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‘Continuing to be a part of ESPN is even more opportunity to make beautiful music with the people around me’

Play-by-play voice Jason Benetti has signed a multi-year extension; he reflects on his career and his colleagues cheer the news

(Photo: Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images/Illustration: Taylor Garner)

Highly respected play-by-play voice Jason Benetti, who has been with ESPN since 2011, has signed a multi-year extension and will continue to call games across multiple properties, including college football, college basketball, and Major League Baseball. (He also continues to call White Sox games locally in Chicago, as explored in this 2017 Front Row post.)

In fact, just this week, Benetti is calling Statcast presentations of multiple MLB Wild Card Series games on ESPN+ in addition to his weekly college football assignment – Tulsa versus No. 11 UCF, Saturday in primetime on ESPN2 (7:30 p.m. ET). Two of his many ESPN colleagues – college basketball analyst Dan Dakich and fellow Syracuse alum, mentor and play-by-play commentator Sean McDonough – sing Benetti’s praises in the video later in this post.

Front Row caught up with Benetti to get his thoughts on his nearly 10-year ESPN career. He spoke about events he’s covered, colleagues he has worked with, and what it means to continue his work at the company.

You’ve covered a variety of sports and initiatives for ESPN –are there any that stand out?
I’ve been really fortunate to do a lot of great events at ESPN, but a few stand out for various reasons.

  • The first Statcast playoff game we did, Rockies at Cubs in 2018, went 13 innings and lasted nearly five hours. It felt like three innings and two hours. It was a beautiful experience where each person on the crew made everyone else better. I’ll remember it forever. I was up until 5 a.m. the next day because it was such an exhilarating experience.
  • FROM 2018: ESPN2’s NL Wild Card Statcast crew: (L-R) play-by-play commentator Jason Benetti; Statcast writer Mike Petriello; ESPN MLB analyst Eduardo Perez. (Ben Cafardo/ESPN)
  • The Cheez-It Bowl in 2018 (TCU versus Cal) was one of the most compelling bad games in recent memory. So many things went wrong on the field, including a sports information director being called for a penalty! But, it was great fun all night.
  • The 2018 Maui Invitational with [college basketball analyst] Bill Walton was the most colorful, vivid three days of television I’ve ever done. Bill is a beautiful soul, and spending a week in Hawaii with him is something I’ll treasure forever.

Is there anyone in particular you enjoy calling games with most and why?
When I ask Walton to pick a favorite in any category, he tells me not to box him into binary decisions. I cannot pick a favorite analyst because all of my broadcast partners bring something different that’s wonderful. To name a few:

  • Dan Dakich has no rules, and that’s great for building live TV. Plus, he’s a loyal, giving friend.
  • [College basketball analyst] Robbie Hummel is a true star in the making and we have a grand time every night we do a game together.
  • My Statcast friends [ writer] Mike Petriello and [ESPN MLB analyst] Eduardo Perez are the best teammates anyone could ever ask for.
  • [College football analyst] Kelly Stouffer, who I did three years of football with, has one of the most honest and caring souls you’ll ever find.
  • Walton is the most creative, dynamic force I’ve ever been around in this world.

But there’s a long list of people who are very close friends because we’ve done games together, and I cherish that deeply.

What does it mean to continue your work at ESPN?
Continuing to be a part of ESPN is even more opportunity to make beautiful music with the people around me for a company that cares about being detail-oriented and loving the craft of making television while having fun doing it.

Shelby L. Lacy produced the video.

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