SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight round the bases on spring training coverage

The “SportsCenter on the Road” initiative kicked into high gear for the 2015 SportsCenter Spring Training Tour. This time, instead of being on site for one major event, the crew, in some form or fashion, made stops at all 30 Major League Baseball spring training sites in 10 days across multiple time zones.

It was a massive undertaking, but the SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight teams, from production executives to on-site producers to commentators, were willing to do what it took to document two weeks of spring training for baseball fans across the country in fun and informative ways.

Two key behind-the-scenes ESPN staffers who made this tour possible – Fernando Lopez, Baseball Tonight coordinating producer, and Justin Havens, Baseball Tonight senior researcher, shared their thoughts on the SportsCenter Spring Training tour.

“My highlight was being at every single camp. In 10 days we were at 30 camps, which was great. We saw great images, vibrant footage and moments,” said Lopez. “More than anything, I think it developed a lot of good will for ESPN and SportsCenter to attend every camp. I think it was a big home run.”

Said Havens: “The highlight for me was that we were able to bring the players’ personalities to the viewers. That’s one of the things people talk about – that they don’t know baseball players – so from Boston Red Sox, Miami Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates camps we were able to show personalities and our commentators did a great job of bringing that out.”

<center>Inside the SportsCenter Enhancement Unit</center>

If you’ve noticed that SportsCenter content will skew toward a more creative look recently, credit goes to the “SportsCenter Enhancement Unit” aka SCEU (pronounced “SKEW” by those who deal with the re-dedicated, 12-member team).

“We work together to find new and creative ways to bring content to SportsCenter viewers, including anything from a new style of vignette, to a new way to present essays, or to shoot original content,” said Linda Schulz, senior managing producer.

“I work with [Vice President, SportsCenter] Mike McQuade and Mike Shiffman [senior coordinating producer of strategic content and coverage] to determine what news or stories require SCEU elements, address news that pops up, and more importantly look ahead to be more prepared for news. We like to think of it as ‘being smart’ when news develops. I also work with Creative Services and Content Edit to elevate the style in which our content is delivered.”

SCEU’s most recent vignette is the “Best of Bus Tour” highlighting the SportsCenter On The Road initiative covering spring training.

“For a piece like this we put a list together of all the headlines — in this case MLB — prioritize that list, then determine how we are going to tell each story: Reporter? Existing sound? Shoot? Short vignette? Long essay?” Schulz said of editing hours of coverage into a one-minute, 25-second piece.

“Then we take that list and assign a producer, edit time and a reporter if necessary. The style of the piece is developed by a great deal of feedback and communication throughout the project, with these conversations including the music, animation, scripts and edit style. In this case content associate Cornell Jones, received notes from those involved in the tour and spent hours each night combing through coverage until he found a way to tell the story of the day.”

Jones said: “Producing the ‘Best Of’ pieces for the Sportscenter Spring Training Bus Tour was a rewarding experience. The quality in coverage and the popularity of the players interviewed provided our team with excellent material to use. In the edit room there were many laughs shared at the moments in front of the camera, and I’m glad to say it’s reflected in each of the pieces.” – by Dan Quinn

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