Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Getting Through a Season

Producers and directors in the television baseball industry are different than producers and directors of other television sports.
TV baseball production personnel work almost every night. Our crew with the St.Louis Cardinals televise 155 games each season. This works out to be just short of 26 games a month. With the all-star break and a few games in October we average 2 or 3 days off each month.
Football televises 1 game each week.
Basketball and hockey telecasts occur about 3 times per week.
Before I continue, let me explain that I am NOT complaining. I love what I do for a living and feel very blessed that I am in this position.
I am just pointing out the differences in the TV sports industry for the TV production teams. That being said baseball travel is much easier than hockey and basketball travel. For me and I believe most of my peers, there is nothing worse than an off day on the road. While baseball may have 2 or 3 off days on the road during a season, hockey and basketball will have 2,3 and 3v3n 4 off days on one roadtrip.
There are many other aspects that help a baseball TV production crew "get through a season".
1) The team is good.
2) There is a great player or players on the team.
3) There is a huge crowd in the ballpark.
4) The travel arrangements are comfortable.
I will now describe why "getting through a season" of St. Louis Cardinals baseball TV is not a difficult task.
This team is usually very good thanks to their future hall-of-fame manager Tony LaRussa.
The Cardinals have the greatest player on the planet in Albert Pujols who is currently on the DL.
Albert is not the only great player on the ballclub. Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina come to mind. Chris Carpenter, the team leader, is another great player. I know, I witnessed an incredible performance from him in tonight's game/telecast.
Busch Stadium is always packed and the road ballparks always include huge scores of Cardinals fans - the best fans in baseball!
Because of the St. Louis Cardinals organization, we travel in first class style. The service on our Delta Airlines charters is exceptional and the hotels are all 4-star.
It could be difficult getting through the grind of a baseball season.
Not for the St. Louis Cardinals TV crew.
For that, I am blessed.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


There are many ways to be prepared for a game/telecast.
Knowing the players on your team and the players on the opposing team is important.
Knowing the traits of the managers is also important.
Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the telecast crew is very important.
This is the reason why home telecasts are always cleaner than road telecasts. At home, we know the team, the manager, and the crew.
We also know the ballpark.
Every TV baseball director knows his/her home ballpark. This means knowing which camera will give the best angle from wherever the ball is in play.
Tonight's game/telecast was the first time I have ever been in Camden Yards in Baltimore.
What a spectacular ballpark!
I know from experience that the TV crew in the Washington DC/Baltimore area is quite good. This is one of the best crews in all of baseball.
I know the capabilities of the St. Louis Cardinals players.
I know the traits of Tony LaRussa - the Cardinals manager.
I am comfortable with the abilities of this local TV baseball crew.
Before today, I had NO IDEA about the way the ball played in Camden Yards.
My preparation for this telecast was very strong from every standpoint but the ballpark.
The first comment from the excellent technical director (TD) when I arrived at this magnificent ballpark was, "Let me tell you about Camden Yards".
The TD, Mike, told me and showed me the strengths and weaknesses when shooting baseball at this great venue.
What a great help to me for my preparation.
We televised and great, clean, flawless show.
I felt so comfortable when we went to air.
Thank you Mike Cumbo!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Nothing At All

The Toronto Blue Jays beat the Cardinals today by the score of 5 - 0.
This complete game shutout featured a dominating performance by the Jays' pitcher.
There was absolutely nothing at all about this game and this telecast that any Cardinals fan will talk about tomorrow
Nothing at all.
The fans at Busch Stadium watched a "nothing" performance by the home team.
The great Cardinals fans at the game surely appreciated the outstanding performance by the Blue Jays starting pitcher but there was nothing at all to appreciate about the home team's performance.
The great Cardinals fans who watched this game on television saw nothing at all that they will remember and talk about tomorrow.
The St. Louis Cardinals TV production team prides itself in finding interesting video that the viewers at home or in the tavern can enjoy. Indeed, it is a goal of ours to find and televise something that the fans in the Busch Stadium stands do not or cannot see.
There was nothing at all in this game that we could find to enhance the viewers experience.
Nothing at all.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Jerry Seinfeld Blog

