Each week, Front Row will profile an employee who works behind-the-scenes on ESPN’s Major League Baseball property. This week, we shine the ‘MLB on ESPN Spotlight’ on Rick Mace. Rick is the associate manager of MLB programming, currently in his third season working on the property. Rick explains his ESPN MLB job, his favorite memory at work, and his love of baseball and the Boston Red Sox.
How would you describe your ESPN MLB job?
I’m part of the MLB programming team. My main responsibilities include working with my group to maximize our game selections and to balance the schedule for our MLB games and for Baseball Tonight, while focusing on how MLB fits into the overall ESPN programing landscape. I get to work with all the other groups (production, marketing, sales, communications, digital, finance) at ESPN that touch the MLB property to help coordinate efforts.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Creating our MLB game schedule, but it’s also the most fun. ESPN has roughly 100 game windows over a season and the idea is to put together a plan that gives us the highest collective ratings potential over the season. There are all sorts of rules about team appearances and selection deadlines that we need to navigate. We always want to put on the best and most relevant game on a given night but every selection has a ripple effect and can determine which games are available for the rest of the season. No selection is made in a vacuum. It’s a giant puzzle but it’s incredible to work on.
What’s your best moment/memory at work?
I’m going to go with this year’s Home Run Derby in Cincinnati. We really worked hard for the past two years, both internally and with MLB, to get the Derby right. After 2013, the thought was that there was potential to adjust the format and breathe new life into the event. MLB tried to put a new format in place in 2014, but unfortunately the weather in Minnesota didn’t cooperate.
When we got to this year’s Derby in Cincy the weather again was scary. Hours before the Derby there was a storm that was so bad that you couldn’t see the Cincy skyline. Tornado sirens were going off and production had to evacuate the trucks. Then, the amazing happened. The sky cleared, the Derby started on time, everything worked and you couldn’t have written a better finish by hometown slugger Todd Frazier.
The Derby and new format got great reviews and it was up 30 percent in viewership. The best part was 20 minutes after the Derby ended it started raining again. Walking back to the hotel that night in the rain felt great. Knowing that a lot of people worked very hard for two years to get that event right and watching it actually come together was pretty tremendous.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
All of it. I’m seriously one of the luckiest people on Earth. Somehow I get to have a job where I have to think about baseball all day. I’m still not really sure how that happened. I’ve loved this sport my whole life and now I get to be a part of it. If someone told the 15-year old me that I would grow up and my job would be to spend every day at ESPN, thinking about the best MLB games to televise, and working on Baseball Tonight, there isn’t a chance I would have believed you.
Who’s your MLB team?
Red Sox. There are the Red Sox and then everyone else. I grew up in Massachusetts and went to school down the street from Fenway Park at Boston University. One of the weirdest parts of my job is going to Fenway for work and not wearing my Sox hat. I don’t think that I’ll ever get used to that.