SBD/Issue 181/Sports Media

Versus Making Pro Baseball Debut With Strasburg's Minors Finale

Versus Airing Simulcast Of
Strasburg Minor League Start

Versus will air the first pro baseball game in the network's history this afternoon when P Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to make his final minor league start before joining the Nationals next Tuesday. The Syracuse Chiefs-Buffalo Bisons game will air at 1:05pm ET today, with Bisons announcers Ben Wagner and Duke McGuire handling the call. SportsNet N.Y. will handle the production. Versus will have its logo on the corner of the screen, but the broadcast will be a simulcast of SNY’s coverage. The net will re-air the game at 7:00pm. Versus’ initial broadcast will be blacked out in the N.Y. market. Versus Exec VP/Programming, Production & Business Operations Marc Fein noted airing the game came in part from the hype surrounding Strasburg’s minor league stint this season, as well as the buzz he is creating in DC. “This is his last minor league start, and we thought it would be a great opportunity to see if we could take advantage of it,” Fein said. He noted the agreement with SNY is similar to deals used during the NHL Playoffs to simulcast games nationally. Meanwhile, MASN will air the game at 7:00pm tonight (Rick Ellington, THE DAILY).

MLB DEBUT GETTING NATIONAL COVERAGE: FANHOUSE.com's Josh Alper reported MLB Network will air Tuesday night's Pirates-Nationals game, which is scheduled to be Strasburg's MLB debut. Bob Costas, Jim Kaat and John Smoltz will be "in the booth offering their thoughts on the action." The three-man crew is a "good team for the game." Costas "knows the history of baseball well and can offer some context about Strasburg's debut," while Kaat and Smoltz "will be able to offer first-hand insight into the pitcher's mechanics and stuff." Meanwhile, Nationals President Stan Kasten indicated that Tuesday's game "is essentially sold out." The team "has no more single-game tickets left," though some tickets remain "as part of larger packages" (FANHOUSE.com, 6/2). ESPN's Buster Olney said on "SportsCenter" yesterday, "This is going to be like a rock concert. He's become like baseball's Springsteen" (BUFFALO NEWS, 6/3). CSNWashington.com’s Mark Zuckerman said Strasburg’s debut "is the biggest story in baseball this year, and it is happening in Washington DC." Zuckerman: "DC baseball is relevant I think really for the first time since they came back in town” ("Washington Post Live," Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 6/2). 

THE TALK OF THE TOWN: SI's Joe Posnanski notes Strasburg "has been the talk of baseball since the Nationals made him the top pick in the draft last June," and he will make the "most hyped pitching debut the game has ever seen" when he makes his first MLB start. The biggest reason Strasburg "makes everyone who sees him starry-eyed is this: He's as good as the hype. He might be even better." The Nationals have "tried their best to shield Strasburg." He only talks to the media "on days he pitches," and the team has "kept him on a strict pitch count." However, while the "careful handling of Strasburg is meant to ease the pressure on him, it has only increased the hype around him." His minor league starts "have become major events," as he has attracted the "two biggest crowds ever to watch baseball in Syracuse." Posnanski notes Strasburg is "at the heart of DC's sports hopes," and he "seems equipped to handle it." Former MLB manager Joe Altobelli said, "You know why there's so much talk about this kid? It's because they don't make them like him anymore" (SI, 6/7 issue).

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