WASHINGTON, DC – From perfect to panic.
Just like that.
Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!
He led me to Corsica. no, not on the diamond by the San Diego Padres or the Washington Nationals.
It was about competition. They were fans. And they were running for their lives.
Those multiple shots were guns. They were strong. They were clearly recognizable. They quickly lead to confusion, fear and finally – terror.
Of course, the scene transformed from a beautiful Saturday night in Nationals Park to a nightmare not far from the Capitol here in DC
He stopped the national pastime on the field and sent fans into total chaos, including this reporter.
I have been covering Major League Baseball for 35 years across America. There is not a stadium in the country where I have not been, neither in the stands nor in the press box. In both cases, it was my sanctuary, my happy place.
Few love baseball more than me. It’s the ultimate quality time you can spend with family and friends. These days, the only place you can get three hours of time and a person’s conversation is in a ballpark.
Tonight, I began my vacation in the stands with friends who live in the District – Fred, Brad and Tracy.
It was a glorious scene, baseball as it should be.
We were taking full advantage of the ballgame. Fernando Tatis Jr., one of the game’s biggest stars, put on a show with a 4 for 4 performance on the plate.
The weather was calm and comfortable. You could smell hotdogs in the air. The beer man was everyone’s friend.
Then, the Fathers had just taken the field for the bottom of the sixth inning. Suddenly, we heard those loud pops.
I remember looking at my friends and saying they looked fired. There were no fireworks or a car in the back.
We were seated on the first base side of the field near the right field. The shots rang through the diamond near the third base at room level.
The next thing you know, people run for outings in midfield. They were not fleeing the raindrops, they were running to cover.
Next, I looked at the field. It was empty, there were no players or referees. The cabbages were sterile. Something happened, but it wasn’t even clear.
Me and my friends looked at us and started trying to understand what had changed, it caused such a confusion.
At this point, I said, “He was shot. We need to light up, leave the stadium immediately.” We jumped out of our seats and climbed the stairs at room level to reach the exit of the center camp from where we entered.
We started walking quickly as we were on a mission to get out of the building amidst the confusion.
At this time, there had been no public address announcement by the Nationals. There was no staff directing the fans to do so. There were no signs of police or security personnel. It was a free-for-all. Fans had to guess and act.
And as we took a quick nap on our quest to get out of the building, a crowd of fans in terror began to run towards us. They cried out in horror. People were falling and crossing.
The only thing I could think of was that there was a gunman, or gunmen, in the stadium and that they were both shooting and heading that way.
We turned and ran for our lives.
We were pushed into an office that was used to handle concessions at the stadium. There were a few workers there. Me and two of my friends were sitting in a closet with about four or five other fans we didn’t know. We talked about blocking the door. We frantically called out to their loved ones. Brad, Tracy and I were separated from Fred. I called him in my cell and he said he was fine and got lost in the mass confusion.
Inside that office, different different scenes. There was a worker in absolute tears. She said she had a post-traumatic stress disorder and was without her medications. Strangers have tried to calm her down. There were so many acts of kindness going on.
There was a little boy in a T-shirt and a Padres hat. The shirt was named after Tatis Jr. at the bottom. He was hiding under a desk. His father was here. But he was scared to death because they were separated from his mother.
Tracy and I tried to calm the boy down, with his father. He stressed that everything will be fine and we will go through everything. Finally, someone pointed to a television in the office. There was a message from the Nationals. He said we should get out of the stadium. The test was over.
It was easier to digest after hearing the details that three people had been shot outside the stadium and there was no real danger to the fans inside.
But for those 30 minutes or so, we just didn’t know.
Honestly, I have never been so scared for my life.
Those pops changed the game on Saturday night. It turned my baseball utopia into Hell.