Here's How Baseball Fans Really Feel About the Cardboard Cutouts Filling the Stands

The baseball season has officially begun but without crowds in the stands because of the coronavirus pandemic. So the stadiums—usually overflowing with chanting fans and hot dog vendors—feel especially empty. However, many major league baseball teams have opted to fill their seats with cardboard cutouts or computer-generated fans in parts of the ballpark in order to make America's pastime feel less empty.

Some teams have gotten very creative with their cardboard cutouts throughout stadiums, placing their pet dogs and cats and celebrities. One cardboard cutout even proposed to another at a Cleveland Indians game.

Fan sounds added to the game and mascots running amok throughout stands are other ways the MLB has created the illusions of a less-than-empty arena.

Los Angeles Dodgers Cardboard Cutouts MLB
A general view of of cardboard cutouts placed in the seats before the game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium on July 25, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty

There has been a divide in how people feel about these two-dimensional fans. Some don't mind them. USA Today called it "awesome and delightfully entertaining." The San Francisco Giants general manger Gabe Kapler said he thinks "it's kind of fun," as per ABC3340.

My favorite thing about watching baseball this season is when they zoom in on the cardboard cutouts of fans.

— mother of dragon (@MargoLindner) July 26, 2020

Definitely team cardboard cutout on baseball broadcasts. No thanks on the virtual fans.

— Evan Budrovich (@evanbud) July 25, 2020

Probably my favorite part of the cardboard cutout fans for baseball is that no one is on their phones.

— Matt Peele (@mattpeele) July 25, 2020

I'm watching baseball ⚾ and the cardboard cutouts are hilarious. Even more funny are the gigantic stuffed teddy bears🧸 that have been randomly placed around the stadium LoL 😂😂

— Cindy, Jackie & Oscar ⚾🇺🇲🐾 (@CynthiaWeston6) July 25, 2020

Rather than CGI fans, Major League Baseball should double down on the cardboard cutout fans, especially in the outfield bleachers.


If a player hits a "fan" on a home run, his team gets an advantage they can use for later in the game.

— Jordan Hamm (@JordyHamm) July 26, 2020

Baseball with reasonable covid rules + cardboard cutouts + funny crowd sound dubs > no baseball at all. Still think the catcher and batter are too close. Go Cubbies.

— Sean Sterrett, Ph.D (@SeanSterrett) July 25, 2020

I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy watching cardboard cutouts get smacked in the face with a baseball but 2020 is unpredictable like that

— Lindsay (@lindsaytheresa3) July 26, 2020

Despite the genuine attempt to make stadiums seem full, other baseball fans don't like the cardboard cutouts in the stands. They called it "the silliest thing" they've ever seen, and some find it creepy.

This is one of the most horrific things I have ever seen in my life

— Tim Pool (@Timcast) July 25, 2020

seeing the cardboard cutouts in the stands at baseball games is an orwellian nightmare. whenever something is weird, that’s called an orwellian nightmare

— Jon Bois (@jon_bois) July 24, 2020

the cardboard cutout baseball fans freak me out

— Jake (@JakeOfOnline) July 25, 2020

How y’all baseball fans feeling about those cardboard cutout fans? Silliest thing I’ve ever seen tbh.

— Bobby (@BobbyWilson1004) July 26, 2020

Channel surfing, came across a 'live' baseball game. Piped in crowd noise. It's like a laugh track. And obvious cardboard cutouts in the stands! Wow, 2020 really sucks.

— George Marinelli (@GeorgeMarinelli) July 25, 2020

Someone even compared it to a game of "Guess Who" (they're not wrong).

Cardboard cutouts in the baseball bleachers make it look like someone setup a giant game of "Guess Who?"

— THIS is Michael M. (@EsotericOaf) July 25, 2020

Michelle Gardner, an Arizona State University beat writer for the Arizona Republic said she was happy that baseball was back, but wasn't totally sold on the illusion of a crowded stadium.

Welcome back baseball. How I've missed you. Not sure about the cardboard cutouts or piped in crowd noise.

