WASHINGTON — 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 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 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.”
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.
Around noon, two players who live near Nationals Park said they didn’t know they weren’t supposed to report to the stadium.
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 any 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 player 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.