White Sox prepare for game in empty stadium

SHARE White Sox prepare for game in empty stadium
SHARE White Sox prepare for game in empty stadium

BALTIMORE — What a strange scene this will be, the White Sox and Orioles playing in an empty stadium Wednesday afternoon.

It will look weird, to be sure, with nothing but more than 45,000 seats surrounding a major-league field, two teams, four umpires, a couple of coaching staffs and scouts. Media will be present in the press box, most of them silent — except for broadcasters such as Ken Harrelson and Steve Stone, the Sox’ TV broadcast team.

As quiet as it will be, it’s not out of the question that players will hear Harrelson making a call, especially if it’s that patented “You can put it on the board, yes!” he’s known for.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdD4lY8o6N4“We’re right behind home plate, so I imagine some of them will hear some things,’’ Harrelson said. “With that little circle we’re backed in now, it’s like a megaphone going out.”

Harrelson has never called a game in an empty stadium. Nobody ever has, for that matter, not in major-league baseball. After having the games on Monday and Tuesday postponed because of rioting in Baltimore, MLB and the Orioles, citing safety reasons, decided to play the last game of the series at 1:05 p.m., in daylight hours instead of at night. The game will be televised in the Chicago area on Channel 50.

The first two games will be made up in a straight doubleheader at 3:05 p.m. May 28 in Baltimore. That was a scheduled day off for the Sox between series in Toronto and Houston.

Harrelson doesn’t know what to expect with no fans in the stadium.

“I have no clue,’’ said the Hawk, who has been calling games for 40 years. “It’s going to be interesting. I’m sure of that.”

Harrelson, concerned about how odd this will feel, said he would call broadcast director Jim Angio and ask to have crowd noise piped into the broadcast.

“Because calling a baseball game without a crowd, I’ve never done it,” he said.

“I don’t think I will enjoy it. The excitement of the game for me is the fans getting excited. I’ll get excited, but if I’m the only one in the ballpark getting excited . . . I’ve never experienced that before.”

Neither has Stone.

“Don’t forget I’m from Cleveland,’’ Stone said, “and old Municipal Stadium, which held 86,000 people before the Indians got good, would routinely draw 3,200 or 3,300 folks. The mascot could greet each of the patrons individually. So I’ve been in stadiums where it’s sparse.’’

“I feel like it’s going to be like a high school game or worse,” said Chris Rongey, who’s filling in for radio broadcaster Ed Farmer, absent this week for personal reasons. “The weird thing is they might actually hear us from the booth. There’s going to be no crowd noise. Maybe you’ll hear chatter from the dugouts.”

Harrelson and Stone have called games in almost-empty stadiums, though. It’s not unusual for crowds at games that run late into extra innings on bad-weather nights to dwindle to 1,000 or fewer.

“It’s not going to be too unlike many games played at Tropicana Field with the Tampa Bay Rays, who don’t draw a lot, either,’’ Stone said. “It’s going to be strange. Having been a player, it’s going to be like a B game in spring training.’’

Which is what Sox catcher Tyler Flowers expects it to be like.

“Catching-wise, it might be more pleasant for me, not hearing people make fun of me,’’ he quipped.

Said outfielder Adam Eaton: “The only disadvantage may be for the home team because you kind of feed off the energy. When you’re on the road, there’s not much energy in your favor usually. If anything, Baltimore might be slighted a little bit.’’

Harrelson might be, too.

“I feed off the fans, no doubt about it,” Harrelson said. “I can feel them getting excited when we get a rally going. When we scored five the other day, that was like shooting a shot of adrenaline right through me. When they get excited before me, that, to me, is what it’s all about.

“I know one thing, it will still result in a ‘W’ or an ‘L.’ ”

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @CST_soxvan

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