Orioles still feel at home despite playing in empty house

BALTIMORE — Chris Davis tossed the ball into the stands after fielding the final putout of the inning at least four times Wednesday afternoon. This, even though not a paying soul was in Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the game against the White Sox, and the nearest fans were some 500 feet away on the other side of the ballpark fence.“The first ones were in the lower section,’’ the Orioles first baseman said. “Then I decided to show some love to the fans in the upper deck." And yes, he said, he did wish he could fling one out to the folks out on the sidewalk on Camden Street. MORE: Must-see images | Fans find way to provide support | Bizarre sights, soundsWelcome to baseball in unprecedented isolation, the first time in major league history that a game was played in front of no customers, a result of the civic unrest in Baltimore that has led to a state of emergency in the Orioles’ home city. Manager Buck Showalter said that the sight of a sea of empty seats that greeted him as he came out of the dugout tunnel reminded him of the days after the last strike. He also appreciated the recording of "The Star-Spangled Banner" played in place of a live singer: "It was a good anthem. That was quick."Catcher Caleb Joseph gave the imaginary fans high-fives and autographs before the game. A Davis home run onto Eutaw Street normally would lead to a mad scramble by the throngs on the walkway, except there were no fans inside the locked gates. The call on Davis’s first-inning blast by television play-by-play announcer Gary Thorne (“Good-bye, home run!”) could be clearly heard by those in the press box one floor below. Later, the press-box announcer gave the official paid attendance: “Zero.”MORE: Thorne gears down, uses Masters voice | Jones, Showalter feel Baltimore's painThe Orioles’ Delmon Young was cheered by the fans on the balconies of the Hilton Hotel — chants for Adam Jones, because they couldn’t tell the difference from there.There was no Orioles bird mascot, but there was a seventh-inning stretch, with “Take Me Out To the Ballgame” followed, as always, by the traditional “Thank God I’m A Country Boy," but with no clapping along and no yell at the end.The Orioles’ dugout might have been more subdued over a six-run first inning (on the way to an 8-2 win) than any team ever has, because they were aware their celebration could be heard in the other dugout. “It was a weird balance," Joseph said. “I want to cheer my teammates on, but I don't want to disrespect the game and disrespect them. It reminded me of high school and college again."And on Manny Machado’s fifth-inning home run, he was trotting around first base by the time the impromptu cheering section realized it had cleared the fence far in front of them, giving Machado a delayed-reaction roar.“Yeah, I heard it, I can’t lie, I heard it," Machado said, grinning. “I’m glad they were out there. I’m glad we weren't alone here. They’re always here, they're always supporting us, and we’re always going to be here for them."Machado echoed the sentiment throughout the clubhouse: Of all the sensations that came from the drastic change in the familiar sights and sounds of a big league baseball game, the overwhelming one was humility.MORE: Six professional games that drew fewer than five fans“Any win you have is good for the city,’’ said Jones, who was closest to the support section out beyond the fence. He said he knew why the game was closed to the public, but added, “I love the fans. They were there in spirit. It was good to see them support us.’’After the final out, the players congratulated each other as they left the field, as the longtime theme “Orioles Magic” blared over the speakers. As they reached the dugout, the song ended — and the sound was replaced immediately by the sound of police helicopters, which have been circling the city for three days, since Monday’s outbreak of violence.And Showalter’s last words as his postgame press conference ended were: “Be careful


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