It’s not your father’s baseball broadcast anymore.
Gone are the days of a couple of cameras, some instant replays and reverse angles.
Baseball on TV, 1997 version, features microphones on bases, walls and coaches, in-depth scouting reports, multiple replays and high-tech innovations, bringing immediate replays of each pitch in an at-bat and simulated pitches to the screen.
“Baseball used to be a silent movie,” said Fox coordinating producer John Filippelli. “Now the game on TV is a lot more entertaining and viewer friendly.”
Filippelli and David Neal, his counterpart at NBC, are disciples of Harry Coyle, the director who revolutionized baseball coverage while covering 36 World Series at NBC. Both producers said their job is to follow the lead set by their predecessors, taking advantage of innovations.
“We are using the same blueprint that Harry Coyle developed,” said Neal, who will produce the World Series for NBC starting Saturday. “But we’ve added more cameras and better technology that allows us to provide cutting-edge graphics and technology.”
The increase in the number of toys and replays at the disposal of directors and producers also creates a problem - what is too much?
“That’s where the challenge comes in - not intruding on the naturally dramatic moments of the game,” Neal said. “We have all these tools, but it’s a spontaneous decision as to when they are meaningful enough to use.”
Here’s a look at which of the innovations work and which don’t:
Pitch-by-pitch sequence: This allows the viewer to see each pitch to a batter immediately after an at-bat. At the right moment, this is a great way to show how a pitcher can set up a hitter.
Update box: NBC, the lone holdout on continuous time and score updates for NFL games, is also on the wrong side of the fence in baseball. While Neal said viewers never have to wait more than 30 seconds to see the score, inning, base runners and count, that can be 30 seconds too long.
Sounds of the game: Originally used by Fox and ESPN, with cooperation from the league, these make you feel like you’re at the ballpark.
Scouting reports: These brief reports used for pitchers and many hitters are a great way for both casual and serious fans to learn a lot about a player in a short time. As has been shown by some of the strike zones in the playoffs, these could also be used for the home plate umpire.
Supervision: NBC used this on some broadcasts during the season to track the break and speed of a pitch. Even with the improvements NBC has brought to the technology, it still doesn’t show much more than a radar gun and center-field camera.
Hot zones: Fox’s color-coded graphic shows a batter’s strengths and weaknesses in the strike zone. But as analyst Bob Brenly points out almost every time it’s shown, most major leaguers are weak in the same spots - up and in, and low and away. So why even use it?
Around the dial
NBC will team up with sister station CNBC to offer a half-hour postgame special on the cable network hosted by Hannah Storm. … College basketball season tips off tonight at 11:58 p.m. on ESPN with live coverage of the first day of practice at four campuses. ESPN will have crews at Duke, Rhode Island, South Carolina and the Tennessee women for the official opening of practice.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.