As our own Brent Musburger might have said last night at 20 past midnight, “You are looking live. . .”
But exactly how we looked live at history in the making is an interesting tale of ESPN’s ability to be nimble while also illustrating its commitment to Major League Baseball.
Wednesday night, ESPN producers, production assistants, researchers and programming personnel kept a laser-like focus on Los Angeles Angels’ ace Jered Weaver’s no-hit bid against the Minnesota Twins.
As Weaver and his Angels entered the top of the eighth inning, ESPN2 exercised its “cut-rights” during Baseball Tonight and went live at 12:20 a.m. ET. (Cut-in rights allow ESPN to switch to compelling games when deemed necessary.) There also was a cut-in to the ninth inning on SportsCenter on ESPN and Baseball Tonight at 12:31 a.m.
Baseball Tonight producer Gregg Colli was in the trenches.
“Everyone working on Baseball Tonight really loves Major League Baseball. So, when a historic moment is happening, our producers and production assistants are all saying, ‘What can I do to help?’”
As Weaver took his gem through the sixth inning and into the seventh, the pitcher was on everyone’s radar.
In the seventh inning, Pete McConville, coordinating producer, spoke with ESPN’s programming team, and together they came up with a game plan where ESPN2 would cut-in to the top of the eighth inning and carry Weaver’s final two innings.
Instantly, coordinating producers were relaying to production assistants that they needed new highlights cut and graphics created.
“We had production assistants cutting highlights of Weaver’s performance throughout the game; our researchers were working on full-screen graphics on all of the Angels’ no-hitters (now 10). It was all about Weaver,” Colli said.
Baseball Tonight producers carefully script each telecast, but always remain flexible in case something extraordinary happens. As Weaver took his no-hitter deeper and deeper, the entire Baseball Tonight team was ready to rally.
The developments in LA forced Baseball Tonight producers to scrap the script it had ready, which included features on the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and the entire National League East.
“It’s exciting to watch. There’s a good feeling at ESPN as its happening and you just want to be around it.”
Baseball Tonight host Steve Berthiaume and analysts Barry Larkin and Chris Singleton were in the Baseball Tonight studio in Bristol, providing commentary as Jered “weaved” his masterpiece.
ESPN2 stuck with the live coverage through the ensuing celebration following the final out.
“Steve, Barry and Doug deserve a lot of credit. They had to react to the situation live on-air. Nothing like that is scripted because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Colli.
“We’re all fans of the game and if you’re a fan you must like a no-hitter. And, we get to be the ones to tell the story to the fans.”