— Michelle Gardner (@MGardnerSports) July 24, 2020

Chris Demirdijan, sports director and morning news anchor at KTVE/KARDTV, agreed.

I'm very, very grateful baseball is back. I just wish teams/networks can do without piped in crowd noise, and cardboard/virtual cutouts. It's odd to me

— Chris Demirdjian (@ChrisDemirdjian) July 24, 2020

Fox Sports, meanwhile, decided to experiment with CGI fans in the stands. "Fox Sports producers will be able to control things like how full the virtual 'crowds' are for a given game, what weather fans are dressed for, and what percentage of the crowd will be home fans versus away, although the company is still figuring out how it'll make some of those decisions," The Verge reported on July 25.

Unlike the cardboard cutouts, these crowds won't be visible to the players, only to viewers at home.

Danny Vietti of CBS Sports said he is not thrilled about the virtual fans. "Virtual fans but no actual game sounds? I hate everything about this," he tweeted.

Virtual fans but no actual game sounds? I hate everything about this

— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) July 25, 2020

Matt Young, the Houston Chronicle Digital Sports Editor was not a fan of the CGI fans at the July 25 Cubs game.

Fox’s digital fans gotta go. Just a ton of dudes alternating resting their chin in their hand and then 2-second delayed reactions.

— Matt Young (@Chron_MattYoung) July 25, 2020

Many found it distracting and called it "the worst solution" to the empty stadiums.

Adding crowd noise? Like it. The virtual fans? Hate it. It’s inconsistent. Some angles on FOX have it. Others don’t. It’s distracting.

— Brett Rasdall (@BrettRasdall) July 25, 2020

Congrats, Fox Sports on EASILY the worst solution to empty baseball stadiums. The combination of crowd noise that's pumped way too loud in the soundtrack and edits around the stadium featuring inconsistently added digital fans is 100% only a distraction and not an enhancement.

— Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint) July 25, 2020

At one point, the Los Angeles Dodgers virtual crowd attempted to do the wave. Chad Moriyama of Dodgers Digest called it "absolutely cursed."

Absolutely cursed wave.

— Chad Moriyama (@ChadMoriyama) July 25, 2020

Crowd noises have also been added to the games to include cheering and booing. New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he didn't like it on July 17, as per "It sounded like we were trying to tune in our AM radio and trying to find our station and couldn't find it," he said, after the team experimented with it during an intrasquad game.

Yankees pitching ace Gerrit Cole didn't seem to mind it. "It kind of sounds the same if you're in your zone and you're not really paying attention,'' he admitted, reported. "But Yankees fans sound a lot better than manufactured sound." He said that the energy of the stadium was not there, though "there was probably a moment or two it kind of [sounded] normal to a certain extent.

"It's not like I was catching myself, like, 'Oh this crowd noise is brutal,'" Cole continued. "I didn't mind it. I liked it I guess better than the music because it was more of a white noise.''

Fans appeared to prefer no crowd sounds to the fake ones.

Ok, these crowd-less baseball games are spooky enough without the fake crowd noise piped in. Who’s cheering? We can see there’s no one there! Just go all out then, dub in the the audience sounds from an 80s sitcom.

— Pete Zedlacher (@zedlacher) July 25, 2020

@ESPN Please stop with the fake crowd noise and mic the field. Listening to the sounds of the game would be WAY better than this. #OpeningDay

— East Buc Baseball (@CoachVanScoyoc) July 24, 2020

What do we think of the fake crowd noise so far during baseball games? On one hand I’m like ahhh this feels comforting and normal, and on the other I kind of want no sound to embrace the weirdness of it all and hear the dugouts and other random sounds we don’t usually hear.

— Maxwell Glick (@maxwellglick) July 26, 2020

It sounds like @espn has no fake crowd noise on Sunday Night Baseball broadcast? I like it. Just the sounds of bats cracking and balls thumping seats and cheers from @Braves dugout and groans from @Mets dugout. Baseball the way it should be.

— Hunter Beaumont (@hunterbeaumont) July 27, 2020