It levels almost everything. Rarely-populated Safeco Field is now Yankees Stadium. Empty seats are empty seats.
There’s no vibe. No roll call in the Bronx. No bullpen badgering in Philadelphia. No, “Nats, Nats, Nats” when they score on South Capitol Street.
The extraction of fans may be the biggest change for Major League Baseball in 2020. Even more so than the near-limitless health requirements.
Back in early April, when the idea was being floated and the coronavirus pandemic was trying to be better understood, Ryan Zimmerman addressed the possibility with disdain.
“Am I OK with it? I mean, I think it would be brutal,” Zimmerman said. “I can’t imagine, I mean, I tell Heather [Zimmerman] this all the time: sometimes on a Wednesday in July it’s really hard to get really pumped up to play a Major League Baseball game, as sad as that sounds. So when I run out on the field, I need the fans. The fans almost make me get up and be like, yeah, this is why I play. This is why I enjoy coming out on a Wednesday in June because it’s fun to play and hear the fans and hear the roars and things like.
“So, I think it would be challenging for a lot of guys. It’d be an interesting environment. But like I said at the beginning of the call, I think a lot of us are kind of willing to do whatever it takes to get sports back and I think realistically, if we want to get it back sooner than later it’s going to have to be without fans in the stands. So, we’ll see what happens. The short answer is it would be really tough. But, I think a lot of us would be willing to sacrifice and do it.”
That was more than two months ago.
Thursday, the San Francisco Giants told season-ticket holders there would be no fans at the park this year. But, they will have a “Fan Cutout Program,” allowing them to submit an image to be placed in the stands during home games.
Which means stadium dimensions become the lone home-field advantage without fans. Especially if a team is filled with young players.
For instance, Victor Robles had not played in Wrigley Field prior to last year. The Nationals were concerned in the days before the series. Robles’ break-neck style is both admired and disconcerting. In the case of Wrigley, they began telling him the outfield wall is made of brick, and even he would lose a battle with it. That was the first concern. The second was properly playing caroms. Deep fly balls rocket off the back wall. Any outfielder there has to be prepared for the situation.
So, configuration is now the prime concern since fans are out.
And the change costs the league’s powerhouse organizations. Three teams -- Los Angeles, New York (AL) and St. Louis -- averaged more than 40,000 fans per game last season. Three teams -- Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Miami -- averaged less than 18,000 fans per game last season. Those places are now the same thanks to the biggest twist of 2020.
Stay connected to the Nationals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.
MORE NATIONALS NEWS: