With Wild Card Games Set, Turner Sports Preps for Postseason

Production staffers at Turner Sports are sure to be breathing a sigh of relief today.

TBS leads off the 2012 MLB postseason tomorrow with exclusive coverage of the first-ever Wild Card games: two single-elimination playoff contests that will determine the Wild Card team for each league. The National League Wild Card lineup was determined on Tuesday night, but the American League version threatened to create a logistical nightmare for Turner and kept trucks throughout the country on standby.

Meeting yesterday at noon, Turner Sports staffers faced an estimated seven scenarios for Friday’s American League Wild Card game. In addition to waiting out the A’s-Rangers game, which would determine both the AL West champ and one of the Wild Card berths, the network faced the very real possibility of having to wait out a one-game tiebreaker between the Orioles and Yankees on Thursday, depending on the outcome of Wednesday night’s games.

“Everybody’s on high alert, on standby, and we have everybody ready to go in a bunch of different directions,” said Coordinating Director Steve Fiorello before the A’s and Yankees clinched their respective divisions and sent the Rangers and Orioles to tomorrow’s Wild Card game. “The gist of it is, we meet everyday to talk through the scenarios and what the possibilities are. We try and just cover every possible scenario and at least have [what we call] SWAT teams, charter planes, additional production crew on standby just waiting to ship out to different parts of the country.”

The Braves and Cardinals face off in the National League Wild Card game tomorrow at 5 p.m. on TBS, with the American League Wild Card game following at 8:30.

“Both games, and everything we treat and walk into in the postseason, will be as if it’s our World Series,” says Fiorello. “Every one of those games, we try to make sure that we’re throwing everything at it and [we’re] prepared.”

Super Slo Mo
TBS plans to up the number of super-slo-mo cameras in its complement, deploying three for both Wild Card games and Division Series games and six for the ALCS.

“The super-mo cameras are such a great enhancement to any broadcast,” says Fiorello. “It’s a great way to really get the viewer a close, tight perspective of what’s going on. When you think of baseball, it is a game of inches, and to be that close, that tight, and to see a slow-motion of a close play at home or a bang-bang double play, it always brings the viewer, in my opinion, that much closer to the game.”

3D Hologram Imagery
New for the 2012 postseason, TBS will debut 3D hologram imagery that will demonstrate detailed examples of pitch grips while highlighting pressure points, release points, and rotation.

The 3D hologram graphic, which will be created live in-studio, illustrates a hand gripping a curveball, fastball, splitter, and more. Analysts can tailor the graphic to specific players, indicating pitchers who may put more pressure on an index finger in certain pitches.

According to Fiorello, the graphic can also show viewers what a batter sees when being thrown a curveball, fastball, or splitter and how he identifies each pitch. In addition to showing the grip on the ball, the graphic can also replicate the rotation of the pitch.

“We’ve been testing all week, and we’ve had some really good success with it. We’re very excited about airing this and having the viewers see,” says Fiorello. “When I first heard that the batters actually use [visual cues] that indicate what type of pitch is being thrown, I thought that was a really cool thing, and, when we actually got to the point [where we asked,] ‘How can we illustrate that?’, we were able to do this in a 3D model.”

TBS will once again integrate Bloomberg Sports’ comprehensive statistical information into each telecast. The service allows game and studio analysts to examine every pitch of each game to find patterns and pick out tendencies. Pitch Trax, which illustrates pitch location throughout the game, will also return.

Social Dugout
TBS has also launched Social Dugout, a social-TV experience allowing viewers to interact with TBS’s MLB postseason-game telecasts. The second-screen interactive mobile gaming app, available on iOS and Android devices, gives fans an opportunity to engage and compete with one another during TBS’s live MLB telecasts by answering game-related questions and trivia.

Throughout each MLB postseason game, questions from the app will prompt fans to predict potential scenarios during selected moments in the game. TBS Social Dugout participants can share their answers and game results with friends via Facebook, Twitter, and the app’s chat function.

A Veteran Crew
TBS will televise the Division Series (up to 18 games) and one League Championship Series (this year, the ALCS) for the sixth consecutive year.

The MLB On-Deck pregame show and Inside MLB postgame show will have in-depth game reports and postgame interviews from every LDS game, as well as the ALCS and NLCS. Matt Winer will once again serve as studio host alongside Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley and two-time World Champion David Wells during the LDS.

Ernie Johnson will handle play-by-play alongside analysts John Smoltz and Ron Darling for the network’s exclusive coverage of the ALCS.

TBS’s coverage of the Wild Card games and Division Series will feature a pair of three-man commentator teams: play-by-play announcer Brian Anderson will be joined by veteran analysts Darling and Joe Simpson; and Johnson will call the game with Hall of Famer Cal Ripken and Smoltz.

Division Series announce teams will also include play-by-play veteran Dick Stockton, joined in the booth once again by former MLB manager and long-time TV analyst Bob Brenly; Don Orsillo (play-by-play) and Buck Martinez (analyst) will return for their sixth and fifth postseasons, respectively, with TBS.