ESPN Turns Dodger Stadium Into Announcer-o-Rama for Sunday Night Baseball

ESPN will pack Dodger Stadium with on-air talent for its Dodgers-Pirates Sunday Night Baseball telecast this weekend. In an ESPN first, seven Baseball Tonight analysts will be scattered throughout the ballpark and contribute regularly to the game telecast, as well as to the preceding onsite edition of Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown.

“This is the latest in our efforts to expand our Major League Baseball coverage by finding new methods of informing and entertaining fans,” says Mike McQuade, VP, production. “We regularly ask ourselves, Are we really doing enough for the viewer? We need to keep pushing the idea that we can tell a better story while making fans more knowledgeable and bringing them closer to the game.”

Karl Ravech and analyst Barry Larkin will host Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown at 7 p.m. ET from just outside Dodger Stadium. After the show, Ravech and Larkin will head to the Sunday Night Baseball booth inside the stadium, where they will lead a team of seven Baseball Tonight commentators, who will collectively call the game (at 8 p.m.) from various locations throughout Dodger Stadium (ESPN’s regular SNB booth team — Dan Shulman and John Kruk — has the week off).

Regular SNB reporter Buster Olney will be located in the press box, and five analysts will report from throughout the ballpark: Eric Wedge behind home plate (analyzing big-picture strategy), Mark Mulder (pitching) in the Pirates dugout, Aaron Boone in the Dodgers dugout (offense), and Doug Glanville in the right-field pavilion (defense).

To facilitate this unique setup at Dodger Stadium, ESPN has added a second wireless RF camera to cover Glanville in the outfield, making it more difficult to coordinate RF frequency within the oversaturated Los Angeles RF market.

Each announcer/reporter will have a standard announcer headset, and primary talent locations (booth: Ravech/Larkin, low first: Boone, and low third: Mulder) will have stick mics as backup and for in-game interviews. The booth will have its standard set of monitors (net return, program, reference cameras, stats), and each of the other locations will have one monitor for a producer iso feed. Olney will also have a second monitor for font output to review his usual Twitter questions.

In terms of communications, the booth will be outfitted with a handful of beltpacks for comms to the truck, and all other locations will have an A2/SM-style beltpack for truck comms. In addition, all locations will have IFBs.

Location of talent outside of the booth is a challenge, says Joa O’Connor, senior operations producer, event operations, ESPN. “Under normal circumstance, if an issue arises, it is only one location to deal with, and it is built for the exact purpose of talent calling a game. This Sunday, if we have an issue at any of the other locations, it is a matter of how to get to them in a timely manner to fix whatever needs our attention. We will have more technicians in nooks of the stadium as to not [affect] the in-stadium fan but, at the same time, protect our at-home fan for the full experience.”

To avoid potential for error, ESPN sent down SNB Operations Producer Jack Sheehan to conduct an advanced site survey to review all locations being used to confirm local cable access, as well as security access. O’Connor and company followed up with Sheehan’s written notes and several conference calls among ESPN departments, as well as with MLB and Dodgers staff. Since Sunday Night Baseball has been to Dodger Stadium once already this season and multiple times in recent seasons, the operations team has photo surveys and notes on record.

“Our SNB Operations team prides itself on anticipating needs before they can become issues to be solved in a rush,” says O’Connor. “Detail, review, and conference calls are every-week occurrences, but, with a show that is not business as usual, we include crew members to review challenges and come up with a working plan before we get to site.”