99% of the time that I am directing Major League baseball telecasts an idea will come to me about what I will blog about after the game. Tonight's game/telecasts was one of those 1% that did not give me a blogging idea.
We utilized a new technical director (TD) who I hadn't worked with for at least 10 years. He did a great job as I knew he would.
The most excitement of the evening came when our stage manager won the "end of game time" pool the batter after an error extended the inning thus depriving our lead tape producer with the winning time.
We televised a very clean show.
The game is rarely boring and I was never bored during tonight's contest.
I can remember certain plays and certain shots from telecasts in May but there are times when I am driving home that I literally cannot remember the score of the game I just directed.
This was one of those shows.
I had to get on-line to see that the Cardinals lost to the Blue Jays 6 - 3.
I feel that I just wrote a script for Jerry Seinfeld.
I just wrote a blog about nothing.

Friday, June 24, 2011


As I have stated in earlier blogs, the TV production team cannot control the flow of the game but it must control the flow of the show.
There was a great flow to both the game and the show during tonight's Blue Jays/Cardinals contest.
From the opening segment of our telecast until the final out our telecast had a great, great flow to it. This was true despite the fact that our duet (graphics machine) crashed and burned during the pre-game show.
We adjusted by having the Fox Box drop down the initial batter fonts (graphics). Our duet operator, Keith, and our font assist, Dan, were fantastic as they basically built the show from scratch.
There was great teamwork from all involved and the flow of the show never suffered.
The flow of the game was nice as well.
The starting pitchers, for the most part, pitched at a great pace and the home plate umpire had a good strike zone.
This was a comfortable game to televise because of this nice flow.
Until the top of the 9th inning.
Earlier this season, we had a 16 minute delay a the bank of light's over the first base line went black.
The same thing happened again tonight. This time resulting in a 13 minute delay.
At the time of the delay the score was tied at 4 - 4.
I am not in any way saying that the delay played into the outcome of the game but the second batter of the inning went deep and the Blue Jays won the game 5 - 4. The player that hit the homerun was Jose Bautista who leads the major leagues in round trippers. His opposite field blast came off a pretty good pitch so I do not believe that the delay played into the outcome of this game.
Flow, rhythm - call it what you willl.
We captured it tonight.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


There were three TV feeds going out of Busch Stadium tonight. The Cardinals feed, the Phillies and MLB Network.
Also, some of our local camera operators were at the NCAA college world series in Omaha for ESPN. Therefore, we were a little short at the camera position for this telecast.
In fact, our centerfield camera operator (camera 4) had NEVER run camera before. And, Our mid-first base camera operator (camera 3) had never run that particular camera before. This is our most important shag camera. This camera operator, Phil, did a very nice job. The only mistakes that were made on camera 3 were committed because Phil was a little over aggressive. Any TV baseball director can live with this. In fact, I would have no issues if Phil ran this camera again.
Nice job Phil.
Our camera 4 operator was Ben. As I stated earlier, Ben had never run camera before.
I asked Ben to practice during batting practice and to not be too aggressive.
Ben did a great, great job.
It was very refreshing watching these two professionals running their cameras.
During the 4th inning, Adam Wainwright who is on the disabled list with Tommy John surgery, joined our announcers in the booth.
Talk about refreshing.
Adam added some real quality to our show tonight and it was very refreshing having him join the telecast.
Televising over 150 games during the baseball season can be a real grind.
Refreshing moments and refreshing telecasts are very important to every TV baseball crew.
Refreshing = refreshed

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Gift From the Baseball Gods

As I wrote in yesterday's blog, yesterday's game was "a game from hell".
Tonight's game was a gift from the baseball gods.
This 2:17 minute affair was a well-pitched, well-played, and well-paced game.
The type of game that every TV baseball director loves to cut.
Unfortunately, the Cardinals lost the game 4 - 0.
This was our annual "Champions Club" telecast. We place our announcers in the Champions Club at Busch Stadium and basically sell tickets to the all-inclusive area at the ballpark.
Indeed, every telecast is a commercial to sell tickets for Cardinals baseball. The primary responsibility for every telecast is to sell tickets for the ball club.
Anyone who disagrees with this statement does not have a clue about sports television.
So, after the game from hell, we aired one of the most important telecasts of the season and we nailed it.
Every involved in this game/telecast was on top of their game.
Their were a few glitches during the pre-taping of the 4 segment open but the timing was excellent.
Once the game started, the key was to cover the game and the great experience of the Champions Club in a seamless manner. A 4 - 0 game is just the type of game needed to accomplish this goal. A 12 - 8 game, however, is the great enemy of this type of telecast.
The baseball Gods rewarded us for our fine effort during the game from hell and tonight's game/telecast was a huge success.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Inning From Hell

