Last April, I took my sons Bradley and Jared to a Long Island Ducks spring training game at Bethpage Ballpark. They were on spring break from school and it was a beautiful day so I thought it would be a good way to spend an afternoon plus the proceeds of the game went to the team’s children’s foundation. It was a weekday afternoon on Long Island so while many people were at work, my boys and I along with a couple of hundred other fans watched the Ducks take on a semi-pro team called the Long Island Black Sox.
Seating for the game was limited to the third base side so the boys and I took seats a few rows back from the visiting dugout. As we sat down, some players from the Black Sox were on the field having a catch and we could hear some of them chatting with each other. What we could also hear was the popping sound of the baseball hitting the gloves during that catch. When the Ducks took for the field for the start of the game, former Mets pitcher Jon Niese began to fire off warmup pitches and then…
Bradley practically jumped out of his seat when he heard the sound of a fastball hitting the glove. Remember, Bethpage Ballpark has 6,000 seats and there were probably only a couple of hundred people in the stadium that day. You can hear everything as clear as day including the ball hitting the glove, the crack of the bat, and the pitter patter of the players running on the field. The only time you could really hear sounds like that at a baseball game was maybe at a little game.
Is there anything purer that watching a baseball game hearing the sounds of the game instead of a plethora of sound effects and loud music? And the chances of catching a foul ball or a home run would be greatly increased with a small crowd!
The reason for bringing all of this up is that an experience like this could be coming in all sports. Right now, sports are on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic but some of the leagues and sports are planning a restart and in many cases with no fans in the stands. Perhaps at some point the testing and safety protocols could get to the point where some fans will be allowed to watch games. You’re not going to see 6,000 people at a Ducks game, 50,000 people at a Yankees game or 70,000 people at a Jets game, but allowing some fans in would a wonderful thing as long as it’s done in a safe way.
Imagine what it would be like to sit at a Mets game with say only a few thousand people and hear the sounds like my sons and I heard that day at the Ducks game. At a hockey game, you can already hear the sounds of a slap shot, the sounds of the puck rattling around the boards but could you just imagine what it would sound like sitting in the Nassau Coliseum with two or three thousand people at an Islanders game? How about being at a football game and being able to hear the kickers foot hitting the ball or the sound of a hard tackle on the field?
At the end of the day, we’re going through unprecedented time in our country and also around the world. Getting sports back, even just on television at first, will be part of the healing process. But when some fans are allowed into the games, it’s going to create an opportunity to experience a game in a unique setting. The Miami Dolphins have put a plan together that would limit attendance to 15,000 fans and minor league baseball teams like the Ducks are looking at capping attendance at 25% percent of capacity which would amount to a gathering of 1,500 fans spread out over Bethpage Ballpark.
One might think it would be weird to be in ballpark or arena with a sparse crowd, but if you close your eyes and just listen, the sounds you would hear would be beautiful. They would be golden. They would speak volumes.