After some tinkering, Nats pleased with artificial crowd noise

As Stephen Strasburg took the mound, “Seven Nation Army” blared over the public address system. The sort-of-familiar din of crowd noise could be heard in the background. And then as the leadoff batter stepped to the plate, there was Jerome Hruska’s voice booming throughout Nationals Park, introducing “the shortstop ... Trea Turner!” as the crowd cheered.

And then tonight’s intrasquad game began, and a team of Nationals dressed in red jerseys beat a team dressed in white jerseys 4-0 in seven innings, the stands completely empty just as they’ve been throughout this bizarro world summer camp.

Yes, fake crowd noise joined the party tonight. And, based on the players’ positive response, it appears it will be here to stay.

Martinez-Serious-Hoodie-WS-G4-Sidebar.jpg“It was good. I got a great reaction from them,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We’re going to incorporate it during the season. We’re going to work out the bugs. First time we worked on it, but it’s definitely a lot better hearing that than hearing myself screaming or listening to everybody else talking.”

Under these most unusual of circumstances, the question of how this season’s games will sound has been just as enticing as how they will look.

The first week-plus of workouts have been dead silent, the words and actions of every player, coach and staffer audible to everyone within shouting distance. But as other Major League Baseball clubs have tinkered with piped-in crowd noise in recent days, the Nationals decided to give it a try tonight.

It wasn’t perfect, especially in the early innings when the volume of Hruska’s voice and the fake crowd overwhelmed the empty ballpark.

“Not having a regular crowd, the echo out on the field was different,” Martinez said. “So we had to click it down a little bit to get it to where we thought it was more real.”

By the final innings of the game, the adjustments had been made. And everybody in attendance seemed to get more used to it. The person controlling the crowd noise even figured out how to transfer from a standard din to a brief roar when somebody hit the ball or somebody made a play in the field.

“If anything, it just added a little bit more,” said right-hander Erick Fedde, who matched Strasburg’s performance with four scoreless innings. “Crowd noise is something that I’ve been pretty good at zoning out. I didn’t even really think about it, to be honest. But it was nice to be able to feel like we had a little better atmosphere today.”

The Nationals have a few mays days to tinker with the settings before the Phillies come to town for Saturday night’s exhibition opener. They hope they’ve got it perfected in time for opening night against the Yankees, now a mere eight days away.

It may take some getting used to, but it’s probably going to become the norm this season. Apologies in advance to all those who were hoping they’d be able to hear every word, grunt and reaction that comes out of Max Scherzer’s mouth when he pitches.

“Hearing him pitch is equally as entertaining as watching him pitch,” pitching coach Paul Menhart said earlier today. “It’s something for the fans to look forward to, being able to really hear it.”

Alas, we all may instead be relegated to an attempted facsimile of a typical night at the ballpark despite the fact no night at the ballpark in 2020 will be typical.

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