Amid the backdrop of protests and looting and violence, the Baltimore Orioles beat the Chicago White Sox, 8-2, on Wednesday in front of an empty house at Camden Yards. Citing fan safety – and not wanting to overtax local law enforcement – Major League Baseball decided that the Orioles/White Sox game would be closed to the public.
It was odd, it was surreal, and it was something else.
“It was really quiet,” MASNSports.com Orioles writer Roch Kubatko said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “There was a small group of (fans) that were actually beyond the left-centerfield fence at one of the gates watching the game and cheering, but otherwise, it was just surreal. It kind of reminded me of covering inter-squad games in spring training where there’s just no atmosphere at all. Couple of scouts in the stands. That’s it. It was so quiet that at one point, one of the reporters in the press box – who’s got a pretty deep voice, kind of booming voice – called out to another reporter, and Adam Jones was on the on-deck circle of the Orioles and he turned around and looked up, pointed and shook his hand as if (to say), ‘Hey, I heard that.’ This is from the press box to the on-deck circle. So our voices were carrying. We actually had to be careful how loud we talked because we didn’t want to disturb the players.”
Chris Davis hit a three-run homer as part of a six-run first inning to lead Baltimore to victory. The Orioles (10-10) will now travel to Tampa Bay (12-10) and be the home team in a series they were supposed to host.
That’ll be weird, but playing in an empty stadium? Yeah, that’s weirder.
“It was really strange,” Kubatko said. “The press box was packed. They had more requests than they had seats. They had to turn people away. It really became a big national story. The game was played in an empty ball park, but the entire world was watching. One of those kind of weird situations.”
Major League Baseball, however, didn’t feel it had much of a choice.
“They had already postponed the first two games, and they rescheduled a double-header,” Kubatko said. “It would be hard to reschedule this one because the White Sox don’t come back to Baltimore and they can’t play the regularly scheduled time at 7:05 because there’s a 10 p.m. curfew now for at least the next week because of the rioting and the protests. So they figured, okay, we could get this game in at 2 o’clock, and for safety concerns and so they don’t use up police and national guard in the ball park – because they have more important things to do than monitor a baseball game – they played it without fans.
“So you still had the national anthem, you still had the PA announcer introducing the hitters, and you had music between innings and the scoreboard games and the hotdog race. Thank God there wasn’t Kiss Cam because that would have been awkward. So they didn’t have any of that kind of stuff.”
Interestingly enough, the game lasted just two hours and three minutes.
“That’s all it took to play that game,” Kubatko said. “So apparently if you want to speed up the pace of the game, like baseball does, maybe you get rid of the fans. That game went a whole lot faster with an empty ball park for whatever reason.”