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At a Fenway Park with no fans, piped-in crowd noise a sound strategy during pandemic

The Red Sox practiced at Fenway Park on Friday.
The Red Sox practiced at Fenway Park on Friday.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The crowd boomed from Fenway Park down onto Jersey Street. The noise sounded as if Red Sox were about to play a Friday matinee game, yet the streets were clear. The cheers grew louder as you entered the ballpark, as did the music, reaching the bowels of the stadium all the way up to the press box before landing on empty Fenway seats.

In an effort to emulate a season without fans, here’s Major League Baseball and the Red Sox’ latest experiment: pre-recorded piped-in fan noise.

It played throughout the Red Sox’ intrasquad game Friday afternoon, simulating the sound of a real crowd. When J.D. Martinez sent a two-run shot over the Green Monster, for example, the crowd cheered. The consistent sound drowned out the voices of players and managers, which could be heard throughout Fenway on the days prior. According to a report by The Athletic, the piped-in sound isn’t going anywhere. The league is currently going over the logistics and will implement it into all 30 MLB ballparks.

“I liked it a lot,” manager Ron Roenicke said following the intrasquad game, which ended in a 5-5 tie after six innings. “It was some real noise that will get better with the timing of it, but I think the noise with even nothing going on is really good. So, we’re experimenting with the loudness of it. What it would be early in the game, what it would be when things are tied and there’s excitement in it.”

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The loudness was sometimes too loud for the players, Roenicke added. In certain instances, it was difficult to communicate on the field. Overall, though, the noise allows players to game plan a bit more freely, knowing the opposing team can’t hear them. Adjustments can’t be detected.

“There are conversations that a pitcher and catcher are going to have on the mound,” Matt Barnes said. “There’s shuffling of a catcher behind the plate that maybe a hitter would hear if there wasn’t any noise. I think some of those conversations need to be kept within the guys who are actually playing because you don’t need the team hearing that stuff.”

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Roenicke noted another element to this that benefits him and his staff. Certainly, he doesn’t want the other team to hear what he might be plotting, but in certain instances, it applies to his own team, too.

“At times it’s nice for us to make comments and not have the players hear what you’re saying,” he said. “For discussion on when maybe to take a starting pitcher out of the game. There’s sometimes the comments you make, you rather the players not hear that. It’s a benefit to have that noise there.”

The piped-in crowd noise is still in its early stages, so, NESN still doesn’t know how it will broadcast games. The sound more than likely will interfere with the broadcast. Once this experiment gets more definition and becomes a plan, NESN will adjust accordingly.

While many of the players like the pre-recorded sound, that positive vote isn’t totally unanimous. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy said he will need to adjust to it, much like everything else in a season that has been shifted because of a pandemic.

“It was kind of strange,” Lucroy admitted. “I see why they want to do that. I played in the Florida State League and you had like 15 people come to each game. I’ve played in front of no fans before. It was definitely different. It’s going to be a unique experience, hopefully, one that we don’t have to repeat in the years to come.”

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For now, though, the piped-in sound will continue to echo all through Fenway and out onto Jersey Street.


Julian McWilliams can be reached at julian.mcwilliams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack