Major League Baseball made its joyous return when Opening Day finally came for the 2020 regular season. Baseball fans waited nearly four months for the return of games after the season was delayed due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. But, no fans will be in attendance to start the season, and potentially all of the 2020 MLB season could be played behind closed doors.
Without spectators, things have sounded much quieter at ballparks around the country. Sure, you can hear the crack of the bat more clearly and the ball smacking into the catcher's glove, but to add a sense of normalcy to the unique 60-game season, some MLB clubs have decided to add artificial crowd noise into games. But, according to the Philadelphia Phillies director of broadcasting and video services, Mark DiNardo, adding cheers is fine, but adding boos is discouraged by the league. Here' more from DiNardo via the Philly Voice:
"We have been directed by Major League Baseball to try our best, while creating a natural environment, to not bring that into the mix," DiNardo said, laughing. "They specifically asked us that we not add boos to the mix, but it is kind of funny since everyone says that boos are 'so Philly.'
"I wouldn't expect to hear boos coming out of the gates. We're trying across the league to maintain a competitive consistency that no one use these crowd sound effects for a competitive advantage. But it is a situation that we'll continue to monitor if we see it pop up across the league. Then we'll definitely have to address it."
If what DiNardo says is true, that's a real bummer for fans who were hoping to see their clubs put the artificial boo-ing to use when the Houston Astros or Boston Red Sox came to visit. This past offseason, MLB found both clubs guilty of illegally stealing signs during each of their respective World Series championship seasons. Our own Matt Snyder wrote about why the Astros are still going to be MLB's biggest on-field villains in 2020.
"People know that there's not 30,000 fans at the ballpark," DiNardo told the Philly Voice. "But what we are trying to do is recreate an environment for the players that is as close to normal as possible. So, the crowd effects that all the Major League teams are going to be doing are really there as a backdrop for the players. There will be some kind of noise happening. Then we have the flexibility to add crowd reactions that are appropriate during the game to make it a little more realistic."
MLB teams are going to be given access to add in artificial crowd noise this season via sound from MLB's official video game, MLB The Show. For DiNardo at the Phillies, he has access to about 75 different effects and reactions to choose from.
"We've taken those sounds and we're doing our best to equalize them in the ballpark to make them sound a little more life-like," DiNardo adds. "We're also in the process of going back through some games from NBC Sports last year to pull addition sounds that are native from our ballpark, whether it's people clapping or cheering in the stands than hearing a generic crowd hum."
Artificial crowd noise was included as one of the ways MLB can improve the fan experience this season. For now, it's a work in progress, but it's better to try than attempt nothing.