As Nats fans, we’ve seen our share of delays already. Some have been on the road, namely San Diego of all places. Here at home, we have seen a doubleheader in the Toronto series followed with a lengthy delay to kick of the series with the Cubs.
Having an eye on the weather and being involved in minor league ball in Southern Maryland gives a good point of view when looking at how these situations are handled on a major league level. The thing to keep in mind is this: it’s not simply always just one thing that decides a delay or postponement; it’s a sum of many parts.
Nats Park does not enjoy the luxury of a roof, nor should it. The climate in this area isn’t conducive for a roof to make sense like it does in Houston, Seattle, Arizona, or Miami (if they stick to baseball and not forecasting, that is).
When looking at the decisions that have to be made, here are some factors:
- Current and forecasted short term weather:
Obviously if it is raining come game time, delays and postponements are inevitable for what should be obvious reasons. You can’t play in those conditions, plus the infield is put at risk of damage.
If the forecast calls for rain or threatening conditions at any point within the first hour or hour and a half of a game, the consideration should come in place for a postponement at risk of not having an official game.
Normally a field will take about 30 or so minuets to be prepared once the tarp is removed. The infield gets dragged to make the dirt ready for play, and it allows the outfield to soak in the water just dumped on it by the tarp. If a team sees that it has that half hour window plus time to get a game going, more times than not a start time will be posted and a game will be played.
- Past weather, current field conditions:
One of the cornerstones to a game is the field. Keeping it in good shape is paramount for a level playing field, literally. They are designed to hold and absorb water, but only so much at a time. This is situation the Nats and my team locally in Southern Maryland dealt with the week of June 1st.
It seemed like Seattle had moved in across the Washington D.C. region; cold and damp, lots of drizzle with some heavier rain. Miserable at times. As mentioned earlier, the infields of these ballparks are designed to take on quite a bit of water, but there is a breaking point. Where there once was a sponge ready to take on the water, now sits a virtual table that doesn’t absorb a drop. There is simply no place for the water to go.
When this happens and you factor in air that is incredibly humid, you get a field that takes longer than usual to dry. Southern Maryland ran into this, forcing a game to be rescheduled on a day that had no rain come scheduled first pitch.
Another factor is the outfield. I would see this as a typical non-factor, but sometimes if the warning track is so flooded, you just can’t do anything about it. If Nats Park and Regency Furniture Stadium have any similarities, and I hope it does, the warning track in the outfield and in foul territory along with the field itself has drains that allow the standing water to drain quickly.
- Scheduled first pitch and upcoming dates:
This is a factor for toss-up situations. If a team finds itself in need to possibly postpone, but could get a game in if it starts late, they will look towards the days ahead. Do either teams travel or have strange starts? This comes into play when looking towards a postponement.
As an overview, there are many factors when any team has to consider a delay or postponement. When looking from the outside like we do as fans it seems so black and white with a decision, but in reality there is a blurring of that line that we don’t see sometimes because of the many factors that come in to making the decision. Of course, the Nats have their behind the scenes protocols which call for a certain call in a certain situation. They know over 25,000 fans or more per game rely on these calls along with many, many others across the country who watch the team or rely on the game decision.
Josh is a college student who has grown up and is still living in Maryland. He is currently a Creative Services intern with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs Baseball Club. Josh is an avid weather geek with a die-hard passion for the Nats while learning and loving the amazing game of baseball. You can follow Josh on twitter at @NatsWx.