ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - There will be no in-person seventh inning stretch and seats won't be filled by fans, but it's time to hear the crack of the bat as the Tampa Bay Rays finally hold their opening day.
Though things will look a lot different as the home team hosts the Toronto Blue Jays inside an empty Tropicana Field, Major League Baseball is trying to ensure the game doesn't sound all that different.
Teams started experimenting with artificial crowd noise that reacts to action on the field. The league said it has about 75 different noises to play during the games. Fans can download the MLB app, and use it to react live to the game by cheering or booing from home.
The World Series champion Washington Nationals and New York Yankees opened up their seasons to wide-open, empty stands. The first homer of the season off of Giancarlo Stanton's bat wouldn't been a souvenir for a lucky fan during normal times.
On Thursday, the MLB and the players’ union agreed to expand the playoffs from 10 teams to 16 for the pandemic-delayed season, a decision that makes it likely teams with losing records will reach the postseason.
The agreement was reached hours before the season opener between the Yankees and Nationals. The deal applied only for 2020 and included a surprise benefiting the Yankees the most: Collection of baseball’s luxury tax will be suspended this year, a person familiar with the details told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because no announcement was made.
Sixteen of the 30 teams will advance to a best-of-three first round: the first- and second-place teams in every division and the next two clubs by winning percentage in each league. Those winners move on to the best-of-five Division Series, where the usual format resumes. The final four teams are in best-of-seven League Championship Series, and the pennant winners meet in the best-of-seven World Series.
Last week, the Rays announced they will place their fans' cardboard cutouts throughout the stadium -- that way, players can still see their smiling faces. They will be installed in waves as fans submit their photos.
The cardboard cutouts are $60 and $40 for season ticket holders. For more information and to purchase a cardboard cutout, visit https://www.mlb.com/rays/fans/cut-outs.
The home-opener against the Blue Jays starts at 6:40 p.m. Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.