The Orioles worked on communicating in the field with simulated fan noise as they tried to catch fly balls. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)
SARASOTA, FLA. — How loud was it during the crowd-noise-enhanced popup drills at Ed Smith Stadium on Friday?
The stadium speakers blasting the recorded reaction to Delmon Young's dramatic base-loaded double in last year's American League Division Series at Camden Yards were so loud the Orioles got a noise complaint from someone living in the apartment complex on the far side of the facility.
"Wait until we do it at night,'' quipped manager Buck Showalter, who stole a page from the NFL practice manual to simulate game conditions while infielders and outfielders tried to communicate as they tracked shallow fly balls.
The neighbors are going to have to put up with it a few more times over the course of spring training.
"It's something I've always wanted to do,'' Showalter said. "We try to simulate as many realistic things. We can do so many things on a back field and you can hear me say 'I got it, right here' and the reality is, it doesn't happen in the season. You can't hear most of the time, and the crowd noise increases as the ball is coming down and two guys are converging on it."
The new wrinkle in the Orioles' spring training regimen was well-received by the players, who appreciate anything that adds some novelty to the mundane fundamental drills that dominate the first couple weeks of spring training.
"I think it's a great drill,'' veteran shortstop J.J. Hardy said. "I think it was louder than any stadium I've ever been in. I think it was louder than the playoffs. I know it's from the playoffs, but I think they turned the speakers up here a little bit louder. During the playoffs, it was loud but you could hear the outfielder calling it. You couldn't hear anything out there. It was a little extreme, but it was a great drill."
Showalter said the main point of the ear-splitting exercise was to simulate real game conditions, and Hardy endorsed that even while pointing out that a pop up behind the infield probably isn't going to generate that kind of decibel level — even in the playoffs.
"Whenever you do that pop-up priority, it's so not realistic that it's almost like a waste of time,'' Hardy said. "It just looks like a waste of time. Today, there was actually something to it. The outfielders have got to yell at the top of their lungs in order for us to hear it."
New right fielder Travis Snider said he had never experienced anything like the super-loud spring workout during his time with the Toronto Blue Jays and Pittsburgh Pirates, but he never misses a chance to throw in a plug for his favorite NFL team.
“I think we have the [Seattle] Seahawks to thank for that,’’ he said. “I think the crowd noise there perpetuated some organizations to utilize the noise in practice to give you the end-game feel. ... there were some balls out there today with the noise that were a lot harder than the typical spring training drill.
"So, I think any way you can take a drill and make it harder, especially as routine as pop-up priority, it's a good opportunity to go out there and get some game-like experience."
Top prospect Kevin Gausman has been announced as the starter in the second game of the Grapefruit League exhibition season. He'll pitch two innings in the Orioles' Ed Smith Stadium opener. … Showalter spent the day wearing microphones for several purposes and, during his afternoon news briefing, he was wearing three of them.