The businesslike broadcast of Friday evening’s Rays season opener mostly possessed the look, sound and tone of a typical July night at Tropicana Field, right down to the plethora of empty seats.
Okay, we’ll stop.
While Fox Sports Sun spared no camera in covering the pregame observances of the Black Lives Matter movement, the veteran tandem of Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson — again divided by Plexiglass in their booth — kept their even, effortless dialogue confined mainly to the Rays and Jays.
Here are a few other observations from the broadcast of Tampa Bay’s 6-4 defeat:
1. Now those sounds weren’t simulated
The lack of an in-person audience afforded TV viewers some detectable sounds they wouldn’t normally pick up.
Players sometimes could be heard hollering for infield pop-ups, and Rays players could clearly be heard whooping in the dugout when Yoshi Tsutsugo homered and Jose Martinez doubled in the fifth inning. Additionally, the cavernous setting made the sounds of balls clashing with bats or smacking into catchers’ mitts more profound.
2. In-game reporter absent
Noticeable by its absence Friday was a third voice during the game. While a prominent part of the pregame coverage, Fox Sports Sun in-game Rays reporter Tricia Whitaker spent the contest on the outfield porch. For the time being, Whitaker isn’t doing interviews in the clubhouse or on the field, and of course, there are no fans with whom she can interact.
3. ‘Fans’ will be fashionably late
If you caught the Braves-Mets game Friday afternoon on ESPN, you couldn't have missed the garish backdrop in the form of cardboard cutouts in the Citi Field seats. The first adjective that came to our minds: creepy.
The Rays’ cardboard cutouts, which fans can purchase in their own likeness, are expected in the Tropicana Field seats in early August. From our viewing perspective, it’s a frivolous gimmick. The piped-in crowd noise, conventional ballpark organ music and walk-up tunes seemed to provide an ample simulated atmosphere Friday.
4. This and that
Friday’s camera close-ups caught a handful of players spitting, most notably Rays reliever Jalen Beeks. Spitting is forbidden this season, but we anticipate the grace period on this rule lasting all summer. ... Why the piped-in bugle sound effect Friday when fans weren’t there to respond Charrrrge? ... At least one guy seemed in midseason form. Right on cue, Anderson brought up Jays starter Hyun-Jin Ryu’s elevated pitch count moments before he issued a walk, two-run homer and double to consecutive batters in the fifth. ... After Staats indicated home-plate umpire Joe West was beginning his sixth different decade in the big leagues, Anderson noted his broadcast partner was doing the same.