The New York Yankees relief pitcher Zack Britton is talking about what it’s like to play in a stadium with no fans. He knows what it’s like to play in that atmosphere; he pitched in a game when he was with the Baltimore Orioles with no fans in the stands. On April 29, 2015, the Orioles played the Chicago White Sox. It was a game that made history because it was the very first game in MLB history to be played with no fans in the stands.
In April of that year, there was civil unrest that caused protesters to fill the streets, and there were fears about public safety in the city due to the controversy caused by the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody. Oriole Stadium at Camden Yards was closed to Oriole fans.
“When I played in the no-fan game in Baltimore and it was something that I remember directly saying, ‘I hope I never have to do this again,’ ”
Zack Britton spoke those words in a Zoom call from New York’s Yankee Stadium yesterday. Britton was working out at the Stadium and going through coronavirus testing just one day before the start of summer camp 2.0. He spoke about talking to other Yankee players about playing in that empty stadium and what it felt like. He added that it would be a topic of conversation in the days to come as well. He also mentioned that the team that can adjust best to this new environment might be the team that is most successful during the coronavirus pandemic tainted season.
“I think the team that can self-motivate the best is going to be the team that comes out on top. I honestly do believe that it might not be the most talented team this year. I think it will be the guys who come to the ballpark and not be relying on the adrenaline that the atmosphere would give you but be able to self-motivate and accomplish what they want to accomplish. I truly believe it is going to be that team that wins it.’’
He continued to speak about how the New York Yankees could be that team with its mix of young, dynamic players and veterans that have played in all circumstances. But he also said that its difficult to predict how players will play in a stadium that is more like a funeral home.
“That’s a tough question. I do believe we have the guys who can do it. We have guys who have played at a top level for a long time,’’ said Britton, who fits in that group. “The more I have been around those types of players the more I realize those are the guys who can self-motivate, guys that can maintain a performance level throughout the course of a season at a high level. I am hopeful our team is that team that can do it. I will have a better feeling for that once we get into that environment but my gut reaction is that we are going to be fine.’’
Britton has chosen to leave his family at home in back in Austin, Texas as a safety measure, saying that if things improve later in the season he may bring them to New York.
The New York Yankees have a big plus going for them this year that just might make a big difference. That plus is Gerrit Cole that became the Yankees pitching ace when he signed a $324 million contract to play for the Yankees for the next nine years. Cole is a veteran that can lead the team out of the coronavirus funk. Cole, with his enthusiasm, will automatically become a team leader just as CC Sabathia was.
There is no question that it will be a challenge playing without the motivation of fans cheering in the stands, but if any team can do it, the Yankees can. All of the Yankees players are motivated to getting to that 28th World Championship.