It was all supposed to be so simple. On Friday, May 12th, A.J. Cole and the Washington Nationals were supposed to face off against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The first 25,000 fans in attendance, as a special bonus, would receive bobbleheads of beautiful, perfect, sweet Trea Turner. Then, Mother Nature intervened.
Due to rain, the Nats made the call to postpone the May 12th game, and play it today Sunday, May 14th in a day-night doubleheader, giving out the bobbleheads for the second/rescheduled game.
The policy essentially stated that the gates would open either at 6:00 PM or an hour and thirty minutes after the day game ended, whichever was later.
A heart-wrenching 4-3 Phillies’ victory ended around 4:38 PM, meaning that the Nats would cut their losses and open the gates for the next game an hour and twelve minutes later, so they could let the masses in at 6:10 PM.
Immediately after the first game, lines began to form outside the ballpark; as cleaning crews and ushers scrambled to make the ballpark presentable for a new crowd.
Those lines, whether to buy tickets for the nightcap, or to get in, stretched around every possible corner of the ballpark.
The regular lines at the centerfield gate stretched all the way to the Metro, the lines at the season plan entrances stretched down N street towards Potomac Avenue, and lines at the home plate entrance went nearly down the entire walkway to enter the ballpark listing the important dates in D.C. baseball history. Fans were even trapped in parking garages, trying to get down stairs to enter the park.
One unscientific diagnosis is that on most bobblehead days, fans will have around two hours before the game starts to get in the ballpark; Center Field gates open at 5:00 PM, and everything else opens at 5:30 PM. Super collectors can get in and get their bobbleheads before the visiting team has even started batting practice, cutting a few thousand from the lines.
Other fans can trickle in during the remaining hours and stand in reasonable lines to get their bobbles, and by game time, things are moving relatively quickly.
On Sunday, fans had a fifty-minute window to get inside the ballpark and get their bobblehead. This meant that the ballpark had fifty minutes (really, less, because gates opened a little later) to funnel in more than 25,000 bobblehead-hungry fans (in other words, 500 people a minute).
If every single fan is walking quickly, has their phone and wallet out, hat off, and ticket ready to scan (or if security screenings just plain don’t exist), doing that isn’t plausible, but it certainly is possible. Back in reality, the odds of that scenario occurring are about as high as getting a letter from Hogwarts informing you that you’re a wizard.
When that happens, long, long lines form. And people get annoyed.
(My personal experience in going inside included watching seventy fans who had premium seats and parked in one of the garages groaning about twenty non-parking garage fans using their special entrance, and then seeing one fan get so mad at another for cutting him in line that he yelled at him for a solid two minutes.)
Here’s a look at what happened in the Navy Yard:
Mob scene hunting for Trea Turner Bobblehead @Nationals pic.twitter.com/eqEV2qab0H— Lisa (@jacqueslisa) May 14, 2017
People jumping fences to cut in line at @Nationals! Booooo! Boooo!— Logan (@NavyYardPirate) May 14, 2017
Waiting in line to get in #Nats Park! Lots of folks want to make sure they get their bobblehead. ⚾️ pic.twitter.com/Wb2B6jfRXN— charlcies (@charlcies) May 14, 2017
This tool loaded up on bobbleheads and left the game. #nationals #nats #nattitude pic.twitter.com/ZCarSuGJIW— Church of Baseball ⚾ (@churchofbasebal) May 14, 2017
@dcsportsbog At 4:30. Line went all the way to metro already. pic.twitter.com/X3mTVeg5hi— Jon B (@Phiask0) May 14, 2017
Our @RickMaese is on the bobblehead scene. pic.twitter.com/WdBRrGRM9x— Jorge Castillo (@jorgeccastillo) May 14, 2017
Slight wait to get into Nats Park for the night game. pic.twitter.com/cq62VVQGMB— Heung-Min GustafSon (@kgustafson) May 14, 2017
I guess @NCStateBaseball/@Nationals @treavturner is a popular bobblehead tonight pic.twitter.com/FGNakzi5M9— Johnathan Tucker (@johnstucker918) May 14, 2017
Lot C stairwell after 1 hour wait. First pitch soon @Nationals pic.twitter.com/v4hNB2yZMl— William Sullivan (@BillSullivan02) May 14, 2017
Is this the best the @Nationals can do? pic.twitter.com/zqhA6kHo6a— Bob Bradford (@rva_bob) May 14, 2017
Nats Park. Lines backed up around the stadium. Everyone's looking for Trea Turner bobblehead @Nationals pic.twitter.com/fLkFcBnIEx— CFTC Defense Man (@GregoryMocek) May 14, 2017
Yikes. Remember that they’re just bobbleheads, folks.