White Sox find unique scene in Baltimore
Empty stadium believed to be an MLB first
BALTIMORE -- Nothing in baseball had prepared White Sox second baseman Micah Johnson for what he experienced at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Wednesday afternoon.
The White Sox and Orioles played in the first Major League Baseball regular-season game without any fans in attendance. The move was prompted by the recent riots in Baltimore over Freddie Gray, who died April 19 in police custody.
The Orioles took control with a six-run first and cruised to an 8-2 victory. Johnson said being stuck in a hotel for three days while the city was in turmoil was a challenge.
"It was weird," Johnson said. "You can't compare it to anything. It was definitely weird. It was quiet, there's nothing going on. You hear everything. The atmosphere, it's just not how baseball is [supposed] to be played."
After two postponements, nothing went right for Chicago from almost the opening pitch. Ace Jeff Samardzija, who got the start after appealing his five-game suspension for his role in a benches-clearing incident with the Royals last week, struggled from the outset. He allowed six runs (five earned) in the first inning and left after the fifth, trailing 8-2.
"It was just a weird day," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "It was such a surreal experience that you get past it and get ready for tomorrow."
The Orioles' Chris Davis did most of the damage with a towering three-run homer to right field in the first. First baseman Jose Abreu also had a costly throwing error on a potential double play that led to a run.
Samardzija did not blame any of the outside factors with the empty stadium for his performance. Instead, he said the Orioles' powerful lineup was the difference.
"It had a little Spring Training feel to it," Samardzija said. "It was a good lineup. They jumped on me in the first, and that was that."
Johnson, however, said the atmosphere was much different than a spring game. He could hear different kinds of noises when he went to the plate, and it was disconcerting.
"There's no comparison to that," Johnson said. "It's weird out there, especially on defense, you've got the glare from all the empty seats from the sun. It's something you don't ever have to deal with or prepare for. Hopefully, that never happens again."
The White Sox are actually looking forward to a four-game series in Minnesota after their experience in Baltimore over the past few days.
"It was just a surreal environment," Ventura said. "I really don't think we want to play in another one like this. I don't think they do either."
Before the game, center fielder Adam Eaton tried to add to a bit levity to the situation via Twitter, writing, "We are gonna do our best to take the crowd out of it early.. Wish us luck.."
The White Sox center fielder then clarified his thoughts with another tweet: "Take it easy people. Just trying to lighten the mood. I have the up most respect for Baltimore and its people. Always have, always will."
When asked if the game should be played, Eaton, who went 0-for-3, said: "That's a tough question, and I'm glad that I just work here and I don't have an opinion in that matter. But if I did, life has to go on at some point. One part of me says it's bigger than baseball, and another part of me says that we shouldn't adjust to what people do outside of the stadium. I'm trying to be as delicate as possible in that matter. It is a situation higher than us, but at the same time, I think normalcy would be good for the fan base and good for the people around the city to get their mind off of it. Again, I just work here, and whatever they say for me to do, I'm going to do."