On the Fly: A (Not So) Typical Day in the Life of YES Network
On an unseasonably warm day in mid September, the YES Network team gathered at Stamford, CT, headquarters for what promised to be a typical night game. The storylines were set: the Yankees, in a race to claim the final American League Wild Card spot, faced the third of a four-game set in Baltimore, with an aging Andy Pettitte on the mound.
Then, with a 4 p.m. text message, all that changed.
The text — from YES Network clubhouse reporter Meredith Marakovits, on-site at Camden Yards in Baltimore — informed Jared Boshnack, lead producer for YES Network’s pre- and post-game shows, that both Yankees GM Brian Cashman and Derek Jeter would be addressing the media.
Which could mean only one thing: Jeter, hampered by injuries, was officially out for the season.
“At that point, I started to mobilize,” recalled Boshnack, speaking during the fourth inning of the Yankees-Orioles game on Sept. 11. “I started to walk around the office, make phone calls, and address all the appropriate people. First and foremost was John Filippelli, our president of production and programming. Talked to him, told him what was going on, and tried to formulate a plan.”
That plan began with Mike Francesa, whose WFAN radio show was being simulcast on the YES Network. Because Francesa had a contract segment with New York Mets head coach Terry Collins coming up, he passed on discussing Jeter, allowing Boshnack to pull his troops together for a 5 p.m. breaking-news update.
Senior Producer Bill Boland, also on-site in Baltimore, fed sound back to Stamford, starting with Cashman. Because the interviews were recorded on tape (rather than a live camera feed), the on-site team fed the full-length interviews back to Stamford as they concluded. At 5, studio host Bob Lorenz came on with the breaking-news update.
“We came on at 5, we had Brian Cashman sound first, [but] we didn’t have Derek Jeter in hand,” said Boshnack. “Bob, as he’s so capable of doing, was able to take very little information at that point and make it into a very compact and powerful lead. … Once we had Jeter in hand, we made the decision that that’s what’s most important here: Jeter’s most important. It was a collective decision.”
Following 12 minutes of Jeter sound, Lorenz led to Joe Girardi for the remainder of the half-hour. At 5:30, Boshnack again spoke with Filippelli, and the two decided to return to the Francesa simulcast, not only giving Francesa the opportunity to chime in but giving the on-site and in-studio teams a chance to regroup, collect information, and prepare for the night ahead.
At 6 p.m. ET on game nights, YES Network airs Yankees Batting Practice Today as a preamble to its pregame show at 6:30. On Sept. 11, the show title (and sponsored elements) remained the same, but the show was cut short in favor of an extended pregame show with Bob Lorenz, now accompanied by analysts Jack Curry and David Cone. The pregame rundown — with its Wild Card storylines, its Andy Pettitte projections, its Orioles scouting reports — was scrapped. There was a new lead story.
“Everything from that point on was on the fly, because we knew that the story ahead of us was Jeter,” says Boshnack. “It was a great day if you relish those moments, and I think most of our crew does, because, as sad as it is [that] Derek is lost for the year, it gave us a chance to punctuate a very powerful story and also gave us a chance to show what we are capable of when all of us work together.”
Prepping for Pregame
Not to be forgotten amid the Jeter hoopla was the day itself: September 11. At 6:30 p.m., after a truncated Yankees Batting Practice Today (anchored by Chris Shearn and produced by Josh Isaac) and short weather report, YES Network began its daily half-hour program with a reflection on Patriot Day.
“The stars and stripes — our own enduring symbol — flies proudly,” said Lorenz, to open the pregame show. “Not just on Sept. 11 but everyday.”
The pregame adhered to the template originally created by Boshnack — including number of segments, on-site reports from Marakovits, and sponsored elements — but content was created on the fly.
As Brian Cashman’s interview played again, Curry informed Lorenz that he wanted to discuss Brendan Ryan, Jeter’s replacement. “This story is much more about Jeter than it is about the team,” explained Curry. “Jeter’s next meaningful game is in 2014.” Sure enough, when the pregame returned from the prerecorded interview, Lorenz teed up Curry to say exactly that.
