The Washington Nationals postponed their game Monday night against the Atlanta Braves only after players arrived at Nationals Park and fans on social media questioned why the team would consider playing a game roughly five blocks from the fatal shootings at the Washington Navy Yard.
The Nationals announced the game, scheduled for 7 p.m., had been postponed at 3:14 p.m., about seven hours after the shootings occurred inside Building 197 at the Navy Yard, and shortly after D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier asked citizens to avoid the area.
Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said the decision to postpone the game until Tuesday, when it will be made up as part of a doubleheader, took time because of “the immense coordination that it takes to make these decisions with federal, state and local authorities. It’s just a timely process.”
“There’s a lot of [logistics] that go into cancelling a game for these reasons,” Rizzo said. “We have to be in contact with federal authorities and the D.C. authorities to have a coordinated effort. And then whenever you cancel a game, MLB is involved, and we have to go through the correct procedures for that.”
District Mayor Vincent C. Gray said in a phone interview that he wasn’t involved with every detail of the postponement, but that he wished the decision had been made earlier. He said he feared letting thousands of people near the area of an ongoing investigation.
Paul A. Quander Jr., deputy mayor for public safety and justice, said he first spoke with the Nationals at 1 p.m., and that the team initially wanted to play the game. Police were confident they could clear South Capitol Street and parts of M Street SE in time to accommodate stadium traffic. “We were going to make it work,” he said.
But as the search for people of interest in the shooting continued, and Lanier warned people to stay away from the Navy Yard area, the Nationals contacted city officials about a possible postponement, Quander said. He said the Nationals informed him they would need the approval of Major League Baseball.
“It was a fluid situation,” he said. “But I think they made the right call.”
At one point during the morning, the Nationals told employees to stay home.
“We’re not allowed to go to the ballpark,” Manager Davey Johnson said in a phone interview at roughly 10 a.m.
But by noon, even as a manhunt persisted blocks away, the Nationals had started to prepare for a game. By 1:45 p.m., Johnson said players hadn’t been informed of a postponement and were allowed into Nationals Park. At 1:30 p.m., a bus full of Braves players left their team hotel in Pentagon City.
“We’re all still wondering, why are we getting on the bus?” Braves reliever Scott Downs said. “Baseball was the last thing on everybody’s mind once they heard the tragedy that went on and the extent, and there’s still somebody out there they don’t know. That’s the last thing anybody wanted to do is come back to the ballpark.”
Braves third baseman Chris Johnson said Nationals players’ union representative Drew Storen and Braves player representative Brandon Beachy agreed to call the Major League Baseball Players Association to express the players’ desire to postpone the game.
“There was a lot of guys that didn’t want to play, thought it was kind of disrespectful to play,” Johnson said. “It’s right across the street. To be able to hear cheering, and supposedly they’re using a parking lot for families — I don’t know. It should just be quiet for today.”