The first seven innings of tonight's Phillies/Cardinals game at Busch Stadium was just what I expected. The best pitcher in baseball, Roy Halliday, was on the mound for Philadelphia and the Cardinals countered with Kyle McClellan.
Going into the 8th inning, the Cardinals led 2 - 1.
McClellan had thrown 70 pitches through 6 innings and with 20 pitches thrown in the 7th inning he left the game with a 90 pitch total.
Halliday was equally impressive and the first 7 innings were a blast to cut.
Well played, well paced, and well pitched.
Just the scenario every TV director loves.
Well played, well paced, and well pitched always means a great flow to the show!
Then came the inning from hell.
The Cardinals bullpen imploded and the Phillies scored 9 runs.
As I stated, McClellan threw 90 pitches in 7 innings.
The Cardinals bullpen threw 64 pitches in the 8th inning alone.
Combined with the Phillies total number of pitches in the bottom of the 8th inning, the total number of pitches in the 8th inning was 79 - 1 pitch less than McClellan hurled in 7 full innings.
Two different games in one.
The best of baseball games to televise switched to the worst of baseball games to televise.
It all changed in the 8th inning.
The inning from hell.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


To begin this homestand, I moved my mid-backstop robo (camera 7) to the first base Cardinals dugout. I moved the X-MO camera (camera 5) to the mid-third base location. This gave me six big lenses around the field with the small lens now in the dugout.
The robo now called camera 5 had runner and first base pickoff responsibilities.
The X-MO now called camera 7 had the same responsibilities just from a different location.
The first two telecasts of this series were fairly clean and were good shows. I did not have to make any adjustments during the game/telecast because of camera problems.
Today was different.
The robo cam became off kilter in the 5th inning. I believe the camera was accidentally bumped and it was jarred in such a way that it was unusable.
Camera 3, located at the mid-first base became my runner and pickoff camera. This was all fine and dandy until the Cardinals scored. I took camera 3 and realized that he was going to lose the runner as he entered the dugout. I went to a crowd shot as I tried to figure out my Cardinals' dugout shot. Finally, after a shot of the Royals pitcher, a Cardinals baserunner, and some more crowd I took the shot from camera 7 (mid-3rd base)
I was not happy that I took four or five shots before I finally directed the shot I was looking for.
I should have adjusted quicker.
The business of live television sports is all about adjustments.
The quality of the telecast depends on the quality of the adjustments the TV crew makes.
I could have been better today.
Adjust, adjust, adjust.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Doing Their Own Thing

First of all, there is no such thing as a perfect telecast.
There are just too many things that can go wrong that are out of control of the TV crew. The duet could lock up, a camera could go down, an effects mic could be too hot or too low, a whip pan could get the idea. When moments such as these occur there really nothing the crew can do but adjust and go forward.
Each and every instance of problems that happen that are out of the control of the production team disrupt the flow to the show.
Again, adjust and go on.
However, there are moments that occur during the telecast that disrupt the flow of the show that are completely under the control of the crew.
These instances happen when crew members "do their own thing".
Camera operators tighten from head to toe to a waist shot.
Audio operators raise the level of the effects mics.
The tape crew adds extra shots to a sequence.
The TD takes a camera on his own. This most often occurs on pickoffs and/or foul balls.
You get the idea.
I don't mean to sound like a dictator.
When one of our telecasts is of high quality, total credit is given to the crew.
When one of our telecasts suffers, the producer and the director are held totally responsible.
The highest quality telecasts are those with a total team effort.
Crew members who "do their own thing" are not members of the TV team.
I can live with and adjust to problems which occur which are out of the control of the TV crew.
I have a hard time dealing with members of a TV crew that are not members of a TV "team".

