Versatile Danny Kanell tackles ESPN’s college baseball coverage

While at Florida State in the mid-1990s, Danny Kanell had to choose between playing football or baseball. He chose football and became a star quarterback before being drafted by the New York Giants in 1996 – leading to a seven-year career in the league.

BONUS QUESTION: So as a youngster, Danny, which did you prefer – baseball or football?
“Baseball. I didn’t start playing football until my junior year of high school. My childhood dream was to play first base for the New York Yankees – I never thought I’d end up being a quarterback for the New York Giants! My dad was a team physician for the Yankees during spring training in Fort Lauderdale [Fla.], so I’d tag along with him to the games and hang out in the clubhouse any chance I could get.”

Kanell doesn’t have that burden of choice in his broadcasting career. He covers both sports for ESPN and will be an analyst on ESPN’s exclusive coverage of the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship beginning today with the Regionals.

Front Row discussed Danny’s duality with him earlier this week:

How does having played high-level football and baseball help you as an analyst?
I know from personal experience the ups and downs of being in the spotlight and what student athletes are going through. Whether it’s a grueling schedule, demanding coach, rough game or the extreme pressure that comes with performing at the highest level – chances are I’ve been there and done that. I can express to viewers what that experience is like to give a true appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes.

Football offenses are continuing to evolve on a yearly basis, so staying current with the trends is the true challenge. Playing in different football offenses – each with different terminology and strategies – helps me tremendously.

I was fortunate to have played baseball with some of the sport’s brightest minds. My high school coach was Tommy John – yes, that Tommy John! – and I played under Mike Martin at FSU, one of college baseball’s winningest coaches. Minor league baseball was a great opportunity to learn from guys with MLB experience.

Do you approach each sport differently as an analyst?
The process is completely different. I approach football the way I did as a player – watch a ton of film to get familiar with personnel and scheme. I also try to gain as much information from coordinators and coaches as I can. Game day is similar to when I was a player with the hours before kickoff spent reviewing notes and walking the field to check out various players.

You have to dig deeper for baseball information since film is not as readily available, and articles and research are harder to find. But the access is great. We can talk to players before the game during batting practice and coaches answer most questions with a refreshing honesty and candor. During the game, you have more time to talk about the bigger picture story lines.

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