Baltimore Orioles players sounded off on Wednesday's game against the White Sox at an empty Camden Yards, backing MLB's decision not to let fans into the stadium.
Camden Yards was empty on Wednesday, but the Orioles’ clubhouse was filled with reporters asking about the day's history-making game. Due to protests and riots in Baltimore and following back-to-back postponements, the Orioles would be playing the White Sox with no fans in attendance, then going to Tampa Bay for a weekend series against the Rays that was supposed to be held at home. Wednesday's game marks the first time MLB has held a contest in an empty park, and as expected, the bizarre circumstances brought out a horde of media: The Orioles said they had more reporters at the game than they did for Opening Day.
But while the situation at Camden was perhaps the strangest in the game's history, Orioles players to a man are behind the team's and MLB's decision, noting that for them, the safety of their fans and their city came first.
“The last 72 hours in this city have been tumultuous to say the least," says centerfielder Adam Jones. "We’ve seen good, bad and ugly. We’ve seen our games canceled, postponed, relocated. A lot of families have been relocated. It’s not an easy time for any one. It doesn’t matter what race you are.
“There has been a lot of damage, but there’s also been a lot of good protests, people standing up for the rights they have based on the Constitution."
Jones, however, has no problem with the re-configured schedule.
“We need this game to be played, but we need this city to be healed first.… It makes sense to not have people here."
Rightfielder Steve Pearce agrees. “It’s unfortunate and sad to know what’s going on in the city, but we certainly understand that we have to make adjustments, whether it’s playing in an empty stadium or switching a weekend series to Tampa Bay," he says. "We understand that baseball is just a game and that there are more important things that need to be taken care of."
On Tuesday morning, manager Buck Showalter met with team owner Peter Angelos for nearly 3 1/2 hours to talk about what needed to be done to make both Wednesday's game and this weekend's series in Tampa Bay work. Showalter said the owner never talked about money or revenues or anything like that.
“It was all about what’s best for the city of Baltimore," Showalter says. “It made me feel good to listen to it. We wanted to make sure all the resources the city needed were in the city, not at Camden Yards."
First baseman Chris Davis was asked about the game's historic implications. “It’s sad that it’s got to be on these terms," he says. "You want it to be for positive reasons, something you feel good about. This is disappointing, but we have to think about everybody’s best interest. We have to think about what’s best of the city.
“Safety is the most important thing. Unfortunately with what’s going on, it’s the right thing to do. We understand there is a bigger picture."
"You don’t want to have a stadium full of people at the game and then have what happened Saturday night [when the stadium was temporarily locked down]," says closer Zach Britton. "There are bigger issues than a baseball game. Baseball is entertainment, and it is unimportant in the scheme of things."
Reliever Darren O'Day, the team’s MLBPA representative, says he thinks the decision to play in front of no one was the right one. “To protect the people that will come to our games and to protect us at the stadium would cost a lot of manpower," he told the Baltimore Sun. "And to me, it just makes sense to employ that manpower to protect people’s homes and businesses instead of our game.
"Speaking just in a very narrow, team-centric point of view, on our striving to win baseball games, this is tough,” O’Day added. “It affects your starting pitching quite a bit, and other teams are playing their games right now and it is beautiful weather, and we can’t play. But it’s all for a good reason. It’s definitely a challenge, but one that we are going to have to face either way.”