Boston Red Sox right fielder Alex Verdugo jokingly stretches for a foul ball by Rafael Devers in a seating area empty of fans during an intra-squad Thursday at Fenway Park. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Boston Red Sox President Sam Kennedy remains hopeful that fans will be able to attend games at Fenway Park at some point during the abbreviated 2020 season.

MLB will attempt to play a 60-game schedule in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Teams across baseball began summer training camps last week, returning from a three-and-a-half month shutdown. A shortened 60-game MLB schedule begins July 23 and 24.

The Red Sox open July 24 at Fenway Park against the Baltimore Orioles.

“Commissioner (Rob) Manfred said it well: we’re going to walk before we run,” Sam Kennedy said during an appearance on MLB Network Radio. “So we’ll start the season without fans, which I think regardless of where you’re playing is the absolute right thing to do. Let’s get up and running and see how things go. But I will tell you. Given the data in Massachusetts – and given our operational plan thanks to our chief operating officer, Jonathan Gilula, and his entire staff – we feel that we are in a position now to accommodate fans on a limited basis. Just to give some normalcy to our fan base and our city and our region. This is not about money, per se. People equate that. Of course there’s revenue associated with fans at the park. And I’ve been very clear about that. We’ve got to have fans in our ballparks in the years ahead. It’s a key driver of our business.

“But just from an operational perspective, for the sport, it would be great if we can do it to get fans in here even on a limited basis,” Kennedy added. “I think we’re in this new world where we’ve developed a manifest for a socially-distanced ballpark. We would have procedures and protocols for attendees, including face covering and constant sanitization, health checks and monitoring people when they come in, before they come with forms so on and so forth.”

Media members, for example, must complete a health form each morning before arriving at the park. They also have their temperature taken before entering.

“In this world of technology, we can really accomplish a lot in advance of a purchase,” Kennedy said. “So we are prepared to do that. However, we’re not there just yet. I do remain hopeful that it could happen this season but we just don’t know. Baseball is nothing without fans.”

THE RED SOX experimented with fake crowd noise during their intrasquad scrimmage Friday, pumping cheering sounds into Fenway Park to prepare for having no fans in the stands this summer.

Throughout the six-inning game, team employees played soundtracks of various crowd reactions based on what was happening on the field. Though there are still some kinks to work out, Manager Ron Roenicke was a fan of the new setup and believes it will happen during the regular season.

“I liked it a lot… some real noise that will get better with the timing of it,” Roenicke said. “I think even the noise with nothing going on is really good. They’re experimenting with the loudness of it, what sounds like the natural crowd. What it would be early in the game, what it would be when things are tied and there’s excitement in it. I thought it was great. I think the players all liked it.”

Team employees experimented with both the volume and the timing of the noise throughout Friday’s scrimmage, with some players believing the noise was too loud at times. At times, it felt more realistic than at others.

“As soon as they dropped it back down, it was in a place that was good,” Roenicke said. “I think it’s going to create a lot of energy, so I really liked it.”

Team Chairman Tom Werner and President/CEO Sam Kennedy were at the ballpark Friday and discussed some of the details with Roenicke. Every major-league club will have the power to dictate how much artificial noise there will be at each ballpark and the belief is that Major League Baseball will send employees to cities to police the effects, Roenicke said.

“There has to be some kind of noise for the visiting side,” Roenicke said. “When things go bad on our side… really, what happens is that the crowd makes a noise whether it’s good or bad. Trying to make sure that we’re not doing anything that’s so one-sided it’s ridiculous. Nobody wants it that way, and I think that’s got to be policed around the league. Everybody has got the opportunity to change those noises and get it to a place where they think it’s going to help their team.”

Roenicke expressed concerns that a silent stadium would make it hard for him to have conversations with coaches about players and in-game moves. Barnes believes background noise is necessary so that players can’t hear their opponents discussing strategy on the field.

“There are conversations that a pitcher and catcher are going to have on the mound and shuffling of a catcher behind the plate that maybe a hitter would hear if there wasn’t any noise,” Barnes said. “I think some of those conversations need to be kept within the guys who are actually playing because you don’t want the other team hearing that stuff.”

The Red Sox have two weeks to finalize their plans for utilizing artificial noise before they welcome the Orioles to town for Opening Day on July 24. Friday’s dry run was considered a success.

“Trying to make it as realistic as possible and trying to give that feel is definitely important,” Barnes said. “I thought it was a good job done today.”

 


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