Fans may not be allowed to attend MLB games this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn't mean there won't be any cheers and boos from fans. Major League Baseball will play crowd noise from its official video game - MLB The Show - throughout the ballpark sound systems during games, according to the Associated Press. Some teams already started using the 75 available sounds during summer camp games and will test them during exhibition games next week.
"There was some reticence when you first talk about crowd noise in an empty ballpark because you don't want to do something that is distracting," MLB executive vice president for strategy Chris Marinak said. He also stated the crowd noise will be "natural with the play of the game and on field. The sounds do match what is happening."
The hope is the crowd noise along with stadium announcers and walk-up music will make the in-game experience as close as possible without fans. Brewers infielder Eric Sogard is a fan of the crowd noise from MLB The Show, stating: "You're still focused on the game, but that noise is very helpful. I could tell the first few scrimmages with pure silence was tough for some guys. You could hear the other dugout talking, and it was kind of awkward."
What MLB is doing is nothing new. England's Premier League and Spain's La Liga has injected crowd noise from video games. Those leagues are using the FIFA video game by EA Sports. The NBA is talking to 2K Sports about possibly using its sound library when its season resumes in Orlando at the end of the month. Back in May, Fox Sports announcer Joe Buck hinted at the network using crowd noise for NFL games.
"I think whoever is going to be at the at control is going to have to be really good at their job and be realistic with how a crowd would react depending on what just happened on the field," Buck said. "They're looking at ways to put virtual fans in the stans, so where you see a wide shot it looks like the stadium is jam-packed and it fact it'll be empty." The 2020 baseball season will officially start on July 23 with two games. The rest of the teams will take the field on July 24.