Fake Fans in Empty Stadiums

Friday, July 24th, 2020

Baseball is back. It’s back, and it’s goddamned weird. The abbreviated 2020 season kicked off with two games last night, and while they were strange for many reasons, one of the most obvious was the lack of any actual fans. Understandably, fans will not be permitted in the ballparks this season.

There is crowd noise being piped in, however, and approximately half of major league teams will also be putting representations of their fans in the stadium. This is being done with cutouts printed from fan photos. For your amusement, as well as for posterity, I recorded a comprehensive look at all of these fan cutout programs. Save this link for a few decades, then share just a bit of the weirdness of 2020 with your grandkids.

Atlanta Braves

Name: Braves Country Cutouts
Cost: $50, $25 for “A-List Members” [Link]
Beneficiary: The Atlanta Braves Foundation

Additional Notes: The parenthetical in this statement is so very depressing: “Truist Park will not feel like home unless we see (photos of) your faces in the stands”.

Boston Red Sox

Name: Monster Home Run Challenge
Cost: $500 [Link]
Beneficiary: The Red Sox Foundation

Additional Notes: This is by far the most expensive program in the majors, with a $500 donation only buying your cut-out 1/2 of the season.

However, the cutout will have some tremendous seats, on top of Fenway Park’s famous Green Monster. Also, if your cutout is hit by a Red Sox home run ball, you’ll win an assortment of prizes, including tickets to a 2021 ball game.

Chicago White Sox

Name: FANtastic Faces
Cost: $49 [Link]
Beneficiary: Chicago White Sox Charities

Additional Notes: Chicago’s program is unique in the bigs, as the cutouts will only be in the stadium for a single home stand. White Sox fan Paul Garrett purchased 100 identical cutouts, hilariously leading to this tableau:

Houston Astros

Name: Astros Fan Cutouts
Cost: $100 [Link]
Beneficiary: Unclear, though they list this as a “tax-deductible donation”

Additional Notes: Those who dislike the Astros should note that Houston’s program bars both “Inappropriate gestures” and “Obscene, lewd, explicit, discriminatory, derogatory, violent, offensive, infringing or otherwise inappropriate references”.

Kansas City Royals

Name: Fanbassador
Cost: $40 [Link]
Beneficiary: “A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Royals Respond Fund, a Royals Charities effort that supports Kansas City area nonprofits who focus on food insecurity as it relates to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Additional Notes: It appears this program is only open to Royals season ticket holders, and initially limited to 500 people.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Name: Los Angeles Dodgers Fan Cutouts & Pups at the Park
Cost: $299 (Pavilion Home Run Seats/Dugout Club), $149 (Field Level/Loge Level), $149 (Pups at the Park (Loge Level)) [Link]
Beneficiary: “Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, as they tackle the most pressing problems facing Los Angeles with a mission to improve education, health care, homelessness, and social justice for all Angelenos.”

Additional Notes: Of course Los Angeles, land of the purse dog, sent out a separate press release announcing the $149 option to have your dog at the ballpark. As well, the Dodgers list the fair market value of the cutout itself at $11.25.

Milwaukee Brewers

Name: Brewers Cutout Crew
Cost: $50 [Link]
Beneficiary: Brewers Community Foundation & the Wisconsin Humane Society

Additional Notes: The photo guidelines note “A shirt color on a same color background will make you look like a floating head”, but it’s unclear if this is viewed as a negative or a positive.

Also, Milwaukee is photographing the cutouts in place so fans can see themselves, as seen below:

Minnesota Twins

Name: Twins Mosaic
Cost: Free [Link]
Beneficiary: N/A

Additional Notes: The Twins aren’t doing cutouts, but will instead have a massive 53×38 foot mosaic of fan photos looking down over the field.

New York Mets

Name: Mets Fan Cutouts
Cost: $86 [Link]
Beneficiary: Mets Foundation

Additional Notes: The New York Mets last won a World Series 34 years ago, and their $86 pricing reflects that 1986 championship. This also appears to be the only program that requires team gear, stating “Mets gear is a must!”.

