Opening Day 2020: San Diego Padres begin unprecedented season at fan-less Petco Park

Posted at 7:32 AM, Jul 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 15:50:50-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) -- The San Diego Padres will face the Arizona Diamondbacks in their season opener at Petco Park Friday evening on an opening day unlike any other in their 52-season history.

There will be no spectators present because of public health directives prohibiting public events and gatherings stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. Cardboard cutouts of players' family members and loved ones will be placed in the seats behind home plate.

With the absence of fans all 30 MLB teams will use ambient background audio to create crowd sounds during the season. MLB is providing each team with an array of crowd sounds and a touchpad device that can be integrated into their ballpark sound system to help manage the playing of the sounds.

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The crowd sounds will be audible to on-field personnel and during television and radio broadcasts.

The crowd backgrounds and reactions provided to the teams are all derived from exclusive, original source audio recorded by developers of the MLB The Show video game at MLB regular season games.

The audio was edited into sound cues used in MLB The Show 20, with a focus on authentically replicating crowd sound and behavior. Selected content was then further refined for real-time playback over ballpark audio systems and allows for about 75 different effects and reactions to be used during a game.

The crowd sounds will work in conjunction with stadium announcers, walkup music and in-stadium video to replicate the in-game experience as closely as possible.

The coronavirus pandemic prompted MLB to make several rule changes for the 2020 season, which has been shortened to 60 games per team, 102 less than usual.

National League games will include the use of the designated hitter for the first time in an attempt to avoid pitchers being injured when they are batters or baserunners. The DH had been limited to American League games and interleague games when an American League team is the home team.

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Each half-inning of a game going into extra innings will begin with a runner on second base in an attempt to reduce long games and the strain they place on pitchers.

Teams may have up to 30 players on their active rosters for the first two weeks of the season, five more than usual. The active roster must be reduced to 28 players by Aug. 6 and 26 by Aug. 20. Teams will be permitted to have a three-player taxi squad on road trips, one of whom must be a catcher.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, MLB adopted a rule requiring pitchers to face at least three batters before being relieved in an attempt to speed up the game.

Major League Baseball has instituted a set of health and safety protocols intended to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

The protocols include calling for players, umpires and other on-field personnel "to practice physical distancing to the extent possible within the limitations of competition and the fundamentals of baseball;" strictly enforcing prohibitions against unsportsmanlike conduct to prevent unnecessary physical contact and support physical distancing between individuals on the playing field; requiring teams to provide expanded dugout and bullpen space; and having all non-playing personnel wear face coverings at all times in the dugout and bullpen.

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The opener is Jayce Tingler's debut as Padres manager, replacing Andy Green, who was fired with eight games remaining last season when the Padres had a 69-85 record and were fourth in the five-team National League West.

The Padres lost seven of their eight games under interim manager Rod Barajas to finish last in the division, 36 games behind the champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

Tingler described his feelings as "excited, nervous, anxiety, I think all the feelings that naturally you should have and they're just good reminders to know that we're alive."

Tingler spent last season as the major league player development field coordinator for the Texas Rangers.

Right-hander Chris Paddack will be the Padres starting pitcher. He was 9-7 with a 3.33 ERA in 26 starts as a rookie last season and 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA in three starts against the Diamondbacks.

The Padres will be the second team in 100 years to start a rookie or second-year pitcher on opening day in back-to-back seasons, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the official statistician for MLB. The other was the 1966- 67 Kansas City Athletics with Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter in 1966 and Jim Nash in 1977.

Left-hander Madison Bumgarner will start for Arizona in his debut with the Diamondbacks after pitching for the San Francisco Giants since 2009. Bumgarner was the Giants opening day pitcher last season against the Padres, allowing two runs and five hits in seven innings in a 2-0 loss.

The 6:10 p.m. game will be telecast by Fox Sports San Diego.