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Cincinnati Reds Adapt To Empty Stands

Spider webs grow on seats at Great American Ball Park in July.
Aaron Doster
Spider webs grow on seats at Great American Ball Park in July.

Major League Baseball starts the COVID-shortened season this week. The Cincinnati Reds host the Detroit Tigers Friday evening. Because of the pandemic, there won't be fans in the ballpark. Reds Chief Operating Officer Phil Castellini says the team is getting ready for when they can welcome fans back.

He says people are getting used to wearing masks in public and leaving space for one another, and says they're going to apply those lessons to the ballpark experience.

"From the minute you hit Crosley Terrace, between the signage, and what we'll do to ask you to queue in lines, and enter the ballpark, go through security, get temperatures, all that kind of stuff is just going to be part of it," he says. "It's going to be a lot of overlay of signs and directions to remind each other of how to interact in this environment."

He says in the next week, the Reds will submit a plan for opening games to fans.

"Locally, we start with city of Cincinnati and Hamilton County health departments. The MLB has to approve your plan for re-entry with fans. So do those local municipalities and then once we get all those approvals, we submit that to the state level, because that's the final approval," he says.

Castellini says that's the same process they followed to get players back on the field.

He says the Reds' plan includes letting fans into Great American Ball Park at about 20% capacity. That works out to be about 8,400 people per game.

Until the team gets the OK to welcome fans back, he says the focus will be on TV and radio broadcasts. "It's not even fun for these players to play in a silent, empty stadium either. We're trying to build that energy into how our production team puts on a game," Castellini says. "I was here last night, watching the exhibition game. I think our production crew is doing a great job."

The Reds will play music in Great American Ball Park, including walk-up songs. Home runs will be celebrated with fireworks. The MLB has mandated the use of prerecorded fan noise.

"If you think about the momentum and the vibe throughout a game, the sounds are different. They've got the ability to infuse that as closely as possible to a real game. The sound of a hit that's almost a home run, versus one that is. All those different sounds have been really creatively captured," Castellini says.

Castellini says the Reds will also put mikes on players to add to the at-home experience.

The Reds host the Detroit Tigers. The first pitch is at 6:10 p.m.

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Rinehart has been a radio reporter since 1994 with positions in markets like Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; Dayton, Ohio: and most recently as senior correspondent and anchor for Cincinnati’s WLW-AM.