We continue our guest columns with Dan Servodidio, a journalism student at the University of Maryland. Dan delves into the world of ESPN’s Bases Loaded channel which debuted last year during the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament and returned this year with a few tweaks:
For the second year in a row, ESPN went all-in on its college baseball tournament coverage, airing every single regional game from this past weekend on at least one of their platforms. The NCAA Baseball Tournament doesn’t get nearly as much attention as the popular postseasons of college football and basketball – yet ESPN is clearly taking strides to change that.
On Friday, the network brought back their Bases Loaded program – their version of the NFL Network’s RedZone channel. The show aired on ESPN3 each day of the Regionals, mostly during the primetime and late night hours from Friday to Monday. It served as a whip-around style platform for ESPN to provide unlimited, up-to-the-minute live cut-ins from the entirety of that day’s games, including in-studio analysis and highlights.
ESPN’s Dari Nowkhah and Matt Schick shared hosting duties over the four days, especially during the 10-hour Friday/Saturday versions of Bases Loaded. Analysts Kyle Peterson and Mike Rooney spent most of the weekend side-by-side in the Bristol studio providing their own commentary of each game shown on the program – an especially refreshing supplement to the individual game broadcasts.
Bases Loaded exemplifies the growing interest and dedication by the Worldwide Leader to college baseball over the years. This is ESPN’s second consecutive year of airing games from all 16 regional sites – up from six sites in 2012, four in 2011 and only two in previous years. Every year, the network’s coverage of the sport seems to grow in different and new ways.
Last year, it was the debut of Bases Loaded – an especially huge hit among college baseball fans.
This year, ESPN ramped up the quality of Bases Loaded with a few subtle, yet beneficial changes.
For one, they moved Peterson, a former Major League pitcher and Stanford standout, from his host role of last year to his spot this weekend as the lead analyst. The move made ESPN management look like geniuses, handing over the hosting reins to those fit for the position – Nowkhah and Schick.
Nowkhah, a regular anchor on ESPNU, also hosted the tournament’s May 26 selection show. In addition to co-hosting his own show on ESPN Radio, Nowkhah has done play-by-play for college baseball at ESPN in the past. Schick is also a college studio host on ESPNU.
Bases Loaded is modeled after other popular whip-around style sports channels, including RedZone and ESPN’s Goal Line and Buzzer Beater. The idea is to swing viewers from game to game depending on rallies, close games, star players, upsets and/or end-of-game celebrations and heartbreaks.
The show’s producers, along with Nowkhah and Schick, seamlessly moved in between game action to capture the essentials they believed viewers wanted. After staying on one game for a half-inning or so, depending on the action, the screen would zoom out to a dual-box, tri-box or even a quad-box – showing multiple games at once before zooming back in to a particular matchup.
At one point last Sunday, Bases Loaded producers showed exactly what they were made of.
It’s the ninth inning of a 14-7 blowout in Louisiana as Mississippi State, down to its final three outs, tries to make something happen against the LA-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns. A moment later, Texas A&M’s Grandy Stubblefield nears 130 pitches trying to complete a complete-game, 3-2 win over rival Texas. The next, Louisville’s flame throwing closer Nick Burdi, a top MLB Draft prospect later this week, enters the game with a 4-1 lead – a chance to eliminate their in-state rival, Kentucky, from the tournament. We’re back in Louisiana and MSU slugger Wes Rea just launched a solo homer to cut the deficit to six, staring down the pitcher the entire way. Stubblefield throws his 134th pitch of the game and pumps his fist as he strikes out his ninth Longhorn of the night. Burdi tops 100 mph with one pitch, the Wildcat batters swinging with luck as they stand in the box with fear.
All in a minute’s worth of college baseball on ESPN’s Bases Loaded.
Dan Servodidio is currently a journalism major studying in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. He is a former sports writer for the Courier-Post (N.J.) and former online sports blogger for The Diamondback. He currently broadcasts Maryland Terrapins’ football, baseball and men’s soccer games for WMUC Sports Radio, the campus radio station. He recently started his own blog, Saved By The Ball where he voices his opinions on a wide range of sports. Follow him @dan_servodidio or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to Dan for the column. More guest columns will be posted early next week.