SVG Sit-Down: Miami Marlins’ Blocker Ready for Year 4 at Marlins Park
The Miami Marlins opened their season at home against the Braves last night, beginning their fourth season at Marlins Park, a state-of-the-art venue with all the flavor of South Beach. As the opener approached, SVG sat down with Larry Blocker, the team’s senior director, game presentation and events, to discuss how he and his growing crew are preparing for the upcoming season, the importance of inside access to players in creating unique content, and how the Marlins Park video operations have evolved over the past four years.
How are you and your production team preparing for opening day?
Right now, we are checking every button, every animation that actually could come through, creating all the headshots, anything you can think of.
On Feb. 28, we were up at spring training, and we shot all our headshots. We produce four different animated headshots, so you are looking at 100 headshots. Plus, it’s not like it used to be, where they were just on your main board; they are on the bullpen boards, the field boards, the ribbon boards. So now you’re making 400 headshots compared to just 25 like you used to. And then, we shot [content] for pretty much the whole season [at spring training]. So we have to be organized enough to know everything we need for the whole year. How does the Marlins production team try to create a unique experience for fans at the ballpark?
You have to keep everything fresh every year. You have to come up with new creative ideas and new content. You have shoot your players in that new content and make it so the fans get to know them more on an off-the-field level. You want them to know their favorite player’s biggest fear or how many kids they have or whatever it is. Obviously, playing ball is your main product, but, if you want people to actually care about the players, they need to know know them off the field, too.
Access is what it’s all about. We sit the players down just for an hour in the offseason, and we run them through a million different questions because, once they get in the season, they’re worried about playing baseball. We get all that off-the-field stuff done in the offseason.
Can take me through your average game day during the season?
Actually, your day’s prep will start the night before: reading scripts and making sure they are right, making sure all the promotions are right and that everything is where it should be. Then I come in about 10:30 in the morning to see if any changes happened, because there is always a last-minute ad here or a last-minute deletion there. You want to be done with any changes to a script by 2:00. You print the scripts, bring them upstairs [to the control room], and the crew will start crawling in about 4 or 4:30, depending on if it’s the 7:00 game. Pregame guests will start arriving for BP about 4:30, anthem singers will show up 6:00, and then it’s just organized chaos from there. You have to make sure you have all your ducks in a row and every single person is here. You could have one presentation that day, you could have seven presentations that day; you never know until about a week before.
And then you start the process over again after the last out that night?
Correct. Baseball is unlike basketball and hockey and football because it’s every day. You are going to go six in a row, seven in a row, 10 in a row, 12 in a row. Then, when the home stand is over, you start your prep for the next home stand. The team goes on the road for five, six, seven days; you have to start prepping all your video.
How has your video-production operation evolved since the ballpark opened in 2012?
In 2012, it was about just staying open, making sure everything was working, finding out bugs, and putting out fires. Year 2, in 2013, was really learning all the systems in terms of just how crazy can we get and our capabilities. Then, last year, 2014, we had a nice flow; we knew what we were capable of. So, really, it took two full years to learn pretty much everything that we could. This season, I think we’re really hitting our groove. We now have 13 full-timers, and we’re ready to go.
What’s your outlook for the upcoming season?
Well, if the team wins or loses, we’re doing the same job. The TVs have to be on, menu boards have to be on, ticket windows have to be on, speakers have to work, videoboards have to work. Obviously, we’re hoping the team wins a lot of games, but we’re doing our job; we’re delivering entertainment, no matter what. However the game turns out, we’re still here doing what we’re doing.