Retrieved 01 May 2020, 16:22 IST
Five years ago this week, the first game in an empty stadium was played in the 145-year history of the big leagues. By all accounts, it was an awkward experience and some of the biggest baseballs in the league expected to never repeat.
The first global pandemic in more than a century has made baseball a real possibility again without fans.
The April 26, 2015 matchup between the Chicago White Sox and the Baltimore Orioles at Capden Yards did not feature the first game with a fan.
Looting and rioting in Baltimore postponed the first two games of the series following the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who suffered a spinal cord injury while in police custody.
It was decided to play in the final of the series but no fans were present due to security reasons. The start time of the game was moved from 2:05 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the city from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Curfew.
The game itself was the most memorable to finish in just two hours and three minutes, tied with the fifth-highest game of the season. Chris Davis hit a three-run homer in the first innings before Jeff Somardigia scored six and the Orioles won 6-2.
As the coronavirus epidemic has been delayed since the start of this season, MLB is assessing the 2020 season in a variety of different situations to get it going.
The idea was to set up all 30 teams in Arizona that have been discussed and the other would station the team at one of three centers located in Florida, Arizona and Texas. The latest idea is for teams to play in their own league-league ballpark in late June.
Regardless of the location, where the teams are and where the actual start date ends, it is clear at this point that the games will at least start with any of the fans present to prevent a possible spread of the virus.
It is impossible to predict how the entire season will play out – or what will happen throughout the season – in 2020 that will not affect any fan players and their performance. Some players clearly succeed in playing in front of their own fans and some struggle to maintain that level in road games.
A few cities have a reputation for being extra strict on opposing players – New York, Boston and Philadelphia come to mind. Would a visitor shout obscenities at the Branks or where the Yankees have finished the game because there are no Yankee fans on the stand to yell at the players?
Buck Schwalter was the Orioles manager during the 2015 No-Fans Games and has reservations about playing baseball in the empty ballpark.
Schwalter said on ESPN radio on Wednesday, “Your people need to be there and say, ‘Hey, what you’re doing is important. We’re counting on you.’ You need that emotional jolt, so to say it lets you understand why you do all this work.” We need that passion, especially where you play baseball seven days a week. “
There is no fan and crowd noise, those watching on TV should be able to hear what is being said by the field players. The heated argument between the manager and the umpire will instantly become more interesting. The sensor that will be in control of the button should be ready to work quickly.
One of the players who took part in the 2015 Baltimore game was current Yankees reliever Jack Britton, who scored a scoreless innings.
“It was tough,” Britain said Wednesday. “Obviously, a completely different situation, but it wasn’t fun not to have the crowd in your house. It felt like playing backyard for the most part.”
Although this game had a somewhat disturbing atmosphere, it had some light moments.
Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph showed his cap to the fictional crowd and pretended to sign autographs, while Davis tossed baseballs in the empty seat.
“That was the strangest thing,” Joseph said. “I was playing a big league game, and I heard the announcement being made in the press box. I’ve never heard it before. One of the announcements was some interesting event, and I thought ‘it’s so great I didn’t know it.’ ‘
The Orioles maintained the tradition of playing John Denver’s “Thanks God I’m a Country Boy” during the seventh-inning stretch, and players were heard shouting “I got it” when claiming a flyball.
“We’re doing the right thing,” Davis said at the time. “I’m not really happy to be playing in an empty stadium. It’s one of the reasons we’ve come to so many countries to play in front of our fans. But we also understand that there’s a bigger picture here.”
Baseball was secondary then and it has now again given priority to everyone’s health and safety. Nevertheless, the return of the national hobby to the United States, whatever may be deemed necessary, would be gladly welcomed.