Nationals Park mood somber after ‘horrific’ shootings at nearby Navy Yard

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A soft breeze whipped around Nationals Park on Monday afternoon, a seemingly idyllic day where the sun splashed down upon the lush green canvas. Stephen Strasburg worked from the bullpen mound under the watchful eye of pitching coach Steve McCatty. Others played catch in right field.

But this was anything but an idyllic day.

The flags in center field were raised only to half-staff, and sirens blared constantly from the streets surrounding the ballpark. Police, who had a heavy presence on the ballpark’s perimeter, checked identification badges just to turn onto specific streets in the area.

Any sense of normalcy was shattered just after 8 a.m. Monday morning when at least 13 people were killed, with others wounded, in the shootings at the Naval Sea Systems Command Headquarters at the Washington Navy Yard. The building sits mere blocks from Nationals Park.

“It’s really scary,” said Washington Nationals right-hander Dan Haren, who was scheduled to pitch Monday night. “It’s scary just what one person or two people can do, how many lives they can affect.

“We’re just seeing too many of these things happen. It’s so unfortunate. … You just never know when, [and] you never know why.”

In light of the tragedy, the Nationals postponed their 7:05 p.m. game against the Atlanta Braves and scheduled a split doubleheader with separate admission for Tuesday at 1:05 p.m. and 7:05 p.m. The ribbon atop the team’s website read simply, and chillingly, that the game was “Postponed: Tragedy.”

“It’s a very emotional day,” said Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, who worked with federal and local law enforcement, along with Major League Baseball, to decide how to proceed once news of the shooting came to light.

“An extremely horrific act happened very near to the ballpark, [to] our neighbors at the Navy Yard. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims over there and all of the people affected by this. We felt it was inappropriate to play a major league baseball game with such tragedy right down the street.”

Haren said he awoke to the news in a text message from his mother, and players spent much of the day communicating about whether or not a game would be played. They hoped it would not.

“Kind of the general consensus was that we really didn’t want to play, just out of respect for the families and everyone involved,” Haren said.

Many Braves players loaded onto the team buses from their hotel in Pentagon City around 1:30 p.m., even though they did not know at that time whether or not they’d be playing a game.

“We got on the bus at 1:30 and we were all still wondering ‘Why are we getting on the bus?’” said Braves reliever Scott Downs. “Baseball, I think, was the last thing on everybody’s mind. … I think the last thing anybody wanted to do was come to the ballfield.”

Haren arrived at the ballpark around 2 p.m., roughly two hours earlier than he normally would on a day he pitches, in hopes the game would indeed be postponed and he would get his routine throwing in. Several others did the same, though with a heavy feeling. Many sent out tweets conveying their thoughts and prayers to the victims.

“Baseball obviously has to go on at some point,” Haren said. “But it’d probably be a little too quick tonight to try to come in here, have fans come in here, and try to get up for a baseball game because of how bad everyone feels about what happened.”

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