ESPN’s MLB Coverage Celebrates Silver Anniversary With Enhancements Across All Properties
Despite freezing temperatures, never-ending snowfall, and Punxatawney Phil’s predicted six more weeks of winter, the true harbinger of summer is right around the corner. In less than two weeks, Major League Baseball returns, with ESPN’s exclusive presentation of Opening Night on Sunday March 30, followed by five games spanning more than 12 hours of Opening Day coverage on Monday March 31.
“We’re packing a lot into our Opening Day coverage across all our windows,” says Terry Brady, director, ESPN Remote Production Operations. “There’ll be some sort of enhancement attached to each window, some a little bit more than others depending on the time of the game. However, you’ll see a larger production presence on all our windows, and we’re really looking forward to that.”
Sunday Night Baseball
March 30 marks ESPN’s 25th season of Sunday Night Baseball, with San Diego Padres hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers. In addition to a new booth comprising play-by-play commentator Dan Shulman and analysts Curt Schilling and John Kruk, ESPN plans to deploy a Vision Research Phantom camera in a low position for approximately 19 games and add a second NAC Hi-Motion camera for every game.
“[Last year,] we played a little bit with a high-speed Phantom camera that’s robotic that we placed in and around the dugouts to highlight the pitcher-batter relationship in replays,” says Brady. “We’re going to have them on those  games, so we’re upping that enhancement significantly from last year. We had great success last year, and we’re going to bring it back.”
ESPN will also integrate the live telestration capability of its Advanced Replay Tool (ART), developed by the network’s Emerging Technology group. Using ART, ESPN’s analysts can graphically enhance a replay using X’s and O’s, as well as illustrate defensive shifts and other plays.
In addition to the Phantom camera and two NAC Hi-Motion cameras, the Sunday Night Baseball complement includes eight hard cameras; one handheld K-Zone camera; three handheld cameras for booth and beauty shots, as well as for ESPN Deportes; four robotic cameras; one I-Movix mid-home robo (for 12 weeks); and one RF video and audio package. NEP’s NCPX returns to cover the Sunday Night Baseball slate.
Monday and Wednesday Night Baseball
The Monday Night Baseball season returns on Opening Day, with the Colorado Rockies at the Miami Marlins on ESPN2. ESPN plans to add dugout robotics permanently for every Monday Night Baseball telecast and to get creative with placement.
“[The cameras] will actually move around the stadium — with MLB consent and team consent — to try to get different angles at each park to highlight each park,” says Brady. “In other words, [we will use] the standard robos in some cases; however, we will move those cameras around when we have the opportunity to highlight different angles and different strategies for the viewer so they can get a different look at a ballpark.”
ESPN Deportes will join Monday Night Baseball and Wednesday Night Baseball on occasion, integrating Spanish graphics, video elements, and music from ESPN headquarters in Bristol, CT.
The Monday-night complement includes eight hard cameras, one handheld K-Zone camera, two handhelds for booth and beauty shots, four robotic units, and one NAC Hi-Motion. NEP’s NCPXI will cover Monday Night Baseball.
For Wednesday Night Baseball, which begins on April 2, when the Texas Rangers host the Philadelphia Phillies on ESPN2, a K-Zone camera and NAC Hi-Motion camera will be deployed for the first time. In addition, seven hard cameras; three handhelds for booth, beauty, and roving shots; and one robotic unit will be used. Depending on geographical proximity, either NCPX or NCPXI will travel to the location for the game.
“We’re giving more tools to the Wednesday Night Baseball production crew. We’re hoping that it will turn out to be a benefit for the viewer so they can get a typical ESPN standard of coverage,” Brady explains. “[We’re] trying to make all the windows as consistent as we can.”