MLB Postseason: Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves Invite Fans Into Home Ballparks for NLCS Watch Parties
Each production team handled a dual operation, with responsibilities at home and at Globe Life Field
“Take Me Out to the Ballgame” has become synonymous with the professional game and Major League Baseball. Unfortunately, few fans were taken to any sort of ballgame during the coronavirus-plagued 2020 regular season. That all changed when the National League Championship Series (NLCS) arrived. With the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers battling it out at Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX, selected supporters of each team were allowed into their respective ballparks for interactive, socially distant watch parties.
“We were able to hold watch parties for all of our playoff games this year,” says Scott Cunningham, VP, fan experience, Atlanta Braves. “For the NLCS, we averaged 1,500-2,500 fans in the stadium.”
In the ATL: Braves Provide Outfield Seating at Truist Park, Viewing in The Battery Atlanta
Despite a close defeat in Game 7 to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Braves went all out for the team’s deep run into the postseason. Because Globe Life Field is capping attendance at 11,500, for those who couldn’t grab tickets or hop a flight to Arlington, Atlanta’s in-venue staff produced watch parties in the outfield grass at Truist Park.
“We treated [these watch parties] just like a typical production,” says Cunningham, “but the actual game was on the board instead of on the field. Between innings, we entertained our fans with hype videos and other interactive elements during commercial breaks.”
The production staff operated a handful of the equipment regularly used for a regular-season show, but, with a limited number of patrons through the turnstile, the seven-camera complement was brought down to five. Standard fare was featured throughout the watch parties, including the popular Beat the Freeze Race, The Home Depot Tool Race, and a baseball tradition at any venue, the NAPA Cap Shuffle.
The Battery Atlanta — the surrounding area filled with restaurants, bars, and shops — is a pregame and postgame staple during the regular season. During this unusual NLCS, local fans who weren’t able to get a seat inside the ballpark could catch a glimpse of the action in Texas on various displays on the structure’s exterior.
“We also had a lot of people that were outside in The Battery,” Cunningham adds. “We have multiple exterior boards, so they were watching from there.”
Kickin’ It Old School: Dodgers Fans Pack Parking Lot for Drive-In Experience
Nearly 1,500 miles away in the Golden State, LAD Productions took a different approach to NLCS watch parties. With statewide COVID-19 guidelines still banning large gatherings in Los Angeles County, the franchise permitted 500-600 cars to congregate in Dodger Stadium’s parking lot for a postseason drive-in. These Dodger-themed watch parties showcased some killer content that would normally be shown on the interior videoboard.
The team highlighted a mix of familiar content and new videos during pauses in the action. For the former, cars horns were honked, and fans cheered when they saw the traditional pregame hype montage tuned to the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” For the latter, the team debuted elements created to be shown in front of packed crowds at the stadium, including a call-and-response video using Freddie Mercury’s famous improvisation from his performance at London’s Wembley Stadium.
“We sometimes used commercial breaks to play music,” notes Greg Taylor, executive producer, LAD Productions, Los Angeles Dodgers, “but, for the most part, they were all filled with hype videos. [For the World Series], we’ll have new game-day opens that include highlights from previous games.”
Dual Production: Teams Cooperate on Run of Show at Globe Life Field
The watch parties took place in both locations for all seven games of the NLCS, but, for each “home” game at the neutral site, the Dodgers or Braves staff would work alongside Texas Rangers Senior Director, Ballpark Entertainment and Production, Chris DeRuyscher and the crew of TXR Productions to produce team-specific shows at Globe Life Field. When it came to showing hype videos and other content for Braves’ players, Cunningham and his crew decided to mirror the material being shown on the Truist Park videoboards.
“We did features at our watch parties that were also played in Arlington at the exact same time,” Cunningham says. “Our stadium hosts would communicate with the fans in Arlington and tie them back to the fans in Atlanta. We showed crowd shots, so fans in Arlington could see that they’re united with the people in Braves Country.”
On days when both of these simultaneous productions were done, staffers kept an eye on each script to make sure that elements were played at the correct time. At moments when the Braves crew was busy with the in-house show, they relied on the professionalism and expertise of DeRuyscher.
“Between myself and [Director, Production,] Matt Montemayor, we monitored both of these shows and had two simultaneous rundowns open with things that were going to happen,” Cunningham adds. “Kudos go out to Chris and his team because there were nuances of our game presentation that he had to understand, along with shows of other teams, in a matter of hours.”
Live shots of the drive-ins at Dodger Stadium also were displayed. Footage was sent in real time from Los Angeles to the Globe Life Field control room through a Teradek Bond backpack.
“Senior Director, Broadcast Engineering, Tom Darin hooked that up for us,” says Taylor. “It’s the same technology that we use to stream directly to YouTube, Facebook Live, and Twitter, but now we were able to send some of our feed to Arlington.”
World Series Bound: Dodgers To Continue Watch Parties for the Fall Classic
Seven games tantalized both crowds, but the Dodgers were victorious and are poised to bring back some hardware to the City of Angels. Since the drive-ins have been successful, with fans coming out in droves, they will continue for however long the World Series lasts. With the possibility of momentum’s shifting from one team to the other and back, LAD Productions will keep its production plans as flexible as possible.
“We’ll continue to update and complement [the content] that we’ve already sent to Chris,” says Taylor. “We’ll do the best we can to keep up with the series, but, during this difficult year, we really appreciate all the help that his team has given us.”
Game 1 of the 2020 World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers begins tonight at 8:09 p.m. ET.