How do players spend their time during a 3-hour, 45-minute rain delay?
Much the way you’d expect, I guess. They lay around on sofas. They watch college football. They put on construction worker’s attire and joke around. They attack the food spread laid out in the kitchen. Then maybe they attack the spread again.
Oh, and they also hold Par-3 challenges.
A number of Nationals players participated in a makeshift golf competition in the clubhouse during last night’s lengthy rain delay. Craig Stammen’s cleats were used to make a tee box, and players needed to chip from the part of the clubhouse in front of Stammen’s locker towards a rubber golf mound placed near Bryce Harper’s locker.
They then needed to putt out and try to get in with a low score.
“It’s really tough to read these greens,” Drew Storen deadpanned. “Lot of sneaky breaks here. Plus they just mowed it yesterday.”
Storen is the Nationals’ players’ union player rep, so he played a part in negotiations yesterday before the Nats needed to wait out that lengthy delay. He consults with teammates and then passes their thoughts along to the other parties involved in making the decision - the Nationals’ front office, the umpires and the Major League Baseball league office.
Because this situation happened so late in the season, the league office played a large part in the negotiations, as they tried to find the best plan for everyone involved.
“You initially talk about options before the game,” Storen said. “I don’t know, with it being at the end of the year I know some things can change, so we wanted to do everything we could do get that in before the game. Obviously we didn’t want to come back and play on the off day so if it were to get to it, we wanted to split it.”
Yes, you read that correctly. One possibility that was discussed was having the Nats and Marlins reconvene here at Nats Park on Thursday, an off-day for both teams. Under those circumstances, the Nats would have flown to St. Louis tonight, played three games against the Cardinals, flown back to D.C. Wednesday night, played one game here Thursday, and then hopped a plane all the way to Phoenix for three games against the Diamondbacks from Friday-Sunday.
“That was an option, too, which would’ve been nuts,” Storen said. “That was the other option so, you essentially, when it gets late in the year like this you get handcuffed. It’s nice that we have all these tickets sold but that also complicates it too. It’s part of it. It’s a good problem to have. We used to not have to worry about that.”
As the rain kept falling and the night went on, the Nats realized their chances of avoiding a Sunday doubleheader were growing slim.
“We said we were going to play a night-day doubleheader,” Storen joked. “We got to a point where we were like, OK, it was out of our hands anyway but we were like, ‘It’s going to be tough if we’re going to fire up and play a game right now. We’re not going to bed.’ You can’t just flip the switch off and take a power nap before the game. So it’s like if you’re going to play a doubleheader, split anyway, let’s just call it and let’s go.
“I feel bad for (Stephen Strasburg, last night’s scheduled starter) just sitting around here. It was a lot of, ‘They’re going to meet at this time and see from there. Hey, they’re going to meet at this time, see from there.’ It was tough. But we had football on. Like Davey (Johnson) said it was just a bunch of team bonding.”
Especially with the doubleheader, today becomes a huge day for the Nationals, possibly the biggest day of their season.
They’re currently 4 1/2 games behind the Reds in the wild card chase, and at the end of today, they could be anywhere from three games back to six games back. The doubleheader will make things tougher on the players, and could wear on relievers who might be needed to pitch both games, but Storen said he’s ready to go.
“It’s a big day,” Storen said. “I think we’re very fortunate to have the roster size we do. We feel confident in the guys who’ve come up to help us out. It’s all part of the adversity, and we’re going to have to earn it. There’s really nothing you can do. It was a rock and a hard place with the options we had.
“It’s September, man. It’s all good. we’ve got good depth down there, we’ve got a lot of confidence in our starters.”