WASHINGTON (AFP) – Stadium flags flew at half-staff and a moment of silence was observed Tuesday by the Washington Nationals in a Major League Baseball game postponed by shootings at nearby Navy Yard.
The Nationals scored twice in the final inning to edge the Atlanta Braves 6-5 in a game scheduled Monday but delayed after 12 people were killed by a gunman, who was later slain himself by police in an incident that took place just a few blocks from Nationals Park.
“I think sports here in America get you to quit thinking about your problems and problems in the world,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “To look at some highly talented young athletes compete, it keeps us sane.”
Players for both clubs had to set aside the tragedy that unfolded so nearby and refocus on their quests to reach the playoffs with less than two weeks remaining in the six-month season.
“The sooner we get back to normal, the sooner the healing process starts,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
U.S. Navy Admiral James “Sandy” Winnefeld, a vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, thanked the Nationals for their aid after the tragedy.
The team opened their parking lots and the stadium area to care for the families of people who were in the Navy Yard, feeding and caring for some of those who fled as police and law-enforcement officials secured the area.
Winnefeld met with players in the locker room before Tuesday’s game and gave them Navy caps to wear during batting practice, some players holding them over their heart during the traditional pre-game playing of the US national anthem and the moment of silence.
“From the Navy family to the Nationals, we want to say thank you,” Winnefeld told Johnson.
“Hopefully we will do something to take people’s minds off things for a few hours,” Johnson said. “That’s all we can do.”
Nationals players were still coming to grips with the shooting tragedy.
“It has been a weird 24 hours,” said Nationals outfielder Denard Span. “It’s a funny feeling. It will probably be a couple of days before you feel safe and realize what happened.
“It hit me hard. This is right across the street. It puts things in perspective. I know there are a lot of hurt families out there and we are going to try to do our part in trying to help it, but there’s nothing we can do to replace the lives that were lost.”
Nationals relief pitcher Craig Stammen called the situation “almost surreal” and added: “You don’t think about people getting shot half a block away from your stadium. We have to get past it and move on.”
Stammen hoped the Nationals’ quest to catch Cincinnati for the final playoff berth might help the U.S. capital forget the tragedy, at least for a while.
“It’s something to get your mind off what just happened,” he said. “Hopefully it will provide that for the rest of the city.”
Photo Credit: AFP/Patrick Smith