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New sights, and sounds, at Phils' first scrimmage

@ToddZolecki
July 8, 2020

PHILADELPHIA -- Oh, yeah, baseball is going to look and sound much differently in 2020. The Phillies scrimmaged for 2 1/2 innings Wednesday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. They played in an empty ballpark, other than a few reporters in the press box and a couple of fans who climbed

PHILADELPHIA -- Oh, yeah, baseball is going to look and sound much differently in 2020.

The Phillies scrimmaged for 2 1/2 innings Wednesday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. They played in an empty ballpark, other than a few reporters in the press box and a couple of fans who climbed three-quarters up a gate behind Ashburn Alley to get a glimpse of the field. It could be like this on Opening Day on July 24.

Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp opened the affair with an enthusiastic “Play ball!” that might have been heard at Graduate Hospital. Andrew McCutchen serenaded teammates from left field. Players questioned advance scouting manager Mike Calitri, who called balls and strikes from behind the mound. Neil Walker instinctively touched Didi Gregorius’ hand as he rounded first base following a grand slam, forgetting the no-contact rule in the COVID-19 pandemic. Walker asked a coach if he should be ejected.

J.T. Realmuto hit a opposite-field two-run home run against Cole Irvin. “Sign him!” Bryce Harper said after he crossed home plate.

If the microphones close to the field are operating properly, fans could hear plenty of talk like that during the season.

“There will probably be some things that shouldn’t be said on TV, and there will definitely be some fun things,” Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins said afterward in a Zoom call with reporters. “You heard Cutch singing today. ... The guy that was umpiring today, we were jabbing at him a little bit. There will be a lot of that, I’m sure. It will be an adjustment for sure.”

Notes: Nola eyes opener; Hoskins: 'We're here'

“I think it’s somewhat strange,” Phils manager Joe Girardi said. “I think baseball has talked about piping in some noise, which I think is probably important. You just think about hitters. Can a hitter hear a catcher move without the buzz of the crowd or the noise? Can they hear us barking out directions that they normally wouldn’t hear to maybe someone in the dugout? I think it’s something that we’re all going to have to adjust to. I think it’s something that we actually have to have some trial runs. The exhibition games will be really important to see how we handle it.”

The Phillies have experimented with manufactured crowd noise, although it is unclear how or if they will implement it. They are planning to offer fans the opportunity to create cardboard cutouts of themselves, which would be placed in the stands.

Otherwise, the ballpark will be empty. Harper’s walk-off grand slam against the Cubs last August sure would have looked and felt differently with nobody in the stands.

“Look, it’s definitely going to be different,” Hoskins said. “I think any of us would be lying to you if we didn't think it was going to be different. Even today, intrasquading in an empty 40,000-seat stadium is weird in itself. But once the season starts and Opening Day hits, I think the competitiveness is just going to take over and it will be business as usual.”

There were other differences Wednesday. Players tried to remember not to spit on the field. They questioned if they could throw the ball around the horn. They tossed out baseballs far more frequently.

“Some of those habits are habits that we’re going to have to break,” Girardi said. “It’s just kind of strange. You don’t hear all the noise in between pitches. You don’t see movement in the stands. It’s just different. This takes me back to when we were little, when there weren’t a lot of people in the stands.”

Notably, Gregorius, Jean Segura and Ronald Torreyes each wore a mask on the field.

Maybe others wear face coverings once the season starts. Maybe not.

“I kind of thought about it for the first time today when we were playing,” Hoskins said. “Initially, I thought that anytime I was on the field, I would not be wearing a mask, but maybe it’s something I keep in my back pocket in a Ziploc baggie or something. When somebody gets on first, I throw it on. I’m not super bothered by it. These are pretty comfortable. Hot, for sure, but the expense of being hot is worth not catching this thing and potentially ruining a season. It’s definitely something I’ll have to give thought to and ask the trainers and see what they say, and go from there. I’m not opposed to it.

“There will be an adjustment period for sure. I think there’s a few things, like not being able to talk to base coaches. We can get some valuable information from pitch to pitch from them, and that’s going to be interesting to navigate. That’s one thing that comes off the top of my head, and I’m sure there will be other things. But at the end of the day, it’s about us being healthy and safe, and that’s always our No. 1 priority this year. We’ll get around the rest of the things somehow.”

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Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .