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A day at the ballpark

Article and photos by Shaun Kernahan

Photo of baseball stadium no fans

Although the field is occupied, the empty seats in the stadium have changed the baseball experience this year.

The smell of hot dogs and nachos, the sound of a vendor yelling, “Cold beer!”, the electric buzz of 50,000 fans cheering … these are just some of the familiar sights and sounds baseball fans have grown accustomed to when watching the boys of summer play a game. Sadly, not this year. Most live sporting events have been canceled, and just in the last few months, a few professional teams are starting to find a way to bring sports back, at least in some fashion.

Major League Baseball, after much planning and deliberation finally returned for a 60-game regular season. Some of the caveats included no fans in the stands. As a member of the press, The Connection’s sports writer Shaun Kernahan was granted access to the ballpark to watch the matchup between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies.

There was no aroma of the typical ballpark foods. The music was playing in the ballpark, but it echoed off the empty seats rather than adding to the atmosphere. Manager Bud Black wished Chris Owings a happy birthday. Something that you could clearly hear up in the second-level press box of the stadium.

Like a typical ballgame, players lined up for the national anthem, but instead of someone stepping out onto the field with a microphone, a pre-recorded version was played over the stadium PA system.

Once the game began, it still was a baseball purist’s dream. The pop of the catcher’s mitt and crack of the bat could be heard crystal clear. The chatter from the dugouts and on the field was also heard with ease. While not always family friendly, it certainly could make one laugh. Garrett Hampson, second baseman for the Rockies took a pitch just off the plate and chirped back at the pitcher, “I’m married, I don’t chase!”

The fake crowd noise pumped into the ballpark is easy to overlook while watching a game on TV, but it is disconcerting when sitting in the press box with the only 15 spectators in the ballpark, many not affiliated with a team and not making a noise. They still play the walk-up songs fans are accustomed to hearing. When Charlie Blackmon comes to the plate, “Your Love” is pumped into the ballpark. There is even a recording of the crowd finishing off the lyric, “I don’t want to lose your love” with a loud “TONIGHT!!!”

Photo of empty baseball stadium seats

The unfamiliar scene of empty stadium seats made for a very different ballpark experience.

In the middle of the seventh inning, the PA announcer instructed the fans to remain on their feet as they proceeded to play, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” with numerous virtual fans showing up in boxes on the big board in left field singing along with the song.

That seventh inning happened to be the undoing of the Rockies on this particular day. They gave up eight runs and ultimately lost 13-7. Typically, after a game the press makes their way down to the clubhouse to conduct interviews before heading back to the press box to write the story. Like so many things this year, that has changed. Instead we all logged in to a Zoom call to talk with Coach Black and the day’s starting pitcher, Antonio Senzatela.

There was no rush of the crowd heading to their cars, no smell of spilled beer, no kids getting one more picture in the ballpark, no bike taxis offering rides. Instead, there was just a single Rockies employee at the table next to the entrance behind home plate kindly requesting to shut the gate on the way out.

Then it was a short walk through the relatively empty streets down to the parking lot that was filled with cars belonging to construction workers rather than fans, giving one last feeling that perfectly wrapped up the day and even the whole year thus far – strange.



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