MON­CADA RE­TURNS AF­TER MILD CASE OF COVID

An­nouncer Benetti, Sox play­ers try to get used to base­ball with­out fans

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN dvan­schouwen@sun­times.com | @CST_­sox­van

Ja­son Benetti wants to feel your White Sox joy. While the TV playby-play an­nouncer will de­scribe games from an empty Guar­an­teed Rate Field into your liv­ing room in the un­prece­dented sea­son that be­gins next week­end, he wants to see for him­self how fans re­act to the big­gest mo­ments.

“We want fans to send us their re­ac­tions of big plays from their couch be­cause I just want to see peo­ple go crazy in their liv­ing room,” Benetti said Wed­nes­day. “Have your hus­band or wife or kids turn on their cam­era; we want to see what you re­act like. Be­cause we don’t get it this year. Hope­fully peo­ple do it.”

Play­ers in a week’s worth of in­trasquad games are get­ting a feel for how it will look dur­ing an ab­bre­vi­ated 60-game sea­son with no fans, and Benetti got a taste of what his job will be like sit­ting in the booth at the Sox’ most re­cent in­trasquads at Guar­an­teed Rate Field. NBC Sports Chicago was slated to tele­vise Thurs­day night and Fri­day.

To his pleas­ant sur­prise, Benetti felt bet­ter about what base­ball will be like in an empty sta­dium.

“I was oddly com­forted about the way the game looks,” Benetti said. “One of my fears was that you’d show up, and it wouldn’t be the same feel be­cause it’s just to­tally and en­tirely a dif­fer­ent deal. I said it on the air: There was a seren­ity that came along with watch­ing the game in a pretty prim­i­tive way that makes you ap­pre­ci­ate the small things in the game even more as a base­ball fan.

“I was more ex­cited af­ter the game than I was get­ting to the ball­park. It felt more nor­mal than I thought it would.”

The Sox, who will have only silent card­board cutouts in the stands and no fans to pro­vide a buzz, have played the in­trasquad scrim­mages with nor­mal game­like en­ergy and ef­fort.

Walk-up songs and sta­dium mu­sic are piped in, and fake crowd noise — more like a crowd mur­mur — will be com­ing to all ball­parks when the games be­gin. The Sox tried it Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day.

The pur­pose of this MLB mea­sure, a Sox spokesman said, is to di­min­ish com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tages a team will have when, for ex­am­ple, a hit­ter hears a catcher move for pitch lo­ca­tion.

The noise won’t match real crowd noise as an en­ergy-booster. There’s noth­ing like the real thing.

“The cheer­ing or boo­ing gets guys to step it up a lit­tle bit,” hit­ting coach Frank Menechino said. “I’m anx­ious to see if guys are go­ing to pimp home runs as much and do all kinds of stuff as much be­cause there’s no fans.”

Play­ers will just have to get used to a new nor­mal.

“If I don’t get adren­a­line from the fans pitch­ing in an empty sta­dium, then I’ll find the adren­a­line some­where else,” closer Alex Colome said.

“It was a lit­tle weird,” righthande­r Steve Cishek said af­ter pitch­ing in an in­trasquad game with no piped-in noise. “It’s just so quiet out there. If you like the crack from a bat, then you’ll re­ally love be­ing here in an empty sta­dium be­cause it just echoes for days. It’s a lit­tle awk­ward, but it’s kind of fun.”

Right-han­der Rey­naldo Lopez said the si­lence could present other chal­lenges, such as hear­ing what op­po­nents are say­ing more eas­ily. Per­haps the back­ground noise will help.

“I re­al­ized [in the in­trasquad games] that you can hear ev­ery­thing on the mound,” Lopez said. “That’s some­thing the other teams are go­ing to take ad­van­tage of be­cause they’re go­ing to try to dis­tract the pitcher, just say­ing stuff.”

There will be no real fans say­ing stuff, but just know­ing the games are tele­vised will in­ject en­ergy, bench coach Joe McEwing said. Benetti hopes that will turn out to be true.

“There might be more, ‘Hey, let’s put on a good show for every­body,’ ’’ Benetti said. “Maybe this is Pollyan­naish, but I think it might slide in that there is more duty to the game.”

AP PHO­TOS

Sox play-by-play man Ja­son Benetti (above) said the at­mos­phere with­out fans felt more nor­mal than he thought it would. Pitcher Steve Cishek said it was a lit­tle awk­ward but kind of fun.

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