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‘Baseball Tonight’ feeds fans’ baseball addiction
October is the month of the baseball playoffs, when QU major league baseball fans sit down and watch games night after night in nervous anticipation.
However, many fans go further than just watching the baseball games. They may switch their channel to ESPN to watch the television show, “Baseball Tonight,” where they hope to see highlights from the games and get information about their favorite teams and players.
Something QU baseball fans might forget is that all of this magic is created a half hour away in Bristol, Conn.
“Baseball Tonight” gives fans a front-row seat to all the games by focusing solely on America’s pastime, baseball. Unlike other sports shows like “SportsCenter,” it shows highlights from all games and gives viewers tips on how to play. Karl Ravech, the lead analyst for the show, feels that the show is, “a great learning tool and a great starting tool” for the game of baseball.
However, what the fans may not appreciate is the knowledge of the staff and everything that goes on behind the scenes.
Many people may think the most important time of the day for the employees of “Baseball Tonight” would be when the show airs at 10 p.m. or midnight on weeknights and 7 p.m. on Sundays, but they would be wrong.
The day actually starts at 1 p.m. when the producer of the show, Missy Motha, sits in her cubicle at the ESPN studios and figures out the content of the show for that night. As the person responsible for “Baseball Tonight,” she likes to be prepared and know the games and storylines ahead of time. Motha does so by watching previous or current games, and trying to figure out what the biggest stories can be.
One of the most difficult aspects of producing the show is making the show entertaining for the audience. With 162 games a season, baseball can become repetitive. Since “Baseball Tonight” is on every night, the employees always try to find a new angle to talk about so not every homerun hit feels and looks the same to the viewer. Orel Hershiser, an analyst on the show and a former Major League Baseball pitcher, said that one has to, “become an expert in describing the same thing differently.”
To make the show different every night the staff reads blogs and visits chatrooms online. More creatively, when Hershiser is out to eat at sports bars, he sometimes listens to baseball fans to learn about what they might like to see or be taught on the show. What the fans have to say is important to how the show runs. However, one thing that can always change is the lead story of the day. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox series may be the original main story but if someone pitches a no-hitter, that will be shown on the air first.
Hershiser has been a Cy Young winner, was a three-time National League All-Star, pitched 18 years in the Major Leagues, was named World Series Most Valuable Player, was the Associated Press Athlete of the Year and Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 1988. Surprisingly however, working with the employees of “Baseball Tonight” can still be intimidating for him. There are many knowledgeable people who work on the program and know information that the average viewer or even player may not know. Hershiser referred to the employees who work on the show as “geeks” because of how smart they are.
The knowledge that the analysts on the show have is proven when the show airs. None of the analysts who are announcers on “Baseball Tonight” have a script or prompter for the show. If, for instance, during the show a player hits a homerun the highlight will immediately appear and the analysts will discuss the homerun on the spot. This shows that the analysts are not just knowledgeable but they are also fans of the game.
Just like the analysts, the rest of the staff of the show are big fans of baseball. Although they may frequently argue about who is a better team or player, their disagreements are very lighthearted. Ravech says that the employees there are “a close-knit group.” They are together “under extreme and stressful situations.” Many employees who work for the show call their co-workers “family.”
At the end of the day, the producers want “Baseball Tonight” to be the show of record for all baseball shows. With already one Emmy win, baseball fans know it is the baseball show to watch, especially during the playoffs. It is not just for fans of the game but also for people who may just want to learn a bit more about America’s pastime.