On ESPN’s Monday Night Football tour, logistics coordinator Jeffrey Leonardo takes care of commentator transportation and works with the operations and production crews to ready the bus for weekly TV segments. Well loved by the MNF team, in 2011 Leonardo was asked to extend his assignment into the spring as driver for ESPN’s Baseball Tonight crew.
Following his second tour throughout Florida and Arizona, Leonardo reflects on memories of Spring Training and looks forward to the season ahead.
You spent some quality time with Tim Kurkjian, John Kruk, Terry Francona, Aaron Boone and Rick Sutcliffe on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight Goodyear Express Tour. What can you tell us about the baseball crew?
Family. One’s nicer than the other one. They’re fantastic. They’re just very, very nice people. And a lot of fun to be with.
Driving from camp to camp in Florida and Arizona, how did fans react to ESPN’s arrival?
They’re stoked. They all have their camera phones ready. You can tell that when the ESPN Goodyear Express is at a particular game, many of those fans who travel to Spring Training feel there must be something special going on.
What were fans asking the Baseball Tonight commentator team?
Without question, they all ask about their particular team. It’s spring. It’s a renaissance. Every team is zero and zero. Every team’s in the lead. It’s just a rebirth, and they’re excited about what’s going to happen that year. They want to know if our guys — whether it’s Kruk or Kurkjian or Aaron Boone or Francona or Sutcliffe — have any particular insight for their team.
Did you have a favorite stop on the ESPN’s Baseball Tonight Goodyear Express Tour?
The first thing that comes to mind is going to the Yankees facility with Terry Francona his first year. That’s certainly exciting. You never know what’s going to happen there with the interaction with him and the Yankees. It was fun to see that.
What was the highlight of the tour for you?
“The Kurkjian-ing” [players and managers doing imitations of Tim Kurkjian] was the highlight of the year. Kurkjian has become hip, and it was great to see that he’s such a good sport about it.
ESPN will televise Opening Night in Miami where the Marlins play host to the Cardinals on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET. ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball team of Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser, Terry Francona and Buster Olney will be at the new Marlins Park to cover the action. Baseball Tonight, with host Karl Ravech and analysts John Kruk, Barry Larkin and Curt Schilling, will be live from Miami beginning at 6 p.m.