PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Four months later than normal, the Pirates will celebrate their home opener at PNC Park on Monday night against the Milwaukee Brewers with no fans in attendance.
It is one of many traditions wiped out by the Coronavirus pandemic.
When the Pirates opened their season in St. Louis over the weekend, another tradition took a hit.
The Pirates broadcasters called the game from a studio on Pittsburgh’s North Shore.
“The only difference is we’re not on site,” says the dean of the broadcast team, Greg Brown, who is in his 27th year behind the microphone for the Pirates.
“It is a challenge, but for me, and I think I speak for a lot of my cohorts, that it is kind of fun. It’s new, we also know it’s temporary. We wouldn’t want to do this our whole careers, but for the time being, considering what everyone has been through and going through now, in order to bring the game of baseball into living rooms and devices for people, it’s worth it. We all have to make sacrifices and it’s a small sacrifice on our part,” Brown told KDKA’s John Shumway.
As for missing the energy of the ballpark, Brown says, “When we are at PNC Park, we hear the crowd noise and what I try to do is concentrate on what’s going on the field, I try not to drift off into seeing empty seats.”
Brown is referring to the crowd noise that Major League Baseball is pumping into the ballparks through the speakers to simulate a crowd being present.
He says it does make a difference.
“For me, the crowd noise has helped. When you are doing a game and you hear a buzz, it’s helpful that you are not concentrating on complete silence. So I think they’ve done a really good job with it,” Brown said.
When the Pirates and Brewers gather for the Pirates home opener, Brown says it will be weird.
“It’s unlike any opening day we’ve ever been a part of whether as a fan or a broadcaster. You know, they will announce the lineups on the foul lines the same way, but there are no fans to cheer it. So it’s going to be weird, the whole thing is weird, we all understand that. A friend of mine says the new mantra, the acronym, should be ‘ETA’ — ‘embrace the abnormal’ and I think that’s what we’re all trying to do,” Brown said.
With Major League Baseball not allowing the broadcasters to travel with their team, Brown says it does interfere with something that has always been a part of the job and gives them insight into the players.
“When you’re on the road, its kind of you and the team. We’re at the same hotel as the players, so we might run into them in the lobby or the elevator and say ‘Hey, what happened last night? How are you doing?’ You may see their wife or family or kids and talk to them. At the ballpark, you walk up to the locker and you say something, or on the field. It’s just an opportunity you don’t get now and its like someone cut your umbilical cord. We are in unfamiliar territory and it’s just weird.”
But Brown says, “It’s only 60 games, we’re going to go with it and have some fun.”
In their first road series done from home, a viewer or listener would probably have had no idea of the broadcasting change if the announcers had not acknowledged it. Brown gives credit to the folks behind the scenes.
“All these people are working so hard to present the game as normal as possible and that’s a good thing. But we also know it is temporary and we can get through this knowing that next year we’ll be back to normal, at least that’s my feeling,” Brown said.