The crack of the bat minus the sound of the crowd. It’s something most of us have never experienced. Even in struggling leagues with franchises near death, there are some fans in attendance. They still make noise, not as much as in a packed house, but the noise is still there. We hear bat make contact with the ball and whether it’s a loud roar or a tiny rumbling that barely registers it’s still something we can hear.
I wasn’t sure how I would react to baseball being played without any fans in attendance. Despite being a huge baseball fan and someone who has greatly enjoyed watching Chinese Professional Baseball League games for many years now I found myself approaching the return of baseball with some amount of trepidation. Would it really be baseball without fans in the stands? Was I ready for robots taking the place of fans going through a roller coaster of emotions during a game? I knew baseball was about to begin again but was it baseball I even wanted to watch?
I do miss the fans, there are no two ways around that. I feel a pang of sadness when I see a big home run that isn’t quite as big as it should be because of a lack of fan reaction. The fans are an integral part of baseball and this past week has displayed that in great detail. Baseball is a communal experience and nothing displays that better than the noise coming from fans in the stands.
As the games have continued my trepidation has eased more and more. I still miss the fans and want them back, but I’m enjoying the baseball. Perhaps a little less due to the lack of fans, but still enjoying at the end of the day. I’ve found myself turning to social media engagement more during games. Knowing that others are watching the game and experiencing the same emotions I am has made the transition easier. The announcers have also helped, either the new English language team or the traditional Mandarin broadcasters. Their enthusiasm has not waned and I have been able to feed off of them in the moments when the surreal nature of a fanless baseball game became a bit too much.
Baseball is back. It’s a little bit different, but it’s still back. Home runs are being hit, great plays are being made, and I find myself emotionally invested. The fans will be back and when they are the games will be better, I know this. All the same, I’m getting to enjoy baseball again and the more I watch of fanless baseball the more I’m simply happy that this stupid game has been brought back into my life again.
Lead photo courtesy of Steven Lee – Getty Images