MLB Opening Day: Pitch Clock, Mic’ed Up Moments, and the Return of KayRod Cast Headline ESPN’s SNB Production Efforts
ESPN’s 34th season of Sunday Night Baseball will have a very different feel thanks to the addition of MLB’s new pitch clock. Pitchers will have to adjust to on the mound, hitters will have to adjust in the batter’s box, and the front bench duo of producer Andy Jacobson and director Mike Griffin will have to adjust in the truck.
“I expect we learn a lot the first couple of weeks, but I think it’s going to drastically change sort of our rhythm and cadence selectivity within replay sequences, selectivity in packaging game content,” Jacobson says of how the new pitch clock may impact the broadcast. “[We are] talking with our production crew about it. Changing the mentality of pre-produced elements that we come in with. We can’t afford to be long 20 to 25 seconds. Everything has to be tight, packaged tightly, selectively.”
During the regular season, ESPN plans to integrate the pitch clock into the scorebug alongside a pitch total along the bottom right of the miniboard and will incorporate additional graphical alerts as the clock gets closer to zero to indicate a pitcher or batter violation (see video example below).
Jacobson also adds that the announcers in the booth will also be pressed to be tighter in their commentary and that ESPN will likely use the two-box split-screen approach more often to include replays between pitches.
“I do think we’ll push more replay two boxes, almost like football hurry-up offenses might become a little bit more in play,” he says. “So we’ll be tight. We’ll be selective and smart and hopefully learn and adapt as this thing gets off and running.
More Mic’ed Up Moments
ESPN is also looking to expand its mic’ed up segments during regular season broadcasts.
“I think we’re always looking to evolve that after the success we had with it last year [and we’re] trying to find the new ‘what’s the Adam Wainwright [moment] this season,’ with how cool that was and how that even raised the bar from the normal player in the field mic’ed up segment.
Jacobson added that the production team has explored mic’ing up an umpire during the game or mic’ing up analyst Eduardo Perez as he talks to a pinch hitter in the batting cage.
“We’re constantly looking for something different and cool and sticky,” he says. “And really if baseball allows us to do stuff, we’re certainly open to all of that.
The Return of KayRod Cast
KayRod Cast, ESPN’s alternate presentation for Sunday Night Baseball, is back for season two on ESPN2 opposite the traditional game broadcast on ESPN. There are eight editions of KayRod Cast throughout the season, beginning on April 2 when the Texas Rangers host the Philadelphia Phillies at 7 p.m. ET. KayRod Cast emanates from ESPN’s Seaport District Studios in New York, N.Y. and regularly features special guest appearances from the worlds of sports and entertainment, in-studio demos from Rodriguez and topical discussion about MLB storylines. On June 25, the two will head to London to call the MLB London Series Cubs-Cardinals matchup at the baseball-configured London Stadium.
“We Had a lot of fun last year,” says Mark Gross, SVP, production and remote events, ESPN. “No secret that when you put two guys together who are friends and have great conversations and are willing to agree and disagree with each other and have great chemistry, and you end up with a fun, entertaining show.
“I think at the same time,” he adds, “we’ve been conscious on KayRod and some other alternate broadcasts that the game is still the priority. So we can have all the guests in the world, but we want it to be a true alternate broadcast where, yes, you can hear from guests, and certainly hear from Michael and hear from Alex, but it’s still about the game at the end of the day.”