Oakland A’s

Name: Coliseum Cutouts
Cost: $89 for general fans and pets, $49 for “A’s Access” members (Unclear if pets can join A’s Access), $129 for the Left Field Foul Ball Zone, $149 for the ALS CURE Project Right Field Foul Ball Zone [Link]
Beneficiary: ALS CURE, Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) & the East Bay SPCA

Additional Notes: The A’s program has a lot going on. Most notably, when a “Foul Ball Zone” cutout gets hit by a ball, the fan will receive that ball.

Of note, A’s outfielder Stephen Piscotty’s mother was stricken with ALS in 2017. Before the 2018 season, Piscotty asked for a trade to be closer to home. Rather remarkably, this was granted, with the Cardinals sending him to Oakland. Sadly, his mother passed away during the 2018 season, but he’s now honoring her by providing autographed items and balls to raise money for ALS research. Good on you, Stephen.

Philadelphia Phillies

Name: Phillies Game Face
Cost: $40, $25 for season ticket holders [Link]
Beneficiary: “[P]roceeds benefiting Phillies charities”

Additional Notes: On opening day, healthcare workers will be honored free of charge. Details will be forthcoming on how fans can do the same for later games.

Also, in the true spirit of 2020, the incomparable Phillie Phanatic is the subject of a trademark battle, and has been redesigned. The rejiggered mascot will be at the park during games though, and thankfully, you’ll probably recognize him just fine.


Before and After

San Diego Padres

Name: Military Padres Fan Cutouts
Cost: Free [Link]
Beneficiary: N/A

Additional Notes: Initially, the team is honoring military personnel with free cutouts. Later cutouts will “follow themes that honor different groups and causes”, according to Padres President of Business Operations Erick Greupner

San Francisco Giants

Name: Giants Fan Cutouts & Cutouts for a Cause
Cost: $99, free for season ticket holders who rollover their account credit to 2021 rather than taking a refund [Link]
Beneficiary: Seemingly, the San Francisco Giants themselves

Additional Notes: While nearly every other program is charitable in nature, it seems the Giants are just planning to pocket this money. They are offering fans the chance to “sit” near celebrity cutouts, while raising money for the celebrity’s cause.

Seattle Mariners

Name: Mariners Seat Fleet
Cost: $30 [Link]
Beneficiary: “The Mariners will donate a portion of every purchase to non-profit organizations supporting COVID-related relief efforts in our communities.”

Additional Notes: This is the most affordable program in the bigs, and if your cutout is hit with a foul ball, you’ll get it sent to you. However, this is one of just two programs (along with the Mets) which explicitly states you will not receive your cutout at the end of the season. Then again, I don’t know what someone would actually do with a cutout of themself.

Tampa Bay Rays

Name: Rays Fan Cutouts
Cost: $60, $40 for season ticket holders [Link]
Beneficiary: Seemingly, the Tampa Bay Rays themselves

Additional Notes: Do the Tampa Bay Rays actually have season ticket holders?

Texas Rangers

Name: DoppelRangers
Cost: $50 [Link]
Beneficiary: Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation

Additional Notes: The Texas Rangers are opening a brand-new stadium this year, and I can’t think of a worse way to do it than with no fans. On the other hand, their program has the best name, bar none.

Toronto Blue Jays

At present, the 14 remaining teams have no cutout program. Among them, however, the Toronto Blue Jays are worth calling out specifically. That’s because they lack not just a fan cutout program, but a home ballpark in which to play.

Canada isn’t providing any exception to allow players to enter the country, and thus far, no American city has accepted the team. The baseball season has now begun, yet this poor team doesn’t even know where they’re going to play.

So yeah, this shortened 2020 baseball season in the middle of a pandemic seems like a great idea which will surely play out with no issues whatsoever.


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