEPING] GAME HERE,” another fan disagreed.
“Personally, I think it is dumb to have to wait,” another fan wrote. “I’m a diehard fan and obviously don’t want to miss a pitch, but when my kid has to go to the bathroom, I have to take him. Then when I come back, to avoid him running amok around the place bored out of his mind, I have to wait five minutes while carrying him to get back to my seat where I may have blocked one fan for half of a second.”
“I missed a Murphy RBI single recently because some [bleep] just had to get back to his seat during the middle of the inning, middle of the at-bat,” someone else disagreed. “I wish more people would publicly shame people who do that. If you have a kid or an emergency of course you can get up, but try to get the hell out of the way.”
Like I said. Passionate debate.