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Could 15 DJs Salvage The 2020 Baseball Season?

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Chicago Wite Sox v Oakland Athletics
“How great would it be if you could hear the crowd even though there is no crowd but yet you hear them because we have them reacting in real time though they can’t be there?”

It doesn’t take an infectious disease expert to forecast fewer and fewer ideal outcomes for the 2020 MLB season. Even in California, the “peak” is not projected to hit until late April and that’s earlier than for its colleagues — states who hit peak crisis in May will be the lucky ones, with so many states just getting revved up.

So baseball’s once “early April” and then “mid-May” — which many hoped would mean maybe June 1st — is looking like a lost spring and a salvaged summer only if the sport decides to push forward in some way without fans in the stands.

My best guess, as of April 4th, is that if there is major league baseball this summer it will take place exclusively in California and Arizona, where by June it may be deemed safe for players to congregate and play even if “large gatherings” of fans are still not invited to the party.

You can carve out 15 viable stadiums in CA/AZ, from the Cactus League venues to the 5 big league ballparks in California, as well as decent college venues along the southwestern grid. What is harder to envision is MLB allowing fans to attend, at least initially, if it wants to start the season early enough to get in more than a couple months of games.

As starved as you are for baseball, imagine how hollow it will feel if a bases clearing triple is met by stony silence. As a former play-by-play announcer I can recall the eerie experience of calling games down in Tucson, AZ, where the press box was fully enclosed by plexiglass windows. The crowd mike, strewn out into the open air, allowed listeners to enjoy the “sound of baseball on the radio,” but to the broadcasters it felt like you were calling the game from your living room.

You might not realize it until it is absent, but the sound of the crowd — be it the low buzz when nothing is happening or the mass reaction to an event — is integral to making a baseball game feel like, well, a baseball game.

So to my mind, there is an essential piece to add if MLB is to make the 2020 season happen, and happen as more than a 6-week late summer tournament just to have something to show for itself. If MLB truly endeavors to start a genuine 2020 season before large gatherings are deemed safe for the public, it needs to furnish each stadium with a “super DJ” whose role would be to “recreate” the crowd mike in real time.

This means skillfully tapping into an archive of canned reactions for the home team’s RBI single, 3-run HR, turning of a DP — each of which has a slightly different pace and cadence. How do you ramp up the excitement for a single up the middle with a runner at 2B only to offer the appropriate reaction when the runner is thrown out at the plate? A skilled DJ armed with myriad tracks at his/her fingertips could pull it off, but we’re talking about 15 DJs who levels of expertise are worthy of the gig.

Available tracks would, of course, have to be matched to the teams. At an A’s home game, chants of “Let’s Go, Oakland! (pum pum, pum pum pum)” regale the stadium as do the relentless beats of the right field drumming crew. More generic offerings, such as the organist’s “da na na na na na ... charge!” can play at any venue, whereas the (frankly offensive) tomahawk chop belongs only in Atlanta (if anywhere).

But get me a DJ who can deftly turn a crowdless game into the sound of 30,000 fans responding to the action in real time, and I think you may have something in June or July, when it is still conceivable MLB could begin real games even if it cannot invite you to the party.

Yes, if push came to shove I would take Ken Korach describing, seemingly from the Oakland Museum, an exciting two-run double no one but he seemed to notice, but if you really want baseball, in its truest form, you need the fans — or at least their likeness recreated when you close your eyes. And 15 elite DJs could pull it off, and in the process do their small part in nurturing America through this exceptionally difficult time.

Poll

What Are Your Thoughts About Piping In "Real Time" Crowd noise?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    both feasible and essential
    (66 votes)
  • 44%
    feasible but not essential
    (99 votes)
  • 10%
    essential but not feasible
    (23 votes)
  • 14%
    not feasible but not essential anyway
    (33 votes)
221 votes total Vote Now