The Boston Red Sox experimented with fake crowd noise during Friday's intersquad scrimmage at Fenway Park, offering a preview of what the gameday experience might sound and look like once the 2020 MLB season gets underway.
The system is far from perfect and will continue to be tweaked, but so far, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke is a huge fan.
"I liked it a lot," Roenicke told reporters Friday. "Some real noise that will get better with the timing of it. But I think even the noise with nothing going on is really good. So they're experimenting with the loudness of it, what the natural crowd would sound like early in the game and what it would be when things are tied and there's excitement in it.
"I thought it was great. I think the players all liked it. At times it was a little loud, and they were experimenting with that. The players said it was a little harder to talk to each other on the field. But as soon as they dropped it back down, it was in a place that was good. I think it's going to create a lot of energy, so I really liked it."
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A totally silent stadium atmosphere would allow teams to hear what the opponents were saying and make strategy tougher, so Roenicke likes that his players and staff can communicate without the entire conversation being heard by everyone in the area.
"It's nice on our part to be able to have conversations and not have the other side hear it," Roenicke said. "And at times it's nice for us to make comments and not have the players hear what you're saying. If we're discussing, maybe, taking a starting pitcher out of a game. There's sometimes comments you make that you'd rather the players not hear that, so it's a benefit to have that noise there. And I've also noticed with these masks on, I don't have to cover my mouth when I'm talking at times, worried about the camera being on me, so that's a real good thing."
One thing the league will try to accomplish is making the crowd noise work for both teams. A scenario where only the home team benefits isn't going to work.
"It will vary from ballpark to ballpark," Roenicke explained. "I'm sure (the league) will have somebody here -- I guess I could say policing it -- making sure, for one, that it's fair for both sides. I'm sure we won't try to get carried away with the things we do. We were discussing it today, Tom Werner was out here, and we were making sure -- it can't all be just positive noise just for the home team. There has to be some kind of noise for the visiting side or when things go bad on our side, because really what happens is the crowd doesn't make a noise whether it's good or bad.
"So trying to make sure we don't do anything that's so one-sided that it's ridiculous, and no one wants it that way. I think that's got to be policed around the league. But everybody's got the opportunity to change those noises and get it to a place where they think it's going to help their team."
The fake crowd noise might be needed for the entire season. Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker recently announced that the state's pro sports team can begin hosting games but without fans. Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said late last month that he's "hopeful" fans will be able to attend games at Fenway Park this season, but he's not sure if it will happen at all.