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ESPN’s Matt Schick: “Mike Rooney is the Kevin Bacon of college baseball”

Refreshed after a recent marathon 40-plus-hour Squeeze Play stint, always-connected analyst Rooney is excited about reporting from the College World Series beginning Saturday on ESPN

After spending four full days in Studio N at ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., headquarters for Squeeze Play during the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship Regionals earlier this month, ESPN college baseball analyst Mike Rooney says he missed that level of fatigue.

Exhaustion from marathon baseball analysis this spring is a welcome feeling following a year without the tournament, which was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The elation of being back in the studio covering the sport he loves was palpable.

“It’s really like sitting in a sports bar watching an event with your friends,” Rooney said of Squeeze Play. “Thinking out loud, experiencing all of the highs and lows along with the teams competing. It’s so much fun that fatigue is not on the table.”

Rooney worked more than 12 hours each day of the Regionals (June 4-7), watching up to 16 games at a time, totaling 102 games the first weekend of the tournament. Kris Budden and Matt Schick joined him, splitting hosting duties each day.

Rooney’s knowledge and passion for college baseball “is second to none, which made him the perfect person to be the heartbeat of our around-the-clock Squeeze Play coverage,” said Phil Orlins, ESPN senior coordinating producer. “He provides the energy and knowledge to take the viewers on an entertaining ride from the first pitch to the final out.”

“He is a host’s dream because you can turn to him for any questions, and he has the answer. He is a college baseball encyclopedia,” Budden said.

Rooney has long demonstrated the ability to adapt as needed; he played six positions during his Notre Dame baseball career.

His Irish missed the 1992 College World Series by one game. He later spent seven seasons on staff at Arizona State.

He found his energy for the marathon ESPN days inspired by personal memories and emotions of playing and coaching in the NCAA Tournament. He also knows that heartbreak of being one win away from a trip to Omaha.

“His depth of knowledge of college baseball is unmatched. The man eats, sleeps, and drinks college baseball,” said Schick. “I’ll mention a college player’s name on the air, and Mike will proceed to tell the story of how he played Little League baseball with the player’s uncle and won a district championship at the age of 10. Mike Rooney is the Kevin Bacon of college baseball.”

To get through the long hours, Rooney credits the ESPN Café app for being the best invention since … Squeeze Play … and iced coffees, BLTs, and Swedish Fish.

“As we signed off Sunday [June 6] night [Monday morning] at 1:15 a.m. ET, I joked on the air that Mike Rooney was going to sleep under the desk like {“Seinfeld” character] George Costanza and pop up for the first pitch the next day,” Schick said.

“I got the sense that he was actually considering it. Gauging his enjoyment and enthusiasm for the game, I do believe baseball actually sustains him.”

Rooney will be in Omaha for the College World Series as part of ESPN’s extensive coverage of the event, beginning Saturday, June 19.

“To have this [tournament] again, it’s almost too good to be true,” Rooney said.

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