White Sox, O’s prepare for sounds (and cheers) of silence
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BALTIMORE — There was lots of media, and some scouts, but not a single fan in the house.
Aside from a few birds scouring the unoccupied box seats for crumbs, the seating areas were empty as the White Sox and Baltimore Orioles prepared to play the first game ever closed to the public on Wednesday afternoon.
On the field, players took batting practice to the sounds of a Led Zeppelin medley cranking on the public address system, business as usual in any pregame setting.
“It’s a little bit difficult to keep loose when you see what is happening in the city and the entire situation,” Sox first baseman Jose Abreu said through an interpreter. “Our job is to keep the focus on the game and try to win today.”
Looting and rioting near Camden Yards forced the postponement of the first two games of the series. With a 10 p.m. curfew imposed by Baltimore’s mayor, baseball officials decided to play the third scheduled game at 2:05 p.m. Eastern with no fans.
“We’re playing baseball; it’s not like we’re doing anything different,” Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s just there’s not going to be anybody in the stands.”
Ventura compared it to playing on spring training back fields or when he played at Fenway Park on in the Cape Cod League as a collegian.
“I don’t think anyone is prepared to play in this atmosphere,” he said. “It’s going to be strange. There’s no way around it, for us the focus is to go out and play baseball.”
Quipped Sox center fielder Adam Eaton: “I think guys will react differently and I understand the circumstances, but we’re going to try to take the crowd out of it early and go from there.”
Sox infielder Gordon Beckham said players talked about silent cheering from the dugout, “just to kind of add to it. If somebody gets a hit, give them [a silent clap] without saying anything to kind of add to the ambiance. So we’ll see.”
Silent cheers or not, umpires will hear more than usual from players. Pitchers will speak softly with catchers during conversations. The sounds of baseball are a big part of the game.
“Hearing is huge for an outfielder,” Eaton said. “You hear balls in the gap, how hard it’s hit, how weakly it’s hit. You know if a ball gets by the catcher, if a guy is stealing, you can hear that all from the crowd. So it is going to be different but we’ve done it before when we were in the minor leagues and we’ll have to bring those senses back and really pay attention.”