Baltimore Orioles: Reflecting on the 5th Anniversary of the Empty Stadium
It’s been five years since the unforgettable “No-Fan Game” when the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles played in an empty Camden Yards.
The Baltimore Orioles home game on April 29, 2015 was played without any fans, due to concerns about the nearby issues relating to Freddy Gray, a 25-year-old man who died in police custody. In the days and nights before the game, civil unrest caused the Orioles to postpone two games and relocate an entire series.
Most notably, it triggered the unusual act of closing the game to fans. Normally, during home games the area is buzzing with fans. Now with Covid-19 wreaking havoc around the US, MLB might make the Orioles model the norm.
In Jon Meoli’s article in The Baltimore Sun, he shared some of the players’ experiences that day:
"“Caleb Joseph walked out to the bullpen for warmups high-fiving imaginary fans and signing fake autographs down the first-base line … bullpen coach Dom Chiti had to advise the relievers not to cheer so loudly in the first inning because the other team’s relief pitchers were right there.”"
Despite being focused on the game, the reason for playing in an empty stadium was in the mind of other players. Center fielder Adam Jones was a voice of reason during this time. Prior to the game, he told his teammates that he was “not far from these kids, so I understand all the things they are going through.”
This experience is one that could become the norm in the 2020 season. The thoughts are mixed on whether or not empty-stadium games are good ideas. In Meoli’s article, he quoted city council member Brandon Scott who said, ”
"“People were going through a lot of trauma and a lot of stress, and I thought for some people — I know for my grandfather, that was a way for him to get away for at least a couple hours from what’s going on in the city. Some people needed that.”BALTIMORE, MD – APRIL 29: Fans watch the Baltimore Orioles play against the Chicago White Sox from the Hilton hotel across the street from Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 29, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The game was closed to the public due to the social unrest in Baltimore. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)"
Not all fans stayed away. While they couldn’t get into the gates, some tried to catch a glimpse from being the green fences. Others watched from balconies at nearby hotels and offices. They got to get away for a few moments.
Not everyone felt the same way about having an empty stadium. Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne said, “Thank god it’s over, and I hope we never have to do this again.”
Former Orioles manager, Buck Showalter is not a fan of the no-fans games. In an interview with Peter Schmuck, he said what many of us feel: without fans, the games don’t seem important. He’s right. There is nothing quite like watching a baseball game in a stadium, especially one that is full.
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- Former Orioles Players on Playoff Teams this October
- On This Day: 2012 Ragtag Orioles Win Wild Card Game
- The April Orioles Seem Like a Completely Different Team
Meoli also asked a though-provoking question in his article: five years ago, the Orioles wondered what the role of baseball was when people were dying and being arrested a few steps away from the stadium? The same question could be asked today, as we wonder what the role of baseball is when people all over the country are struggling with health and economic issues.
There are a few answers to the question. Baseball provides a sense of normalcy. Hearing your favorite announcers call games is comforting. I will admit that I have watched several rerun games, even from teams that I normally never watch, and they all have the background noise from the fans.
While I am more than ready to watch live baseball, I don’t know if I’m ready to watch a silent game. But, like everything else in this unusual time, we’ll probably all get used to no-fans games after watching a few.