After a harried three hours, the game was finally set to begin.
It’s Game Time
Throughout the game, Boshnack watches from his office while Lorenz, Curry, and Cone gather in Lorenz’s office to watch the game together, share observations, and take copious notes.
“You’re looking for pivotal moments. You’re looking for key plays. You’re looking for trends,” explains Boshnack. “Why has Andy Pettitte given up three runs in four innings? Was his curve ball or his cutter not working effectively? Where was he throwing it? Was location there? Was it not there? That’s a trend that we probably would spotlight because we’d be examining the effectiveness of certain pitches that Andy’s been throwing. … The most powerful trends are the ones that we will go back to in the postgame to tell the story as to why the Yankees may have ultimately succeeded in their goal or failed.”
After the last of Lorenz’s live in-game cut-ins, during which he shares highlights from other games in action, Boshnack either calls his on-air talent or stops by to discuss what each of them are seeing. From that discussion, he builds a rundown. Each postgame must consist of six segments but can run 35 to 45 minutes or longer, depending on what transpired during the game.
“If we have a lot of good storylines, hopefully we’ll tell them all,” says Boshnack. “But, if the game is just very cut-and-dry without many twists and turns, without many lead changes, then I suppose that that show might not be one of the longer shows. … It’s fun to be able to craft that. In the pregame, you’re locked in because that clock is ticking and you know, at the top of the hour, that game is starting. You have to get in everything you need to get in, which requires a lot of self-editing. In the postgame, not so much.”
The-e-e Yankees Win
As the game drew to a close — a 5-4 Yankees victory that very nearly went into extra innings — Boshnack, Lorenz, Curry, and Cone had their pick of storylines. Pettitte, though his days are numbered, lasted through seven; Mariano notched one of his final saves as a Yankee; and the team once again came from behind to win. Plus, the final Wild Card spot remained in play.
During the first segment of the postgame, Lorenz and company offered a quick recap of the game, laying out these storylines as well as what lay ahead. Continuing the playoff-picture conversation, the second segment focused on highlights from around the league.
By the time the third segment rolled around, the crew had received sound from Joe Girardi, which was quickly turned around and aired. Meanwhile, Lorenz, Curry, and Cone were flying through Yankees-game highlights, with Lorenz playing traffic cop and delegating which analyst would call which plays throughout the game.
“I’m making you guys do the heavy lifting,” he laughed.
The fourth segment, in which Pettitte’s pitching performance was broken down and analyzed, gave Cone the chance to shine. When Boshnack wanted to run a graphic that he needed the guys to review, a large screen — located off-camera to the right of the desk — displayed the graphic so Lorenz would know how to tee it up.
In the fifth, the guys brought the conversation back around to Jeter. Boshnack takes the approach that the network gains viewers throughout the evening, meaning that those people watching the postgame show might not have tuned in for the pregame show, missing the extended Jeter coverage entirely.
“I will do a Jeter segment in postgame, for sure,” Boshnack explained, discussing his rundown prior to the postgame show. “I would assume the people tuning into the postgame might not have been there at the very beginning of our night. I would like to provide them with some kind of update so they knew what happened today.”
The sixth segment gave the guys a chance to offer final thoughts and look forward to the next day’s game: the Yankees’ final game in a four-game set with Baltimore.
After an expanded pregame, a game that stretched three hours and 18 minutes, and a 53-minute postgame show, the day was a wrap. Another game was in the books, and the crew began to head home, but not before discussing what the next day’s game might bring.
The YES Network guys wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I work with some of the best people in the business, bar none,” says Boshnack. “We’re a very unique group. John Filippelli sets a tone with us from the top that we’re very personal. It’s like a family atmosphere. When you look around, there’s not many of us here; it’s a small group for a lot of programming, and, by and large, we have the talent and the ability to put a very strong product on the air. I’m extremely proud of that.”