Editors Note: I want to start this article by stating, that this article isn’t intended to be a criticism of the Washington Nationals and or the staff at the stadium. This article is intended to provide an accurate account of the events that occurred at Nats Park, on Saturday night July 17, 2021.
Watching a baseball game anywhere in the USA shouldn’t have to be an adventure or a lesson in what to do in an emergency situation, watching a baseball game should be about the players on the field, the called strikes, balls, and of course a lot of Curly W’s, however, sometimes especially in our world things happen that occur beyond our control inside or even outside a sporting arena.
On Saturday, July 17, 2021, I attended the Washington Nationals v. San Diego Padres game at Nats Park in Washington D.C. While the score at the middle of the sixth inning wasn’t too friendly for the Nationals, it was the events that happened during the middle inning that will stick with me for a long time. Unfortunately, for me, this is the second event in Washington D.C. that I have been a part of that has involved a large crowd, gunshots, and a lot of panic. Towards the end of 2019, before the world once again changed forever due to the COVID-19 and that was the shooting at the National Zoo in Northwest Washington D.C. I, unfortunately, had to deal with another shooting event.
While, I am not going to go into the details of that event, I feel that I have now, unfortunately, have a unique perspective of two different situations that have resulted in the same ending: pure confusion.
Going into the bottom of the sixth inning at Nats Park on Saturday night, and from my season ticket seats ON the third baseline in section 205, Row C, Seats 8 &9, (if you are ever at a game stop by and say hello!), with my sister who was in town visiting me from New York, I was a bit surprised to hear what I thought were fireworks going off as I thought that they were to occur at the end of the game not the in the middle. This was her first time at Nats Park and boy will she forever remember the night, and not because of Ryan Zimmerman’s three-run home run or even a Curly W but instead what she will remember what happened next.
It wasn’t until I saw multiple fans looking over the railing towards the concourse on the third baseline and then what’s when panic and confusion set in. Here is what REALLY happened from my seats on the third baseline, so obviously people’s perspectives of what happened were different, but there were reports of the Nationals PA announcer coming right on the PA system right after the sounds, that isn’t true. It was at least 5-10 minutes after the first what now was gunshots, that the PA announcer came on the PA system and I know that because I was already near the exit in Centerfield.
When the first gunshots went off, people were not only looking to see what was happening, but a gentleman with his daughter who was sitting next to me at the time, said to her, “get down right now…” The next action that I did was hit the ground all in the while yelling to my sister to do the same, I have never been so scared, here I was laying on the ground near my seats and just praying that this would all stop or at least things will quiet down. After a couple of seconds went by, I got up and I saw everyone in my section running up the stairs to exit the stadium.
My natural instinct took over since we have been always told at least in a nice video played before every Nationals game on the big screen that if there is an emergency, exit towards the nearest exit and that’s what I did. With my sister, I ran down the ramp from the Club level and just ran. At the bottom of the ramp, I made the decision to turn left towards the centerfield gates and that was the first time I saw a Nats Park worker. The look on their faces is something that I will also never forget. For me, what I saw was confusion and not knowing what to do or say.
By the time I reached the centerfield plaza, that’s when Nats Park employees started to have some sort of clear instructions. However, in a very low and polite tone, I heard “stay inside..” Honestly, I think that the Nats Park employees should have been a bit more loud and forceful because if they were I would have stayed right in the Centerfield Plaza, as instructed. What I heard were employees a bit confused about the instructions and in that situation, you need and want clear and powerful instructions from the staff. I am not here to criticize anyone, heck, looking back on it I should have stayed in the stadium at that point, but part of me just wanted to leave as I was thinking that noise that I heard now, at least 5 – 10 minutes ago was coming from inside the park and whoever was shooting moved on to a new section. Maybe that was a gamble, that I took, but at that point in the night, I just wanted to get out and run towards my car and tell my wife that I was safe and coming home.
When I reached the turnstiles in centerfield that is when I heard the PA announcer say “please stay inside the park,” and that’s when messages were up on the screen. I know that because that was the last sound or images that I have ingrained in my mind from last night. However, I was near the exit and I just wanted to go home at this point and finally, I exited the stadium.
From the time that I left to the time that I got into my car and started to head home, that’s when I started to see what was going on in Nats Park from my Twitter feed, I had a lot of people texting me and for the rest of the night, my main objective was to get home and then deal with all the emotions that come from being a part of this type of event ONCE again…
During my ride home, I was debating if I wanted to share what happened just a few hours ago, and I wasn’t going to share it, however, it wasn’t until I was eating breakfast this morning that I saw people on my Twitter feed sharing their experiences, so I decided to do the same.
There are a lot of lessons that I can learn from what happened, and hopefully, the staff of the Washington Nationals and of the Park learn some other important lessons because it is so important to learn and adjust for what, unfortunately, will be another type of similar event. I am just hoping that I am not a part of that one also!