The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff greeted players in the Washington Nationals clubhouse before the game, handing out blue-and-gold Navy caps. Manager Davey Johnson and his players held those caps from Adm. James Winnefeld over their hearts during a pregame moment of silence, disturbed only by the sound of a hovering helicopter.
Baseball was played in the nation’s capital Tuesday, just a short walk from where a gunman killed 12 people at the Navy Yard military instillation. It was another attempt from the world of sports to restore normalcy when things really aren’t normal.
"There’s nothing we can do to replace the lives that were lost yesterday," Nationals outfielder Denard Span said.
Fans arrived via the Navy Yard subway station, although they were sparse in number because Monday’s game was rescheduled on short notice. The USS Barry, anchored in the Anacostia River and the Navy Yard’s top tourist attraction, was easily visible from the players’ parking lot. The U.S. and team flags were at half-staff on the center field concourse.
Then, at 1:07 p.m. on a cool, late summer day, the first pitch was thrown. The Nationals were back in their regular "curly W" caps, and soon fans were cheering an inning-ending double play by the home team’s defense. It was back to work, playing the first game of a day-night doubleheader.
"It hit me hard," Span said, "because this is right across the street from our stadium. Just to know that we come here every day for work, and you drive by the Navy Yard all the time."
Much of the chaos that engulfed the ballpark 24 hours earlier was gone. The stadium’s parking lot had been used as a staging area for relatives on Monday, when even Johnson was asked for extra ID to get past an armed guard.
"When we got to the field (Monday), every guy on the team was like, `We need to get this game somehow cancelled’ just because it’s so close over there, right across the street," Braves third baseman Chris Johnson said. "They’re using the parking lots for stuff. The probably don’t want traffic down here. And the last thing we want is cheering going on when there’s people hurting right across the street."
By contrast, fans saw no overt signs of extra security at the ballpark on Tuesday.
"It’s a shame that our society has got to be worried about that kind of stuff, but I feel pretty safe here today," said Nationals fan Kevin Neale of Rockville, Md. "I’m glad to be at the ballpark. Sorry for all the people who had families and who had to deal with that yesterday. It’s just an unfortunate situation."
Yet, Monday’s events were inescapable. Nationals starting pitcher Dan Haren said, "we were all thinking about it all game."
"I really, really wanted it bad," Haren said. "Just fired up. People are watching, and to make people feel good, I really wanted the game bad."
Ian Desmond claimed his team drew from the nation’s strength.
"We’re a resilient group, like America." Desmond said. "We’re not going away. We’ll be here."
Introducing the moments of silence — they were held before both games — the Nationals public address announcer said Washingtonians and Americans "remain united" before asking fans to remember "all those affected by yesterday’s senseless act of violence."
Also, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper tweeted a photo of his Navy cap and told fans to "Be sure to wear your blue and gold to the game today!"
"Today I took a little pulse around the clubhouse, and everybody’s ready to get going," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It seems like always in the United States every time we get back to normal — the sooner we get back to normal — the healing process starts. We get going again."