Behind the Mic: John Smoltz Slides in for Harold Reynolds, Tom Verducci in MLB on FOX Booth; Josh Elliot Leaving NBC

Fox Sports is returning to a two-man booth for its MLB coverage, as the network announced last week that Hall-of-Famer and Cy Young Award winner John Smoltz will serve as its lead MLB analyst beginning in 2016, replacing Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci alongside longtime play-by-play voice Joe Buck. Smoltz initially joined FOX Sports in 2014 and served as an analyst for both regular and postseason telecasts in 2014 and 2015, including the 2014 National League Division Series and 2015 American League Division Series. Smoltz will team with Buck in the booth for marquee Saturday regular-season games on FOX broadcast network and FS1, in addition to the All-Star Game and a full slate of postseason games that includes Division Series, League Championship Series and World Series assignments.

john-smoltz

John Smoltz

Reynolds (a former player and an on-air personality for MLB Network) and Verducci (a highly respected baseball writer for Sports Illustrated) were tapped for Fox’s A-game booth following the departure of longtime analyst Tim McCarver after the 2013 World Series, However, the three-man booth drew mixed reviews. According to the New York Daily News’ Andy Martino, who first reported the move, Verducci and Reynolds will likely have a role in Fox’s coverage, but the specifics have not yet been determined, and could include studio work or other reporting…

…Former ESPNer and ABC Good Morning America host Josh Elliott is leaving NBC after less than two years. Elliot left ABC for NBC Sports in the spring of 2014 and debuted on the network’s 2014 Kentucky Derby coverage. He was widely expected to eventually figure prominently on Today, perhaps even succeeding host Matt Lauer (whose contract expires next year); however, it was not to be.

Elliott, 44, arrived at Good Morning America in 2011 after several years at ESPN and was part of the core ABC anchor team that, in 2012, snapped the 16-year winning streak of NBC’s Today. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it’s unclear what Elliott’s next move will be, but there is industry speculation that he could land at Fox Sports, where he would once again work with erstwhile ESPN executive and one of his most vocal champions Jamie Horowitz, who is now running programming at the division’s cable networks, Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2. (THR)…

… Veteran announcer Mauro Ranallo will be the new voice of SmackDown beginning January 7, when the show moves to its new home on USA Network at 8 pm ET. Ranallo brings nearly 30 years of broadcasting experience, and is currently the play-by-play announcer for Championship Boxing on Showtime and former lead announcer for the Strikeforce MMA promotion. Earlier this year, Ranallo called the international feed for the historic Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight. Ranallo is the only sports broadcaster to call every major combat sport on national television, including boxing, kickboxing and MMA, as well as helping to launch New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. Prior to joining Showtime, Ranallo was the voice of the Pride Fighting Championships, and spent six years in Toronto where he hosted Canada’s first TV show dedicated to MMA while also hosting a daily combat sports radio show…

…Legendary AAA Hall of Fame wrestler Rey Mysterio will join El Rey Network’s freestyle wrestling series “Lucha Underground” during the second season, which premiers on January 27. Mysterio, who stepped into the ring professionally at the age of 14, is one of the sport’s most well-respected athletes. His rapid fire moves and high-flying style helped revolutionize pro-wrestling and his 21 titles (between WWE and WCW). Most recently, Mysterio captured the Lucha Libre World Cup in May 2015. Performing in nearly every major North American wrestling organization, Mysterio’s fast-paced, high flying lucha libre-style offense quickly made him a fan favorite over the past 25 years. In addition to Rey Mysterio’s 21 title reigns, he was also part of the inaugural class of the AAA Hall of Fame in 2007…

…Longtime Golf Channel / NBC Sports golf analyst Mark Rolfing is set to return to the broadcast team at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii, Thursday-Sunday, Jan. 7-10. In August, Rolfing was diagnosed with a rare form of salivary gland cancer and took a leave of absence following the PGA Championship for surgery and treatment. Rolfing, who lives in Maui, will serve as a tower analyst for the first two PGA TOUR events in 2016 – the Hyundai Tournament of Champions (comprised of PGA TOUR tournament winners in the 2014-15 PGA TOUR season) and the Sony Open in Hawaii, the first full-field event in 2016 (Thursday-Sunday, Jan. 14-17). He also will work the kickoff event for 2016 PGA TOUR Champions season, the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, (Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 21-24), and will contribute to Morning Drive and Golf Central throughout the three-week stretch…

… Paralympian Gold Medalist Victoria Arlen has joined ESPN as a contributing features reporter. Along with reporting for espnW and X Games Aspen, the 21-year-old Exeter, N.H. native will also appear on SportsCenter across all platforms. Diagnosed at age 11 with two rare conditions; Transverse Myelitis and Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis, Arlen soon lost the ability to speak, eat, walk and move; doctors believed she had little chance of survival, let alone recovery. Against all odds, she fought through four years of being in a vegetative state and began the near-impossible journey to relearn everyday tasks and functions. Arlen has since become an accomplished motivational speaker, actress, model and competitive swimmer with three silvers and a gold medal from the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Arlen has also broken several World, American and Pan American Records. In May 2015 at age 20, Arlen made the transition from professional athlete to reporter and served as a features venue reporter at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles. In addition to her duties with SportsCenter and espnW, Arlen will also be involved with X Games Aspen 2016…

…SiriusXM has launched a new weekly show hosted by renowned collegiate golf coach Frank Darby, head coach of the Manhattan College Jaspers. On Course, which debuted on December 15 and airs every Tuesday from 8:00 to 9:00 pm ET on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, features Darby – one of the country’s foremost collegiate coaches – discussing methods for coaching golfers both physically and mentally, and motivating players at all levels of the game to improve and play more consistent and competitive golf.  On Course will also focus on today’s college game, player development and a number of other interesting and unique topics in the world of golf. Darby is in his first season as head coach of the Manhattan Jaspers Men’s Golf team after spending the previous 20 years as the head coach at St. John’s University.  In his final season at St. John’s (2013-14) Darby was named Big East Coach of the Year after guiding the Red Storm to a Big East Championship title.