Friday, June 17, 2011

Meaningful Telecast

I did not blog after last night's game/telecast because I arrived in my door at 4:10 AM. I spent my day with my grandson until I left for Busch Stadium at 2:30 PM.
Last night's game/telecast was extra-inning nighttime getaway game - enough said.
The emphasis of tonight's game/telecast between the Royals and the Cardinals was really a telethon, if you will, for the Joplin, Missouri tornado victims of the past May 22nd.
We wre told that the Cardinals' telecast and radio broadcast raised more than $100,000 for the "children of Joplin".
I was proud to be a part of this important telecast.
One hour before the start of the telecast, I visited the umpires to remind them of the extended breaks for this particular telecast. These fine gentlemen stated that they were proud to be part of this important effort and, in fact, donated a nice sum to the cause. They also officiated a well-played and well-placed game. I thanked these four unassuming gentlemen and told them they would be mentioned on the show and they felt that the mention was "not necessaryt".
I will not mention them by name but you can find them by checking out the box score for the Royals @ Cardinals game of June 17, 2011.
Conducting a fundraising type of telecast while also covering the game can be a difficult endeavor.
Finding a flow to this type of show can take more time than a regular game telecast and this show proved that point. But, after the third inning, we nailed this telecast.
From the third inning on, this telecast was a very successful team effort.
Shows like this take some members of the TV team a little longer to get "into the flow".
Once every member of the TV team was on board tonight this show "cooked".
This was not just a baseball telecast, this was a meaningful telecast.
And it worked!

Meaningful Telecast

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Emotional Moment

The most important factor, in fact the only factor, for the producer and director when televising a sport is to "cover the game".
For local sports television coverage of any sport be it baseball, basketball and hockey (football is the only major sport that is not locally televised) relationships are developed between the TV production team and the players and coaches.
These relationships should NEVER play into the outcome into the delivery of the telecast. The TV production team should never let a relationship with a member of the team being covered affect the coverage of the game/
Because of this reason, a moment during tonight's game/telecast proved to be very difficult for me to cut.
I have found Cardinals' pitcher, Ryan Franklin, to be one of the nicest, friendliest, professional athletes I have ever met in my almost 30 years of covering professional sports. I have respected his remarkable baseball talent as much as I have respected him as a person.
This former NL all-star has had a difficult season.
He has lost the closer's role that he owned starting the season and he has been rarely used since the first month of the 2011 baseball year.
Tonight, Ryan gave up back-to-back homeruns in a game that had already been put away by the home team Washington Nationals. During the second homerun, I took a shot of Franklin on the mound, and I will never forget the affect that shot had on me. This tight look of Ryan's face told the story of a man who believed he was "done".
His career had just ended.
I continued to try to cut the game but I had a huge lump in my throat.
I felt so bad for this wonderful person.
I knew that I could not let this feeling affect the coverage of the game.
I tried the best that I could, but I could not let go of this tremendous sadness that I felt.
I will never forget this moment, this emotional moment of my TV baseball career.
This was the toughest moment of my career.
This was the toughest telecast of my career.
I cannot let this telecast affect me tomorrow.
I know it will.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Good Game, Bad Game, Good Show

For the St. Louis Cardinals fans this was a good game gone bad.
The Redbirds led 6 - 2 going into the seventh inning and lost 8 - 6.
For the St. Louis Cardinals TV crew this was a good telecast that stayed good despite the 3:27 game.
This Washington DC TV crew is good.
They may rival the San Francisco crew in quality baseball coverage. I wrote a chapter in my book Cutting The Game, Inside Television Baseball From the Director's Chair about the great crew in San Francisco. Perhaps I should have included the DC crew in this chapter as well.
The only "pimple" on this nice clean telecast occurred when I looked at camera 5 shagging a fly ball into the right field corner and told the TD to "take 1".
It was an ugly moment to the telecast and I was solely responsible.
It is fun working with a good crew.
There is a bit of a challenge when this occurs and I really enjoy it.
I will give this excellent DC crew's performance the edge over my performance tonight.
There is another game/telecast tomorrow.
Tomorrow's blog could prove to be interesting.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Home TV Crew/Road Director

