Padres, Nats react to incident outside park

Players, coaches unite to help fans amid Saturday night confusion

July 18th, 2021

WASHINGTON -- In the surreal moments after gunshots rang out on the street near the third-base gate at Nationals Park on Saturday night, confusion reigned. Fans, uncertain whether the shots had come from inside the ballpark, descended toward the field down the third-base line. Several Padres -- whose families were sitting in those very sections -- sprang to action.

, , , and perhaps a few others raced toward a gate near the third-base line in a frantic attempt to usher families and friends of teammates to safety. In doing so, a number of fans poured through the gate and into the Padres' dugout, the line between player and fan blurred in the moment. And rightfully so.

"The situation changed immediately,” Tatis said Sunday morning. "There's no longer players, fans. Everybody’s just people, just human beings out there."

The reality of the moment was this: At least three people were wounded in a shooting on N Street & South Capitol SW, adjacent to the ballpark's third-base gate, according to D.C. police.

But in that instant, it wasn't quite so clear that those shots had come from outside the stadium. Standing in the Nationals dugout on the first-base line, manager Dave Martinez heard the gunshots immediately when they rang out and quickly turned his attention to above the Padres’ dugout. His first thought was to get the players, who were concerned about their family members, off the field safely. He worked with security to usher the players’ families into the clubhouse, where they waited out the incident.

From there, Martinez shifted his focus to the fans who had rushed into the Nationals dugout, where they were crowded like “sardines.” The fans were brought through the clubhouse to a secure place. Martinez named Major League Baseball staffer Brian Sedgwick as being integral to escorting everyone to safety.

"For me, they're family. They're our fans,” Martinez said. “They sweat just like the players do, just like I do. They're here for us. ... It was a reactionary thing. There wasn't really much -- I just wanted to make sure that everybody was safe."

Martinez said the team goes through precautionary safety measures, but being in the heat of the moment was another experience.

“You don’t ever think it’s going to happen,” Martinez said. “But when it does, it’s definitely a different situation. It really is. You’ve got 30,000 fans, you’ve got security workers, you’ve got vendors. There’s tons of people that are out there that you worry about. I thought yesterday, everybody in this stadium, security, handled it really well. The fans -- I thank the fans for doing the best they could to stay calm.”

Martinez got emotional when reflecting on the incident and those who were impacted by it.

“I love this city. This city’s my home,” he said, choking up. “It can get crazy -- we all know that -- and we all want to feel safe. I can tell you that inside this ballpark, I feel safer than ever, I really do. We care about each other. We don’t want anybody getting hurt. For me, yesterday, I tried to protect as many people as possible.”

Padres manager Jayce Tingler got similarly emotional speaking about the way his players handled the situation.

"I couldn't be any more proud to be a Padre, to be with the men in there," Tingler said. "Obviously they're going out, they're thinking of their loved ones, they're getting their families. And then -- it's just human nature, seeing fans, seeing people in panic -- they did the right thing.

"They obviously thought the safest place from where the shots were -- and you don't know what's going on -- they thought maybe the dugout could've been the safest place, and they led and welcomed and guided."

It didn't take long for the Nationals Park public address announcer to relay the information that the shooting had occurred outside the ballpark. Fans were advised to remain in their seats, and after a few minutes were told to exit through the center- and right-field gates.

That exodus took place without incident, and the game was suspended and resumed at 1:08 p.m. ET on Sunday.

But before any of that information was available, the uncertainty in the ballpark was the hardest part for most people in attendance. That included the relievers in the left-center and right-field bullpens, who were told by security to remain in place, without any further information.

When they were finally cleared to leave, several relievers sprinted toward their respective clubhouses. Padres right-hander , whose wife and two daughters were in attendance, was among them.

"All I was thinking was: Are my wife and daughter safe?" Pagán said. "I was scared. I was real scared. ... As soon as they announced it was out [of the ballpark] I bolted."

By then, Pagán’s family had been shepherded to the safety of the area around the Padres clubhouse.

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, both teams retreated to into their dugouts and then clubhouses. But moments later, that handful of Padres, including at least Tatis, Machado, Profar and Myers, emerged from the dugout to help usher their families to safety, several carrying children.

“Most people didn't really know exactly what was going on in that moment,” Myers said. “Everybody was just trying to make sure everybody was safe there and then find some cover.”

“Our families, our loved ones, our little kids, all of our families of players -- I felt like somebody needs to go get them,” Tatis said.

Tatis and his teammates will be lauded for their exploits on the field this season. But Tingler was quick to note that there’s so much more than that.

“Most people see them as baseball players,” Tingler said, pausing again to check his emotions. “When you get to see them as caring human beings doing the right things -- as loving husbands and sons and fathers -- I'm just honored to be a part of it.”