Update: Major League Baseball has postponed today’s game after two people in the St. Louis Cardinals organization tested positive for the coronavirus.
Piped in crowd noise will be part of the game-day experience for players at Miller Park this season, but artificial booing of the opposing team is off limits.
“They made it clear that there should be no booing of the opposition because it’s not authentic,” Brewers Senior Vice President of Brand Experience Teddy Werner said. “It was really a lot easier for Major League Baseball to just say across the board there should be no negativity.”
Creating crowd noise in empty stadiums is among the many unusual aspects facing teams this season during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Werner’s job duties have taken a dramatic turn.
“In a normal season, that consists of coming up with fun and creative ways to engage and entertain our fans as well as providing a home-field advantage for our players,” Werner said.
The Brewers were scheduled to play their first home game of the abbreviated season on Friday afternoon against the St. Louis Cardinals after a delay of about four months. The vast parking lots that surround Miller Park will be absent the tailgate parties that have traditionally been part of the Brewers fan experience on Opening Day and beyond. Inside, the stands will be empty, as fans must stay away, for now, in order to limit players’ potential exposure to the coronavirus.
“This being an unusual season, we are trying to pivot, and our audience now is the players,” Werner said.
Over the past few months, Werner and other Brewers staffers have been meeting with Brewers President of Baseball Operations and General Manager David Stearns and Craig Counsell, the team’s manager, to figure out ways where we could create as normal of an environment as possible for the players.
“We are working with the players to make sure they are comfortable with what we are doing,” Werner said. “Artificial crowd noise will be used in an attempt to create a more normal playing environment for the players.”
During training camp at Miller Park, on days when music or noise wasn’t played over the stadium’s speakers, the constant din of vehicles on the nearby freeways could be heard, Werner said.
Major League Baseball recently sent each team a tablet with various audio files from which to choose basic crowd noise and other sounds for creating a game-day atmosphere unlike any put together in past seasons.
Music will be a big part of Miller Park environment this season.
“That’s an area where we will push the envelope a little bit more and play music that the players request us to play throughout the game,” Werner said.
Under usual circumstances, players get to choose their walk-up music, but tunes played during other parts of the game have usually had a more universal appeal, he added.
Although booing is a no-no, there are approved audio files that can portray disappointment, such as when a Brewers player is robbed of a home run by an opposing player.
“The sound effect can be a disappointed reaction but there won’t be any negativity,” Werner stressed.
Absent music and artificial sounds, players struggled with the eerie silence at Miller Park as they returned to work earlier this month.
“The players made it very clear that it was quite awkward, even just practicing in a quiet ballpark,” Werner said. “In day one of playing around with the audio files, it was a like a switch was flipped and they felt much more comfortable.”
In addition to the artificial crowd noise, long-time Miller Park organist Dean Rosko will perform at Miller Park this season.
Although no living, breathing fans will be in the stands at Miller Park, the “Cutout Crew,” 2-foot images of fan and pet likenesses, will join the Bob Uecker “Last Row” statue as a virtual fan base in the upper reaches of Miller Park this season.
Werner said a “couple thousand” cutouts will be present on the Terrace Level.
“We are going to work on a way to get some behind home plate so you can catch them during the broadcast,” he said.
Werner admitted that the preparing for games without fans has been an unusual task.
“It’s a bit more challenging to program for a fanless game,” he said, noting that some aspects of a normal game at Miller Park are pre-programmed.
“This year we are kind of starting from scratch,” he said. “It’s not easy. It’s a challenge, and with challenges come opportunities. It’s going to be really fun to see what other teams are doing to enhance that environment.”