David Zurawik

Watching Orioles play in empty park not that strange - really

Watching Major League Baseball on TV is one of my greatest pleasures. It's like meditation or that first glass of wine. I have been doing it several nights a week for decades.

That's why I thought watching the Orioles play the Chicago White Sox in an empty Camden Yards was going to be super strange today.


Only it wasn't.

Having worked at newspapers in Detroit and Dallas when the Tigers and Rangers were really bad, I have spent plenty of hours in front of the screen watching non-contending teams play meaningless games in September before near-empty stadiums.


That's what it mainly felt like watching today, except that the Orioles played with energy and focus unlike those losing teams populated by players just waiting to empty out their lockers and head home for the off-season.

The reason for the empty stadium is the civic unrest that has plagued Baltimore since Saturday night when what had been peaceful protests in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray turned violent. Police cars were stomped and set on fire near the ballpark and fans were asked to stay in the park after an extra-innings game ended until the streets could be deemed safe.

The most annoying part of Wednesday's telecast was Gary Thorne going into a hyper-chatty mode as if trying to fill the extra silence.

"Simon & Garfunkel, 'The Sounds of Silence,' here at Camden Yards with no one in the ball park except the players ... and a couple of scouts," Thorne said setting the stage for viewers who might just be joining the telecast.

He described what seemed like each and every nod toward the unusual circumstances. They included catcher Caleb Joseph signing fake autographs and Adam Jones nodding toward imaginary fans in the bleachers.

I wish Thorne had gone in the other direction and let the raw sounds of the bat on the ball and maybe infield chatter come through in a way they never could with crowd noise.

I know it was historic, playing the game without fans. And as a citizen, I can't hear enough about that.

But as a fan, since we were stuck with this unfortunate situation, I was hoping it would feel like I was sitting on some old creaky bleachers somewhere soaking in both the sunshine and the sounds of the game - not drowning in cable-TV sports-guy patter.