Crawford signs ESPN contract extension, slides into LLWS, SportsCenter duties

Strategic commentator announcements continue

Within the past week, ESPN has announced contract extensions with John Saunders and Jay Crawford, the most recent examples in a series of important commentator agreements in the short time period since ESPN’s Up Front week in May.

Prior to Saunders and Crawford, ESPN had announced in recent weeks new deals with key contributors across a wide range of areas, such as Beth Mowins, Bob Ley, Dick Vitale, Molly Qerim, Neil Everett and Stan Verrett, Suzy Kolber and Trey Wingo, Jeremy Schaap, Scott Van Pelt, Ryen Russillo and Danny Kanell, Marysol Castro, Michael Kay and Anita Marks.

“ESPN is focused on hiring and retaining a talented and diverse group of commentators who can help make a difference for our business,” said Executive Vice President, Programming & Production, John Wildhack. “We will continue to be strategic with our approach, while always striving to achieve our goal of best serving sports fans.” – Josh Krulewitz

SportsCenter anchor Jay Crawford is such a devoted baseball fan, he naturally is enthused about calling the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. for his third time – even if it means playing two positions.

For Game 17, Crawford was the play-by-play voice working alongside analyst Nomar Garciaparra and reporter Marysol Castro. He also anchored SportsCenter with Chris McKendry live in Williamsport.

His passion for playing the sport has evolved from his own Little League playing days to a minor-league stint to competing these days in an adult baseball league – debuting as a 49-year-old rookie – in Connecticut with ESPN colleagues.

Crawford, who recently signed a multi-year contract extension to remain at ESPN (see sidebar), tells Front Row why baseball is such an important part of his life, along with his favorite moments covering the Little League World Series.

What has been your favorite moment at the Little League World Series?
Last year, I called Mexico’s third game with Ruy Martinez who cracked a home run during the game. He was less than five feet tall. It was such an incredible moment.

Why do you enjoy covering the Little League World Series?
I love it here! I love baseball and the kids’ excitement in this atmosphere is really contagious. I played Little League when I was younger with some minor league experience. I also played on a travel team in Long Island and Arizona with another ESPNer, Shaun Wyman [manager, Talent Programming & Negotiations]. I can’t get baseball out of my system. They’ll play “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” at my funeral.

Tell me more about the local baseball team you play for now.
My team is the Elmers Silver Bullets [out of Newington, Conn.]. I compete against a bunch of guys from ESPN who beat us in the semifinals last season. One of them is Drew Gallagher [coordinating producer], but there are many others. Garit Grigery [software engineer], Russell LaFleur [software engineer], and I play for the same team. I pitch and play infield. I’m the old man in an 18-and-up league.

Last year was my first year playing in this league after moving here full time from New Jersey. What’s hilarious is that I won Rookie of the Year. I was 49 years old!

For the full game schedule of the 2015 Little League World Series, visit ESPN Media Zone.

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