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How baseball games might be impacted if they’re played without fans

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On an episode of Inside Corner last week with teammate Marco Gonzales and play-by-play broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith, Mariners catcher Tom Murphy was asked what it would be like to play baseball games with no fans in attendance. Murphy said, “Without any crowd noise, the hitter’s going to know exactly where I’m at. That’s without question. I’m almost terrified of it because how are you going to throw a fastball in at any point?” Gonzales chimed in, “You’re not.”

It’s a point that hasn’t been brought up often, if at all, in discussions about kicking off the baseball season some time this summer. Lots of other aspects have been rightfully brought up, such as accounting for pay and service time, testing players regularly for coronavirus, limiting their exposure to society at large, etc. However, the game itself may be impacted in many other subtle ways.

In 2015, the Orioles hosted the White Sox in what is to date the only Major League Baseball game played without fans in attendance. Caleb Joseph caught the game and mentioned a bunch of weird things he noticed throughout the course of the afternoon. Per The Athletic’s Kaitlyn McGrath, Joseph said he could hear conversations going on in the opposing dugout. He could also hear Gary Thorne calling the game in the broadcast booth above the field.

“It was so quiet that I could hear him in the press box (above), where he broadcast the games, saying, ‘and the 2-1 pitch on the way’ as it’s happening. I could hear him calling it. I felt like I was not only living the game but watching and listening to it at the same time,” Joseph said.

Some players feed off of the energy fans provide. Joseph likened going from playing in front of fans to playing in front of no fans to having coffee in the morning to start your day, then having to do it without coffee. Even fans of opposing teams can provide players an adrenaline rush, Joseph noted.

We have heard, among the many hypothesized ways MLB can salvage a 2020 season, that players will get an abbreviated spring training to get back into playing shape. Rosters would be adjusted to account for starting pitchers not being as able to pitch deep into games. Along with the potential for players to overhear strategy as well as catcher positioning, stats created during this time will have to be taken with a grain of salt.

Fans allowed at NLCS, World Series in Texas

Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Fans can take themselves out to the ball game for the first time this season during the NL Championship Series and World Series at new Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

Major League Baseball said Wednesday that about 11,500 tickets will be available for each game. That is about 28% of the 40,518-capacity, retractable-roof stadium of the Texas Rangers, which opened this year adjacent to old Globe Life Park, the team’s open-air home from 1994 through 2019.

The World Series is being played at a neutral site for the first time in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It will be played at one stadium for the first time since the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Browns at Sportsman’s Park in 1944.

Some of the seats will be included in presales for Texas Rangers season ticket holders on Friday and subscribers on Monday, and others are set aside for MLB and players.

Tickets are priced at $40-250 for the NLCS and $75-450 for the World Series, and 10,550 seats in the regular sections of the ballpark and 950 in suites will be sold in “pods” of four contiguous seats.

Each pod will be distanced by at least 6 feet and a checkerboard pattern will be used, with alternating rows of seats in the middle or rows and at the ends. Unsold seats will be tied back.

No seats will be sold in the first six rows within 20 feet of the field, dugouts or bullpen. Fans will not be allowed to the lowest level, which is reserved for MLB’s tier one personnel, such as players and managers.

Masks are mandatory for fans except while they are eating or drinking at their ticketed seats. Concessions and parking will be cashless, and the team’s concessionaire, Delaware North, is planning wrapped items.

The NLCS is scheduled on seven straight days from Oct. 12-18 and the World Series from Oct. 20-28, with traditional off days between Games 2 and 3 and Games 5 and 6, if the Series goes that far. The Division Series, League Championship Series and World Series all will be being played at neutral sites because of the coronavirus .pandemic.

MLB played the entire regular season without fans and also the first round of the playoffs with no fans. For the first time since spring training was interrupted on March 12, club employees and player families were allowed to attend games this week.

While Texas is allowing up to 50% capacity at venues, MLB did not anticipate having government permission for fans to attend postseason games at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles or Petco Park in San Diego, where AL playoff games are scheduled.

Globe Life Field has been the site of more than 50 graduations, but the Rangers played their home games in an empty ballpark.

The Rangers will recommend to MLB that the roof be kept open when possible, executive vice president of business operations Rob Matwick said, but the team understands it will be closed in the event of rain. Matwick said MLB made the decision not to sell seats for the Division Series.

Other than 1944, the only times the World Series was held at one site came in 1921 and 1922, when the New York Giants and Yankees both played home games at the Polo Grounds. Yankee Stadium opened in 1923.