The Sounds of Baseball

When Bank One Ballpark opened on March 29, 1998 for the first exhibition game, I was there soaking up everything that the ballpark had to offer. The weather was very unsettled so the roof was closed and I would have to wait another few days for Opening Day to see the skies open as the retractable roof panels slid to allow the stars to shine bright. The JumboTron was at the time the largest one every used in a stadium and gave everyone interactive information about each player. Above the bullpens were boards that displayed what pitcher is warming up in the bullpen. There was also a display that showed the speed of each pitch. There was of course the most novel of items, a pool beyond the fence in right field. Fans could rent the pool for each game and watch baseball while soaking away. When a Diamondbacks player would hit a home run, jets of water would shoot in the air. The stadium was perfect except for one thing, the sound system.

The speaker placement and quality of sound would never be mistaken for your home theater. The sound always seemed slightly off and definitely muffled. It became even worse as the fan noise increased necessitating the volume to be turned up. Bobby Freeman who has been the organist at Bank One Ballpark since it opened did the best he could but the music just didn’t sound that good. During the 1999 season the Diamondbacks released The Sounds of B.O.B. which was a compilation of the music used at the stadium for the first two years. I immediately bought the CD so I could hear the ballpark even when there was not a game. Trina thought this was a little obsessive and she definitely balked when I began to make all the windows in the car go down during the roof opening music. While I had fun with the CD it made one thing crystal clear, the sound system at the ballpark was definitely not that good.

During the last road trip the Arizona Diamondbacks took the opportunity to change the speakers and sound system at the ballpark. When I arrived at Friday’s game I was amazed at what a difference it made. You could hear every note that Bobby Freeman played and it actually sounded like music. You could hear the nervousness of the singer of the national anthem. Chuck Drago never sounded as good as he announced each player coming to bat. By the middle of the seventh inning I was amazed. Take Me Out to the Ballgame had never sounded so vibrant. It’s funny what a difference a little sound can make.

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