While the doors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum remain locked, the stewards of the national pastime are providing more virtual access to the museum’s offerings than ever.
The Cooperstown museum closed Sunday, March 15, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While it remains shut to the public, Jon Shestakofsky, vice president of communications and education at the Hall of Fame, said the goal is to continue offering baseball fans as much of the museum’s experience as possible.
“The general thought is that we run a museum that’s usually open to the public all but three days of the year, and it’s now been closed for more than a month,” Shestakofsky told The Daily Star on Monday. “Baseball is such an important part of our cultural context in America, and so many people are missing what they get from baseball. Our goal is to allow people to talk about baseball, think about baseball and connect with us at the museum.”
Virtual programming will be focused on four general categories. The first is a focus on the museum’s educational offerings, with “virtual field trips” conducted via the videoconferencing platform Zoom. A program called “Geometry: Circling the Bases” will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday, April 23, with a focus on the geometry of baseball fields.
Curator spotlights will make up another category, with the museum’s producers giving an inside look at the decisions behind how the various stories in the Hall of Fame are told. A spotlight on the “Shoebox Treasures” exhibit, which focuses on the significance of baseball cards, will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, April 22, on Zoom.
Another category, called “Virtual Voices of the Game,” calls on what Shestakofsky called “the folks in our Hall of Fame family.” At 11 a.m. Friday, April 24, viewers can watch a conversation on multiple topics with 2019 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Jayson Stark via Zoom.
A fourth category will be a weekly show - appropriately called “Safe at Home” - with Hall of Fame player Chipper Jones and broadcaster Jon “Boog” Sciambi. Jones, who entered the Hall of Fame in 2018, was set to join Sciambi in the broadcast booth as an analyst for 20 Wednesday night baseball broadcasts on ESPN this season, but with the Major League Baseball season on hold, the duo partnered with the museum to produce a weekly show on Instagram Live. The show debuted Thursday, April 16, and will air at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays on Instagram Live.
While further events are yet to be scheduled, Shestakofsky said the plan is to make announcements in two-week segments, and that more events for the next two weeks would likely be posted in the coming days.
“We are trying to have elements from each of those four areas, and until we are able to open the museum again we are hoping to keep a robust schedule to keep people interested in baseball and the museum,” he said.
Stestakofsky cautioned that with the exception of the weekly show on Instagram Live, registration is required ahead of time. Those interested can register through the museum’s events calendar, found under the “visit” tab at baseballhall.org. Upon registration, a confirmation email will provide a link to join the virtual meeting.
INDUCTION WEEKEND UPDATE
Shestakofsky said Monday that the Hall of Fame has begun discussing its plans for induction weekend, which is slated for July 24-27. He said a decision is expected “sooner rather than later,” with early May as a likely time frame for a decision.