ESPN crew shares thoughts on covering White Sox-O’s game without a crowd

ESPN MLB reporter Tim Kurkjian reporting at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. (Kip Grosenick/ESPN)
ESPN MLB reporter Tim Kurkjian reporting at the empty Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
(Kip Grosenick/ESPN)

Today’s Chicago White Sox-Baltimore Orioles game was played in an empty Camden Yards in Baltimore in wake of civic unrest there this week.

Front Row asked some ESPN reporters and a producer assigned to the Major League Baseball game being played under extraordinary circumstances to share their perspectives as the day and game unfolded.

Tim Kurkjian, Baseball Tonight reporter, senior writer for and ESPN The Magazine: “I got to Baltimore around 9:15 a.m. [for a game slated to begin at 2:05 p.m.] and had no problem getting in to the park. The stadium is about 15 blocks from where a lot of the [unrest] has happened in the past few days. [The stadium atmosphere is] strange beyond question. Games are filled with a lot of chatter and commotion but without fans in the stadium that means media, players, and coaches will hear close to every single word amongst each other. The postgame questions for the players may be the most interesting because asking, ‘What was it like playing today?’ will be a lot easier for them to answer.”

Jerry Crasnick, senior MLB writer: “I sat in the same general area of the press box and basically took the same approach as always. If anything is different, it’s the knowledge that the Orioles and White Sox were making history in a novel way and I wanted to be on guard for small details to chronicle the event. Ballpark music. What the fans in the hotel across the street were yelling, etc.

“There’s also a challenge in covering an event like this because the Orioles and White Sox are playing in an empty ballpark because of rioting in the city. A serious and unfortunate series of events led up to this game, so you try to take the requisite respectful tone in what you write. On the other hand, it was a bizarre event and [Orioles manager] Buck Showalter and the Baltimore players responded to some questions with a sense of humor. As a writer, you try to articulate both sides and strike a balance in your coverage.”

Kevin Van Valkenburg, senior writer for and ESPN The Magazine: “Unsettling is the best way I can describe it. I’ve been to a lot of golf tournaments, so it’s not like holding a major athletic event in silence is something totally foreign to me. But you quickly realize how much the constant buzzing of fans during pitches, or the huge roars after a strikeouts and home runs is a part of the baseball experience.

“I live in Baltimore, am raising two kids here, and my wife is from here. Before every Orioles game, it’s a tradition to shout ‘O!’ during the second-to-last line of the National Anthem. You could hear fans outside the park faintly shouting it today during the anthem, and I couldn’t help but get a little emotional. It’s been a difficult week here for people who love Baltimore.”

Kip Grosenick, freelance producer: “Surreal is the only way to describe it. I have to think there will be three lasting images that come out of the events in Baltimore the last couple of days: 1. The CVS on fire. 2. The cops being driven back by the rocks of protesters. 3. A baseball game played in an empty stadium. Take Me Out to the Ballgame” just came on in an empty stadium for the seventh-inning stretch and the crew and I laughed. It just sounded funny. The problem being, the root causes are really not all that funny. Fortunately, sports has stepped up once again to allow people of all races to compete and interact on a level playing field.”

Dan Quinn, Ben Cafardo, Gianina Thompson and Carrie Kreiswirth contributed to this post.

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