There’s no substitute for real sounds of baseball

Credit: Atlanta Braves

Braves manager Brian Snitker talks about piped-in crowd noise during intrasquad game at Truist Park.

Credit: Atlanta Braves

The Braves, along with other teams out of earshot we’re told, are toying with the idea of pumping in fake crowd noise during games in lieu of the real thing.

The usual vigorous public debate over the home-plate umpire’s vision is probably not going to be part of the soundtrack.

Neither will the melody of people booing Bryce Harper like he invented the sales tax.

Nor will we hear the refrain of the vendor imploring his customers to take a second mortgage in order to buy another ballpark beer.

So, really, what’s the point? There is the fundamental problem with fake ballpark noise – it’s just, well, not real. In fact, I’m guessing it would be several choice emotions short of real. There is simply no substitute for the guttural human wail when somebody strikes out with the bases loaded.

Hard to blame baseball for trying to compensate for the absence of fans because of the pandemic, and hence the lack of all the spontaneous noises that erupt from them. That background emotion is so important, we are learning now that it’s gone. It is the spice in the gumbo. I have missed it while watching golf. And have even missed the eccentric chants of the soccer class.

But you just can’t fake it.

Braves manager Brian Snitker proffered another theory as to why baseball may want to create some of its own ambient noise when the season begins in just days.

“I think probably it’ll do what they want it to do, which I would assume is drown out some of what is going to be said (between players),” he said earlier this week.

Therein lies one major reason to reject the injection of phony sound. For here we have been given a chance — granted not one that any of us asked for — to eavesdrop on those on the field as they chatter their way through a game. What an opportunity it is to study these creatures in their natural environment. It has a chance to be far more interesting than anything shouted from the seats.

Not that baseball’s songbirds are always singing sweetly.

“You might want to get earmuffs for the young kids who are watching the game,” Snitker suggested. He knows, having been on ground level for five decades or so.

“This game isn’t played by choir boys, I’m telling you that,” he continued. “I used to tell my son: If I ever hear (from you) the words that you’re going to hear in the dugout, you’re not going to be in the dugout. And most of the bad words are probably coming out of my mouth.”

Used to be the most important part of any baseball broadcast was the play-by-play person. Now it is the owner of the finger poised over the dump button.

What has been one of the revelations during the Braves intrasquad games during this odd summer camp is all the natural sounds of baseball that come through when not drowned out by the commotion of the crowd.

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Listening to it made me want to get off my lazy American backside and learn a second language, so long as it was Spanish. Because we learned something else about Ronald Acuna – he never shuts up.

Mike Soroka was even struck by his right fielder’s nonstop chatter.

“I don’t believe so, no,” the Braves starter said when asked if there was ever a moment during one scrimmage when Acuna was silent.

“I knew there was going to be some chirping going on,” Soroka said. “Then when I saw (left fielder Marcell) Ozuna talking to Ronald when he’s in right and I’m in a set position, that made me think: What’s going on? I can still hear him, but he’s cheering for me, too.”

Being of a certain age (old), I am continually peeved by all the noise and distractions the landlords of our sports insist upon adding to game day. No single moment can pass without the blare of music or some inanity coming from over-amped sound systems. Certainly, baseball will still contain some of that even with no fans in the seats to molest with the racket. But just maybe there also is the chance to appreciate the subtle sounds of the game — you know, the crack of the bat, the thwack of a fastball striking the catcher’s mitt, the conversation of baseball, whether it includes adult content.

Whatever the Braves decide to do with their few home games this season, it’s best to take the Charlie Culberson approach, and just roll with it. Honestly, it’s probably wise to take the laid-back Culberson’s approach on most issues.

“I don’t think we need (the fake crowd noise), but whatever they want to do, it’s fine,” the Braves Swiss Army Knife of a reserve said. “I’m just going to go out there and play some baseball.”

Let them stir in their silly laugh track or not. Given what we’re going through, the only sound that truly matters is the declaration: “Play ball!”

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