ESPN Launches New Era at College World Series

It is a year of new beginnings for the College World Series: for the first time since 1949, college baseball’s crown jewel will not play in Omaha’s hallowed Rosenblatt Stadium. To commemorate the first non-Rosenblatt CWS since the Truman administration, ESPN will roll out a parade of new production elements and is primed to take advantage of all the bells and whistles at the event’s new home, TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.

“We’ve definitely amped up our coverage for the new stadium,” says ESPN’s Tom McNeeley, now in his 22nd year at the CWS and third as coordinating producer. “We loved Rosenblatt with all the great history. But, with the new stadium, it was time to come up with a new look and feel that really reflects the start of a new era.”

New Toys
This new-era production begins Saturday and will feature, for the first time, a ultra-high-speed camera and K Zone virtual-graphics system, as well as a new graphics package that incorporates a “blueprint” look referring to the construction of the new stadium.

Now in its 32nd consecutive year covering the CWS, ESPN will deploy 17 total cameras for the 17 potential telecasts, which will all be produced out of NCP XI HD and NEP Super B mobile units.

Involved From Day 1
ESPN has been heavily involved in the design of TD Ameritrade Park Omaha from the onset, coordinating the placement of camera positions and connectivity concerns. On May 10, McNeeley and company produced a Creighton-Nebraska game from the ballpark for ESPNU as a dry run leading up to the big event.

“We’ve been involved pretty much since Day 1,” he says. “With NCAA and MECA [Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority], we established a lot of the great low cameras to give us the tight shots that make you feel like you’re up close to the players, similar to Rosenblatt. The [Creighton-Nebraska game] gave us an idea of camera positions and the broadcast booth so we could make sure everything was in order.”

However, the dress rehearsal did turn up a few bugs, most notably the distraction of cabling and netting running through ESPN’s high first- and high third-base camera shots. So McNeely and Scott Johnson, in his 21st year as lead director at the CWS, walked the stadium to scout out alternative positions for these cameras.

“We worked with the NCAA and MECA, and they were able to move us down low into the mid concourses of first and third base,” says McNeely. “That allows us to have great shots without cable or netting running through them.”

Cameras Galore
ESPN’s 17-camera complement includes two robotic cameras in each dugout and another at mid home. New this year will be a robotic camera mounted to the third-base-side light, which will be used for game coverage, scenic shots of downtown Omaha, and aerial shots of the NCAA’s FanFest celebration in the center-field concourse.

In addition to the ultra-high-speed camera system’s first appearance at the CWS, ESPN will have a super-slow-motion camera system on hand. Also at Johnson’s disposal will be a roving RF camera, a jib in the left-field bullpen, and a jib outside the stadium capturing the tailgating action.

For the first time, ESPN will deploy a full K Zone 2.0 setup, with a dedicated producer, EVS operator, and two cameras. The Emmy Award-winning technology that is now ubiquitous in ESPN’s MLB coverage was developed in conjunction with Sportvision and made its debut at the Women’s College World Series this year.

Blueprint for Success
To signify the change in stadiums, the CWS graphics package will incorporate the look of technical drawings similar to architectural blueprints. These graphics will begin as a blueprint design and then morph into video of the actual stadium, a team logo, or a player name.

“We got the actual blueprints of the new stadium, developed some graphics, and will intertwine them with the live coverage at the stadium,” says McNeely. “Our feeling is, with a new stadium and new era, this is a ‘blueprint for success.’ You’re going to see that sprinkled throughout the telecast — from the opening tease to an in bump or out bump.”

(For a preview of these graphics, CLICK HERE and scroll down to the Blueprint Graphics section.)

Vignettes Capture Atmosphere, History
As usual, ESPN’s coverage will be stacked with preproduced segments and vignettes that highlight both the teams on the field and the history of the CWS. This year, these segments will include an “Omaha to the Bigs” series, featuring MLB players discussing their CWS experiences.

ESPN has an entire editing crew and dedicated edit trailer on hand in Omaha to create the library of video segments shown throughout the event.

Sport Science Goes Deeper
ESPN’s Sport Science will also have a presence in Omaha. Host John Brenkus will provide a series on how the location, layout, design, and wind currents might affect the games compared with those played at Rosenblatt.

“The new stadium is not a replication of Rosenblatt, so our Sport Science group has cut some features to show how the winds are going to be different than Rosenblatt. At Rosenblatt, there was a current that helped create a lot of home runs. We expect to have less home runs this year as a result of the winds as well as the new bat regulations.”

SportsCenter in Omaha
SportsCenter segments will originate from TD Ameritrade Park June 20-22 and include analysts Orel Hershiser, Robin Ventura, and Nomar Garciaparra on-set.

The SportsCenter segments will be produced out of the primary CWS trucks but with an exclusive EVS machine and two cameras, as well as a dedicated producer and director.