I was thinking during today's telecast between the Cardinals and the Brewers at Miller park about how a road director and a home crew adjust during a telecast.
The "home" crew for the visiting feed will know the ballpark better than a director who maybe cuts 6 to 9 shows a season at a road ballpark. The Milwaukee crew is a great example of a crew that almost always takes the "best shot". The "best shot" consists of a concise, well-framed look of the play on the field.
I believe that there is too much movement by camera operators after their tally light comes on. A common example is a batter shot from the dugout. Many camera operators start head to toe and when they are on the air they push to a waist shot - almost every time!
I am not saying that they are wrong with this approach to shooting the batter. I personally prefer shots with little or no movement. However, I will start wide and push tight many times throughout a show to mix up my shot sequences.
The road director must adjust to the skill levels of each operator. Some camera operators are just better than others. These skillful ops will see more tally lights than the less skillful ops.
This is in no way disparaging the Milwaukee camera crew because they are all very, very good.
It is more important for the "home" crew to adjust to the road director. Every TV baseball director has a certain rhythm that he/she tries to get into during a game/telecast. The best camera operators figure out this "rhythm" quickly and get the shot in a concise manner. For example, as soon as a play is completed on the field, I immediately set up the next one on one battle between the pitcher and the batter. This means that I have camera 6 (tight centerfield) shoot the next batter as soon as camera 6 shoots this player. Today's camera 6 operator in Milwaukee, Trent, was great at figuring out my rhythm and as soon as I was ready to put the batter on the air Trent was always there!
There is nothing that disrupts a director's rhythm more than when he/she has to say "6, give me the batter".
Fortunately, home TV crews for the road director are very talented in baseball. I am speaking of the National League crews because we have worked together for many years and therefore are able to develop a rhythm fairly quickly.
This will prove to be interesting during our next roadtrip when we travel to two American League cities - Baltimore and Tampa Bay. I have never televised out of Camden Yards and have been to Tropicana Field once before in 2005.
Off tomorrow here in Washington DC and then three games with the DC crew.
I enjoy this crew and look forward to the telecasts.

Friday, June 10, 2011

It's Only June

The Cardinals opened a three game series with the Brewers tonight with a gigantic thud.
They were beaten by by their closest rivals 8 - 0.
Some friends of mine, staunch Cardinals fans, called me tonight after the game to express their opinion on the outcome of the first game of this three game series.
I wanted to scream.
"It's only June!!!"
A major league TV producer and director must develop a rigid mindset during the baseball season.
The same approach MUST be taken for each and every telecast.
The same effort MUST be taken for each and every game.
Just as every game is important for each team, each and every telecast is important for each TV team.
There should be no difference in the quality if the telecast if the game is in Pittsburgh, Chicago, San Diego, or Milwaukee.
There is no difference in the effort by the MLB baseball team each and every game and the same is true with each telecast.
Spring training, April, May, June, July, August, September, and sometimes does not matter.... the same effort must be given by the baseball team and the TV team.
The success of the season for both entities depends on it.
"It's only June."

How Lucky Can I Be

It is 4:14 in the morning and I just checked into my room at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee.
How lucky can I be!!!
The Cardinals just took two out of three from the Astros in Houston and noe have the most wins in all of baseball.
How lucky can I be!!!
Two weeks ago, a good friend of mine, Marty Brennaman, hall of fame announcer of the Cincinnati Reds said the Cardinals were the most hated team in baseball.
How lucky can I be!!!
The Cardinals, after a slow start, continue to win series after series. And they do it without contributions from the four best players on the team. Albert Pujols is hitting .270. Chris Carpenter has one win. Adam Wainwright will not pitch until next season. All-star closer Ryan Franklin has lost his job after surrendering leads earlier in the season.
How lucky can I be!!!
We begin a three game series with the Milwaukee Brewers tomorrow. The Brewers are playing good baseball right now and are a serious threat in the NL Central division.
I already know what I will blog after this series is completed.
"How lucky can I be!!!"

