The MLB 60-game season will start with no fans in the stands

Will Danny Santana and the Texas Rangers feel surreal playing without fans in the stands on Opening Day?
Photo Courtesy: Michael Kolch

In the opening game of the season on July 23rd, Washington Nationals, the defending World Series champion, are hosting the New York Yankees at 7:08 p.m. ET. The next game sees the San Francisco Giants facing the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium at 10:08 p.m. ET. A somber atmosphere with a bit of optimism is the mixed mood at the moment. The epidemic is still here, so fans will have to put up with following their favorite sport long-distance. Luckily, sites such as can help fill in the gap and offer the public an alternative entertainment source.

As for lifting the players’ mood, bereft of cheering fans on the field, Major League Baseball is taking the inspiration from two European soccer leagues, England’s Premier League and Spain’s La Liga. The two leagues reached an agreement with EA Sports to use the sound effects from the crowd that was engineered for the FIFA video game franchise.

Similarly, crowd noises from the MLB official video game, The Show, will be played through ballpark sound systems during games. Sony Entertainment compiled the noise during games over several seasons, through its branch San Diego Studies. There are now some 75 different effects and reactions available to stadium sound engineers.

Some clubs started to use the sounds while they were training in summer camps. Chris Marinak, MLB’s executive vice president for strategy, technology, and innovation, admitted that not everybody liked the idea. “There was some reticence when you first talk about crowd noise in an empty ballpark because you don’t want to do something that is distracting.” But he states that the sounds match what is happening: “It is heard in a way that is natural with the play of the game and on field.”

Opinions are mixed on the usefulness of this ruse. “It sounds more like a sound machine to me,” Marlins outfielder Corey Dickerson said. “I’d rather have some music playing.” Brewers infielder Eric Sogard, on the other hand, says that the unusual soundtrack is a positive factor: “You’re still focused on the game, but that noise is very helpful. I could tell the first few scrimmages with pure silence was tough for some guys. You could hear the other dugout talking, and it was kind of awkward.”

Stadium announcers, walk-up music, and in-stadium video are the other elements that will strive to convey the in-game experience as much as possible. Radio and television broadcasts will make them audible too. However, some fans and broadcasters would not like to lose the rare opportunity to hear real-life players’ conversations during games this season. Fans can only get to hear this type of interaction if they have a chance to attend spring training workouts.

“I think it still allows us to capture some of that and still make the viewing experience feel right at home,” ESPN announcer Matt Vasgersian said. “I can’t wait to hear what we hear. Nobody involved in broadcasting baseball wants to compromise strategy. We’re not looking to pry into the playbook, but we do want to hear things that maybe we wouldn’t hear ordinarily.”