Orioles embrace baseball's 2020 realities, including the extra-inning rule - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles embrace baseball’s 2020 realities, including the extra-inning rule

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

BALTIMORE—Pat Valaika had just won Saturday night’s game with a base hit, and there was no wild celebration on the field. Instead, Oriole players were high-fiving the air, trying to maintain social distancing rather than engulfing Valaika.

But this is 2020, and the Orioles did their celebrating alone; there were no fans in the stands at Camden Yards.

Bryan Holaday, a catcher who had been added to club that day and made a game-saving catch at first in the top of the 11th, began the bottom of the 11th by being placed on second base because of a new rule designed to shorten  extra-inning games. He scored when Valaika fought off a Chaz Roe slider and blooped it into right field.

The hit gave reliever Travis Lakins his first major league victory, but the walk-off celebration wasn’t how he remembered them.

“Not even close,” Lakins said.  “Usually, we’re jumping all over Pat, ripping his jersey off, dumping water on him. Now we [have to be] six feet from him. It’s so weird. It’s so weird.”

Lakins acknowledged that despite a public address announcer, between-innings and walk-up music and pumped-in crowd noise, the atmosphere can’t compare to a packed stadium.

“It’s sometimes hard to get yourself up when you go out on the mound and you look in the stands, and there’s no fans,” he said in a video conference call.

“There’s literally nobody there. You’ve just got to make the most of it. We’re all doing the same thing, and we’ve got to make the most of it.”

Lakins is one pitcher who had seen the runner begin an extra inning at second base last season when he was pitching for Triple-A Pawtucket.

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Holaday, who was at first base because of a multi-player switch, snared a one-out line drive by Tampa Bay’s Manuel Margot and turned it into a double play when he saw Kevin Kiermaier, who started the inning at second, break for third.

“Seeing it in Triple-A last year helped me a lot,” Lakins said. “My main goal, no matter what, is to get this first guy out. I don’t care if it’s a bunt, a strikeout, whatever, just get him out, and then we’ll go from there. I’m now comfortable with it because I’ve seen it so many times in Triple-A.”

Another change during this 60-game season is seven-inning doubleheaders. The Orioles and Miami Marlins are scheduled to play four games on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. That would mean a doubleheader on one of those days.

“I think it’s great for this year,” Lakins said. “I really do. Two nine-inning games in one day is a long day. I’m excited to see how it goes.”

For the handful us in the press box, watching the game is also strange, and not just because we have to wear a mask. Without fans, there’s no life, and the pumped-in crowd noise is a second or two late, and doesn’t add anything to the atmosphere.

Perhaps the only advantage is hearing chatter on the field. “I got it, got it,” is easily picked up, and occasionally yelling from the dugout to the umpires is heard.

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde misses the crowd reaction.

“I’m definitely into the game, and I’ve got a lot going on in my head, but I do notice it, for sure,” he said.

“It’s weird, when Pat hit that knock [Saturday] night to win the game, it was a very strange feeling of not having a loud crowd. We don’t have as many people in our dugout, either, so we’re trying to stay out of the dugout and keep our distance in the dugout, so that’s strange.

“Usually, in that situation, the crowd goes nuts, our team’s going nuts, high-fiving everywhere in the dugout. There’s a lot of positive emotion going on, and to not know what to do with your hands was definitely odd. There have been some moments where I noticed how much different it is not to have a crowd there, and it’s tough. It’s not easy, but we’re doing the best we can. I’m looking forward to the day when the crowd goes crazy again.”

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

 

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. dlgruber1

    August 3, 2020 at 2:57 pm

    Hey, if having no crowds is what it takes to keep them playing good baseball then I’m ok with that. Honestly, I kind of enjoyed not seeing OPACY filled with Yankees fans last week anyway.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      August 3, 2020 at 3:13 pm

      You have a point there. It never occurred to me.

  2. BirdsCaps

    August 3, 2020 at 3:02 pm

    I don’t mind the 7 inning dh for this year only, due to the crazy schedule. The extra inning rules are awful and I pray that this is the only yr for it. The fake crowd noise is mistimed, but it lets you forget that there is no one in the stands. I was originally skeptical, but I like it.

    • Eldersburg Enigma

      August 3, 2020 at 8:45 pm

      This is such a home for boomers. Too predictable!

      • BirdsCaps

        August 3, 2020 at 9:55 pm

        Hey enigma, i am just a disgruntled guy in his 20s. For good measure and to embrace my inner curmudgeon I Will once again bring up my distaste for the designated hitter, replay, auto bb, and no more take out slides and collisions at the plate. Can we get rid of this stupid electronic music while we’re at it. Musicians are supposed to play instruments like in rock, blues , metal, and jazz! Real Music! That’s my boomerish rant for the day!

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    August 3, 2020 at 3:19 pm

    I’ve noticed that different parks are doing things in different ways with the fake fan noise. I’m not particularly crazy about the delayed cheers, but I do like the ambient crowd noise in the background. If I could only suggest they add some vendors doing their sales spills. Especially the ice cold lemon chill guy….it would just make it feel a little more like home.

    • CalsPals

      August 3, 2020 at 4:34 pm

      I like the cardboard fans in the stands, Oakland has venders (cardboard) in the aisles, ambient “Beer here” or “peanuts, popcorn” would be cool, have an intern do it…go O’s…

  4. OriolesNumber1Fan

    August 3, 2020 at 6:18 pm

    Mike Elias bashers said he was deliberately trying to tank and didn’t acquire anyone to improve the team. Well he definitely has done a great job so far with acquired players Pedro Severino, Hanser Alberto, Andrew Velázquez, Jose Iglesias, Rio Ruiz, Renato Nunez and Pat Valaika. And pitchers Wade LeBlanc, Asher Wojciechowski, Tom Milone and Cole Sulser. Too bad Kohl Stewart opted out. I understand his reason why but would have loved to see him in the rotation as well. Maybe next year!!! All these non flashy guys filling roles and are doing a good job! Also brought up some kids from the minors and letting them play and pitch regularly Austin Hayes, Anthony Santander and pitcher John Means with more on the way!!! Still miss ya Trey Mancini!!! If only his numbers were in this lineup, aye!!!

  5. OriolesNumber1Fan

    August 3, 2020 at 6:30 pm

    Sorry I forgot about bullpen pieces Travis Lakins and Tom Eshelman, both also doing a fine job!!!

  6. OriolesNumber1Fan

    August 3, 2020 at 6:36 pm

    Hopefully another good bullpen piece Hunter Harvey gets back really soon also!

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