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Near no-hitter

Tonight's pitching matchup for the Cainals/Astros game featured Jaime Garcia vs. Bud Norris.
During the pre-game show, I predicted on headset to our visiting crew that Jaime Garcia would throw a no-hitter this season. There have been games this season where Jaime has been absolutely dirty. In fact, he carried a perfect game into the 8th inning earlier this season. I would have been prophetic tonight if I would have made the comment about Astros hurler Bud Norris.
Norris carried a no-hitter into the 7th inning and he faced the minimum because his two walks were both eliminated by double plays.
Mike, our producer, and I began discussing camera isos before the inning started anticipating a no-hitter. Apart from the perfect game, the no-hitter is a highly anticipated game by any TV crew.
The no-hitter ended with a home run by former Astro Lance Berkman. The effort by right fielder Hunter Pence was maybe our best replay of the game.
Regardless of which team is throwing the no-hitter, the TV crew becomes pumped and the telecast becomes sharper. Our telecast was one of the better shows of the season because of the game but also because of the Houston visiting TV crew.
This crew is good, very good, and it is a pleasure watching their performance.
This is a veteran crew that delivers.
This crew deserves a no-hitter out of their home park. Something that has never happened.
When a no-hitter or perfect game occurs in Houston, the coverage will be stellar.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bases Loaded

Throughout the season the game will usually dictate the required coverage from the TV production crew. It is how the TV team reacts to the game that determines the quality of the telecast. Sometimes the game is good to the TV crew and sometimes the game is quite difficult for the telecast to capture.
Tonight's Cardinals/Astros game was a classic example of the game determining the coverage.
A most important and a most exciting part of any game occurs when the bases are loaded. The successful teams deliver when the bags are full. Tonight's Cardinals/Astros game was a game in which the bases seemed to be loaded all night long.
The Cardinals delivered a bases clearing double with the bases loaded with the double being delivered by the starting pitcher. The Astros were 0-6 with the bas loaded.
That was the game and that was the game summary as we closed out the show.
I can't think of a situation that fires up the TV crew more than when the bases are loaded. Surely, there is an incredible high when a sucessful at-bat occurs with the bas loaded and it is a bit of a downer when the team at the plate doesn't deliver. This is true no matter which team is at the plate.
Tonight's Cardinals/Astros game was full of exciting moments. Fortunately for the Cardinals' fans, the Astros' fans were disappointed throughout the telecast.
Cardinals deliver - Astros do not deliver.
Game over - Cardinals 7, Astros 4.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


I have been unable to blog for the past week and I do not know why.
For some reason, this blog published while others did not.
Thank you to all who have inquired about the lack of this blog.
I apologize.

Covering Albert

There are many reasons why I love what I do for a living.
I get to cover what I believe to be the greatest game in the world - baseball.
I cover a major league baseball team - the St. Louis Cardinals - that is considered one of the best organizations in all of sports.
Our home telecasts are out of Busch Stadium which is usually full and always rocks.
Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of what I do for a living is that each and every game I get the privilege to cover the greatest baseball player of today if not ever.
This player is Albert Pujols.
This season is Alberts eleventh in the big leagues. The first ten seasons of this illustrious career showed a player who put up numbers like no other in the history of the game. The average fan knows how good Albert is because of these numbers.
I believe that Albert's greatness is because everyone involved in the game is better, plays better, and works better because of Albert Pujols. I am not talking just about the other players, coaches and managers on the field.
I am also talking about the TV crew.
The home TV crew in St. Louis at Busch Stadium works harder and becomes better when Albert is at the plate. When we are on the road, the visiting TV crew performs better when Albert is at the dish.
Albert makes EVERYBODY involved in the game better.
Albert hit a walk-off extra inning homerun for the second consecutive day today. Yesterday's bomb was on big Fox and I had the pleasure of watching it from my home.
I had the pleasure of cutting today's blast on FSN Midwest.
EVERY member of our crew delivered during this game-winner.
The audio was great and the video was perfect.
The roll out was exceptional.
This was a great, great telecast.
Thank you Albert Pujols.

The Amazing Albert

Albert Pujols hit his second walk off homerun in as many days as the Cardinals completed a sweep of the Cubs today at Busch Stadium.