Baseball fans will finally get their fix Thursday night when the Washington Nationals host the New York Yankees on Opening Day.
Watching games will be different during the coronavirus pandemic. Fans won’t be allowed in ballparks to kick off the season, and probably will be the case through the World Series.
And there won’t be the typical pageantry of Opening Day. The Nationals scrapped the ring ceremony held for the reigning World Series champions each year.
The sights and sounds will be starkly different — no screaming fans filled with the optimism that comes from having yet to suffer the season’s first loss.
The only viewing options are on TV or through streaming. ESPN will broadcast Thursday’s game from Nationals Park.
Stadium sound engineers will add crowd noise based on reactions from fans who are on Major League Baseball’s website or Gameday app, and social media links, ESPN reported. Fans can select a reaction icon, alerting the scoreboard operator in the stadium.
The Reds Joey Votto is not a big fan of the "piped-in, MLB The Show" crowd noise…. pic.twitter.com/owMv42Dpf5
— George Vogel (@vogel_wlwt) July 21, 2020
Fox will use computer-generated fans for its game broadcasts Saturday. High fives and the wave are two of up to 500 actions that the fake crowd can do, The Associated Press reported.
Some teams will put cardboard cutouts of fans in seats during games.
Major-league players will still see rows of empty seats. They’ll have to deal with any inclement weather. Fans no longer have to consider braving poor conditions after paying for an expensive ticket.
MLB has estimated that 40% of its revenue comes from gate-related income, ESPN reported. When the league was negotiating a potential 82-game season in May, the commissioner’s office said each game played in an empty stadium would contribute to an average loss of $640,000, The Associated Press reported.
The league decided on a 60-game schedule over the course of 67 days.