ESPN Featuring Plenty Of Little League Ties During Special "Sunday Night Baseball"
Connecting with the next generation of fans has been a staple of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's tenure, and that effort gets a hefty dose of national TV this weekend as ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" will air from Williamsport, Pa., home to the Little League World Series. The Cardinals-Pirates matchup is being played at BB&T Ballpark, which houses the Single-A New York-Penn League Williamsport Crosscutters. The ballpark is just across the West Branch Susquehanna River from Lamade Stadium, the longtime home to the LLWS. ESPN is planning plenty of special features to highlight the connection between the MLB game and the LLWS, with Senior VP/Production & Remote Events Mark Gross saying, "For starters, from a simple standpoint, you’ll get a sense of context and proximity of, how far we are from Lamade Stadium and the Little League World Series complex. You’ll have a sense of place.” The broadcast will include interviews with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, discussing his stint as a manager in Williamsport in '91, as well as Cardinals P Lance Lynn, who played in the LLWS for Brownsburg, Ind., in '99. Manfred also will swing by the broadcast booth for an interview. ESPN plans to show off pictures of players from each team dating back to when they played Little League. Gross also noted Little League photos of other notable figures, such as President George W. Bush, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dick Vitale and Tom Selleck, will be featured on the broadcast.
KEEPING THINGS FRESH: Gross said that having this sort of promotional game in the middle of August was a way for MLB to “mix it up a little bit” during the dog days of summer. Gross: “Last year it was Ft. Bragg. A year or two before it was the Cuba game. Now we’re in Williamsport. ... I give them a ton of credit for recognizing that there’s an opportunity there to mix it up on a Sunday night and that there’s an opportunity there to grow the sport." When asked about the production challenges of broadcasting a game at a small minor-league venue, Gross said ESPN is in "good shape" for Sunday. He said that from a production standpoint, the net’s focus is on where the announcers are positioned, camera positioning and lighting. Meanwhile, to promote next weekend's MLB Players Weekend, which will see players wearing nicknames on their jerseys, ESPN's announcing crew this Sunday night will wear jerseys that also sport their own nicknames.