After nearly a four-month delay, Major League Baseball has returned!
And while the environment is much different than anything we ever imagined, I'm very happy to report I'm back behind the mic at Petco Park for 2020.
I've received a ton of questions from family, friends, and fans alike about my position in this unique season, and I hope to answer five of your most common ones here.
Let's dive in, shall we?
If there are no fans at Petco Park, who are you announcing to?
In a recent interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Padres Chief Marketing Officer Wayne Partello put it best when he said, “Our goal before was entertaining 40,000 people, now it’s our players."
But, it's a lot like you've seen before.
Introductions, walk-up music, pump-up videos... the entire production provides a familiar, energetic home environment for those playing in a baseball season that's anything but "normal."
It also provides a recognizable soundtrack for those watching at home. Field microphones pick up the ambient stadium bowl audio for television. And for special occasions like this year's Opening Day ceremonies, FOX Sports San Diego takes our feed live as if you were sitting in the ballpark.
Is it weird?
It's a major adjustment, that's for sure.
By now you may have heard about Major League Baseball's 113-page operations manual for the 2020 season, a substantial portion of which covers new safety practices and protocols. Bottom line, daily temperature checks and regular COVID-19 tests are the norm, even for someone far removed from the action like me.
Strict social distancing is also enforced... in fact, I'm isolated altogether! I now operate solo in a broadcast booth down the hall from my usual control room seat, reliant on cameras and headsets for communication with our production team.
The empty seats may be an odd sight, but I've worked closed events--and even auditioned--in empty Major League ballparks before. What is strange is not having a crowd reaction to work off of. I very much rely on the Friar Faithful to dictate my energy and tone throughout the course of the ballgame.
But I hear crowd noise...?
Yes you do. And for me, that's a bit of déjà vu.
Each team has access to around 75 different sound effects to play in the seating bowl mimicking general background conversation, loud cheers, and even disappointment.
"I think they’ve done a really good job trying to generate a competitive atmosphere. I can feel that," Padres infield coach Bobby Dickerson told the Union-Tribune.
The crowd audio was originally compiled by Sony's San Diego Studios for use in MLB The Show--the same record-setting video game franchise I record for in the offseason.
So now in 2020, I'm literally living the game.
What's up with the cardboard fans?
For the opening series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Padres placed cutouts of family members and those important to players and coaches behind home plate (yes, even pets). Throughout the season, the faces you see at Petco Park will rotate to honor different groups and causes.
Upwards of 18 other Major League clubs are taking a similar approach. Some cutouts are benefitting charity while others are positioned to take advantage of high-profile, iconic locations like Fenway Park's Green Monster.
For their national TV broadcasts, FOX Sports went next-level with the introduction of "virtual fans." Using augmented reality technology, the stadium appears full of cheering, animated spectators when shot from a wide-angle look.
..and those new rules?
After spending most of my life as a National League fan and traditionalist, I've come around to the idea of the universal DH. I've also had to get reacquainted with its nuances, as I haven't worked a full-season with one since 2013, my last year in the minors.
Same goes for the extra innings rule, where the batting team starts each inning with a runner on second in the 10th. I've seen a version of it in play during the 2017 World Baseball Classic--another event I've worked at Petco Park--but again, it's been a bit.
Bonus Question: Are the Padres gonna make the playoffs?
With those new rules, postseason opportunities are greater than ever this year. And in a shortened 60-game season, anything is possible. 🤞
Update: On September 20th, the Padres earned their first playoff spot since 2006, finishing with the second-best record in the National League (37-23) and the best winning percentage in franchise history (.617). They beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the Wild Card round at Petco Park 2-1, while falling to the eventual-World Series champion Dodgers in the Division Series.
To see more of Alex's work during a "normal" baseball season, take a look at his Live TV & VO Demo. It includes in-stadium fan features, and footage from Opening Days past.