Big league teams can always hear the fans scream as the baseball season begins, but the seats will be quiet.
During games, Major League Baseball can play crowd noise from its official video game through stadium sound systems, taking a cue from two European soccer leagues. According to MLB, which has supplied teams with crowd sounds recorded from “MLB The Series,” stadium sound engineers would have exposure to some 75 specific effects and reactions.
San Diego Studios, a Sony Interactive Entertainment division, recorded the noise over many seasons during the sessions.
During summer camp training, clubs began utilizing the vibrations, and would be able to check them more during exhibition games.
“There was some reticence when you first talk about crowd noise in an empty ballpark because you don’t want to do something that is distracting,” said Chris Marinak, who is MLB’s Executive Vice President for strategy, technology, and innovation. “It is heard in a way that is natural with the play of the game and on field. The sounds do match what is happening.”
The first to return to play with crowd vibration from football games is England’s Premier League, and Spain’s La Liga. EA Sports was hired by the leagues to have crowd effects that they designed for the FIFA video game series. Marinak said that before agreeing to go with Sony, MLB was talking to several firms.
Baseball is hoping the audience sounds will mimic the in-game atmosphere as accurately as possible without actual people in the venue, complete with venue announcers, walkup music and in-stadium footage. Many ballparks often give customers the ability to obtain picture cutouts that would be displayed in the stands.
Brewers infielder Eric Sogard said Thursday that during intrasquad games the crowd noise tended to turn up the rivalry for certain players.
“You’re still focused on the game but that noise is very helpful. I could tell the first few scrimmages with pure silence was tough for some guys,” he said. “You could hear the other dugout talking and it was kind of awkward.”
The sounds on radio and tv should be noticeable too. For games broadcast on ESPN, the Korean baseball league filters in audience noise at grounds such that they are not absolutely empty so it is hardly noticeable.
Many viewers and commentators are leery about ambient audience noise because it takes away a rare chance to hear the interactions about athletes during this season’s games. During an ESPN conference call, Alex Rodriguez noted that the only way people can witness this form of conversation is when they head to spring workouts.
ESPN announcer Matt Vasgersian is optimistic that there may always be a sort of audio sweet spot to deliver a little bit of all.
“I think it still allows us to capture some of that and still make the viewing experience feel right at home,” he said. “I can’t wait to hear what we hear. Nobody involved in broadcasting baseball wants to compromise strategy. We’re not looking to pry into the playbook but we do want to hear things that maybe we wouldn’t hear ordinarily.”