After months of binge-watching shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime and every other streaming service I could get my hands on, I, like most other Americans, was ecstatic to see one of the four major North American sports finally get underway when Major League Baseball got started Wednesday night.

But when I turned on my TV to watch the Los Angeles Dodgers host their hated rivals, the San Francisco Giants, my mind started spinning. Was this a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie? Was I watching “Vertigo,” instead of a baseball game?

The game was in L.A., not San Fran, so I wasn’t watching “The Birds,” so why is my mind playing tricks on me? Are those…cardboard cutouts of real people in the stands?

As the game went on, I’m spending more time staring at those cutouts than I am at the game, like James Stewart wondering if Raymond Burr murdered his wife in “Rear Window.”

That was the last thing I wanted to see while enjoying adult beverages by myself after writing a column about wearing masks.

An empty ballpark is less creepy than this, and I’ve covered night games in empty arenas! This is essentially what you get watching St. Louis Cardinals’ baseball, a PG-13-rated horror show!

Welcome to life in the world of COVID-19. Cardboard cutouts have replaced real fans, and piped-in crowd noise has replaced the crescendo of home crowds cheering on a late-inning rally.

That’s going to take a little getting used to, but it’ll pass. What won’t pass was what happened during the Atlanta Braves-New York Mets game last Sunday at New York’s Citi Field when the Braves’ Adam Duvall homered to right field, and hit a couple of a cardboard cutouts – of dogs. DOGS!!!

Yes, you read that correctly. The Mets’ Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto had cutouts of their dogs made and placed in the outfield – and wouldn’t you know it – Duvall’s blast smashed Willow, Griffey and Kali, respectively.

This is a complete mind screw, but I gotta hand it to MLB for this. Season ticketholders are actually paying money to have their bodies put on cardboard cutouts in their assigned seats, even if they can’t be physically there. The Dodgers are charging between $149-$299 for cutouts, which you can take home at the end of the season and will be authenticated by MLB.

Too bad the Miami Marlins won’t get to enjoy the fruits of the capitalistic spoils. As of press-time. seventeen players on the roster have been struck with the novel coronavirus, and the Marlins’ season is in jeopardy due to the multiple diagnoses.

Baseball is the ultimate test case for other sports. The other leagues are watching as they prepare to restart, or in the case of the National Football League, begin their seasons soon, almost certainly without fans. 

Whether or not they have cardboard cutouts, holographic fans, cyborgs, Japanese anime or blow-up dolls in the stands in place of real fans, remains to be seen, however.

If I ever have children one day, I can tell them I watched a baseball game with cardboard cutouts of people and dogs in the stands. 

And they probably won’t believe me.