ESPN’s MLB coverage of the 2015 season featured a variety of new production elements. With the World Series completed and the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards Show taking place tonight (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET), Front Row caught up with senior coordinating producer Phil Orlins to recap the 2015 season.
There were several new production initiatives this season – from Sundays from the Seats, to Global Game, to The Shift and of course, K-Zone. . . what was your goal in rolling out these new elements?
ESPN’s baseball coverage exists in the most competitive landscape possible. On any given night, there may be as many as 15 games being played and 30 local broadcasts. Our goal with the new initiatives was to find noteworthy and positive ways to differentiate ESPN’s baseball coverage from the crowded landscape. It needed to be done in a strong way that provided added value to our viewers. Not just different for the sake of being different.
Looking back, what were you most proud of from the past season from a production standpoint?
We made visual changes by relaxing the [commentators’] attire and moving the show to a standing environment. The biggest change with Baseball Tonight was taking an unscripted, unpredictable and unformatted approach. We used a saying from a Nick Saban [Alabama’s football coach] seminar about “being comfortable being uncomfortable” and I was really proud of how we embraced that philosophy.
Now that it’s on screen for every pitch, how do you evaluate the impact K-Zone has had on telecasts?
Our first goal with K-Zone was to make it routine in a good way. Over time we were able to do that. To really appreciate the understanding of the strike zone and the accuracy it provides you have to go back and forth between a telecast that has it and one that doesn’t. Speaking for myself, it’s extremely addictive. It’s something you notice and pay attention to. It certainly makes ESPN’s baseball coverage stand out.
What did you feel was the most effective “Sundays from the Seats” telecast?
We had an extra innings game in Pittsburgh and that’s a ballpark [PNC Park] with a college football type atmosphere which is great for baseball. We were at Citi Field right after the Mets got Yoenis Cespedes and they rallied to beat the Nationals. We were also in Boston when the Red Sox were winning handily and we made ourselves a part of the crowd better than we had all season. Of course, Fenway on top of the Green Monster is spectacular, but it was great that we were able to extend to lesser historically known parks as well. They all had remarkable atmospheres.