When I was young, there was no joy like the joy of hearing there was a baseball game behind the Guilbaults’ house. The Guilbaults family lived three doors down and had converted part of their huge backyard into a baseball field. They had baselines and bat racks, they even had a makeshift backstop.
When we knew there was a game we would grab our gloves and bats and run to their backyard to choose up sides. We would play for hours, enjoying every minute of the competition and the strategy and the arguments about safe or out, ball or strike.
Sometimes we played through dinner, but we had to stop when the street lights came on because, obviously, the field behind the Guilbaults’’ home was not lighted. Do you know what else the Guilbaultses did not have behind their house? Crowds! Not one time did our slow- paced, argument-filled, poorly executed game draw a crowd. I can’t recall one spectator. And yet we loved those games.
I would suggest that every player in Major League Baseball has a memory like that somewhere in his past. The truth is, most of them probably played with very few fans at their high school games, and some were likely offended by how few people attended their college contests.
So, as strange as it will be to play Major League Baseball without fans-in-the-stands, as has been proposed as the game’s officials plot the near future, we are not breaking new ground here. Countless games have been played without a chant or a cheer.
But of course, there will be fans. In fact, millions of them will watch on Fox Sports Southwest and other networks. Those fans have missed sports so much that they will have a new appreciation for the product, the players, the process. Those fans have missed sports so much that they will be glued to the games. And they will cheer and chant and high five each other in the non-masked safety of their living rooms.
All of that is not to minimize how strange this is going to be. COVID19 has changed our world forever, and we are about to embark on an era of radical transition in professional sports.
It is okay to mourn the Opening Day opportunity to inaugurate Globe Life Field. It’s okay to long for the taste of a Boomstick and the chance to grab a cold one at Texas Live. And it’s okay not only to cheer-on but also to empathize with our players.
I realize that it is often difficult to feel empathy because the players are paid so handsomely. But their world has changed just like yours. And guess what? Money can’t buy what these guys want. Like all of us, they want their families to be healthy, their friends to be nearby, and their lives to be normal. Sports normal. They want us with them.
In the short term, I won’t be attending the games either. All Ranger announcers and broadcasters will be in a studio – also watching the games on TV – and providing our commentary in a sterile environment. We will miss the sounds and smells and the fans-in-the-stands, too. Nobody wants this, nobody asked for this, but everybody must deal with it as safely as possible.
So when the games come back, turn on the TV or radio, and make yourself at home. Get creative with your family and socially-distanced friends and create some new memories around America’s pastime.
The players might feel like they are in someone’s backyard playing a game they love and hopefully, giving you a diversion and a reason to chant and cheer in the midst of this pandemic year.