30 April 2015

Watching a Strange Ballgame in Baltimore

If a baseball game is played, but no one is there to see it, did it actually happen? In the case of yesterday’s game it does, because despite the fact that the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox played the first ever major league baseball game in front of an empty audience, it happened to be televised. I imagine that the majority of the unseen audience that happened to witness yesterday’s game was looking for something to take their minds off of what was going on in their city, if only for a couple of hours. Others probably tuned in out of sheer curiosity to experience a game without any fans.

So when 2:00 rolled around, I (like I assume many others) sat down to watch the game not knowing quite what to expect. Despite knowing that this was a real game that actually counted in the win/loss column, I found it difficult to shake the feeling that it was just an exhibition (perhaps a make-up game from spring training?). Initially, I thought watching a game with no one in attendance on television wouldn’t feel all that different, and after the first couple of pitches, it didn’t. If you think about it, the majority of the camera angles shown during a game are behind the pitcher, making only the first one or two rows of seats behind home plate visible. Many of these seats on television can appear empty from time to time, especially during the early innings of a day game.

But after the strikeout of the game’s first batter (Adam Eaton), the near absence of any noise whatsoever was eerie. Yes, there was the sound of Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer talking to me through the TV, but other than the (very) faint cheers from the diehard fans outside the gate, there was nothing. NOTHING. Without any fans in the stands, it truly felt like I was the only one watching the game. It was like I had paid money for the privilege to watch this game all by myself, only to realize after the first batter that it’s not all that fun to watch it without anyone else. In essence, I was watching the game in my “private suite”, but all I wanted was to be among the fans and feel the electricity they provide. It was a strange way to watch a baseball game, so I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to play in it.

The game itself obviously went well for the Orioles. White Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija left plenty of pitches over the plate in the first inning and Baltimore hitters smacked them all over the field. Ubaldo Jimenez pitched well, throwing plenty of strikes, only walking one, and generally keeping White Sox hitters off balance. But despite all of the good performances and the Orioles picking up the win, the story of the game was still the fact that there wasn’t anyone there. Both pre-game and post-game quotes about playing in an empty stadium were prevalent on sports websites, while some players even acted at times like the fans were still there, either out of habit or for a laugh.

After the game was over, Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado stated the following:
“It means a lot. I think this is what the city needed. A win, a W.”
Unfortunately, the city of Baltimore needs a lot more than a win from the Orioles. However, that’s probably the best thing the team can provide them at this time. Life in Baltimore hasn’t yet returned to normal inside or outside of Camden Yards, and it may be awhile until it does. But after cancelling games for two days in a row due to events of much more importance than baseball, the return of baseball being played in Camden Yards on a spring day is a step – no matter how small – in the right direction, even if there wasn’t anyone in the stadium to watch them yet.


Philip said...

I was watching on MLB.com, and even so I thought it was very odd. However I very much liked the camera behind the batter view. That seems to be a rarely used camera angle and I hope to use it much more frequently.

Unknown said...
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Anonymous said...

Without crowd noise masking the sound of the bat or tens of thousands of bodies absorbing it, even weakly hit balls sharply cracked and echoed.