Fans Really Care When Other Fans Leave Baseball Games

The Centerfield Gate at Nats Park. Photo: Taylor Adkins/

I was at the Mets/Nationals game at Nats Park yesterday, and stayed until the final out. This doesn’t make me a better fan than someone who left prior to that point. 

The Fan Police were out in full force on the internet yesterday in regards to some of the 34,210 fans who left yesterdays game early. Bryce Harper invigorated their cause by calling out Nats fans himself during a postgame session with the press.

I don’t have any problems with what Harper said. He obviously cares about the team and winning, and prefers games to be played in front of the most raucous crowds possible. That seems fair to me.

Also, his words carry a lot more weight then your garden variety Fan Policeman on Twitter. He’s having an MVP type season and carried this team (along with Max Scherzer) through the month of May; when the teams was on the verge of falling way out of the NL East race.

I don’t like leaving baseball games early. There’s no clock, so in even in the most dire of situations, there’s still a sliver of hope of a comeback. Any other sporting event, there are plenty of circumstances where I’ll leave early to beat traffic. The final quarter of a blowout NFL game can run on like a 45 minute pitching change. 

Baseball is different, it has that feel like you could always see something you’ve never seen before. Maybe someone will make their Major League debut and hit a home run, or a pitcher will toss an Immaculate Inning. It would annoy the hell out of me to leave a game I paid to attend and miss that.

On the flip side, I don’t fault anyone who leaves a baseball game early. I used care a lot about this and then I found that there are a lot more important things to worry about. They bought the ticket, baseball is entertainment, if they aren’t entertained or have seen enough then making an early exit is totally reasonable to me.

I handed in my badge for the Fan Police Department a couple seasons ago. However, seeing someone show up for an Anthony Rendon garden gnome and then leave in the 5th inning still induces an eye roll from me, but to each their own.

Besides, I don’t have to shame weak crowds on Twitter anymore, since there is an entire account dedicated to it.

That brings us to yesterdays game. This isn’t the first time Nats fans have been criticized for leaving a big game early. Yesterday I was in section 419, with a great vantage point of both the areas behind the scoreboard (which is totally shaded) as well as the centerfield gate (where I’d say 80-85% of fans at any given game exit the stadium) and it wasn’t that bad compared to other games — yesterday was my 69th game at Nats Park — I’ve seen. 

When you build a stadium with an open floor plan, where fans can seek shelter from a blistering sun in almost every concourse and public area within the stadium and still see the game, they are going to take advantage of it. From what I could see yesterday, plenty of fans made this choice.

When you build a stadium where a majority of the seats as well as the press box are focused on the exit that leads to the one Metro station in the area, all of the bars and most of the parking, a typical fan exodus in the later stages of a game is going to look a lot worse. 

Natitude. The Strasburg Shutdown. Last season’s extra inning exodus. “Where’s my ring?” All are reasons other teams media and fanbases will take extreme joy in the failures of the Washington Nationals as well as the perceived shortcomings of its fanbase. 

The fanbase has come a long way since the team moved here from Montreal in 2005. Fanbases aren’t built over night, and even the heartiest of sports towns deal with lots of bandwagon and casual fans whether they want to admit it or not. 

Yesterday, in the midst of another bad outing by Max Scherzer, shoddy play and four Nationals pitching changes over a seven at bat top of the 7th, some fans decided they’d rather spend the remainder of their Labor Day weekend elsewhere. For the record, fans in other stadiums whose home team is in the playoff race made the same decision.

Bryce Harper wants Nats Park to be a madhouse for every pitch of this home stretch, and so do I. The reality is, some fans are passionate, some fans are casual and some fans are just at the stadium because it’s an event and a place to be seen. I’m not going to lose any sleep over which one of those groups dominates the stadium.

But I will be there until the last pitch to find out.


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