By JOE REEDY, AP Sports Reporter
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Major League Baseball has received its fair share of criticism for changes aimed at getting younger fans interested in the game, but there was one this season that generated rave reviews.
MLB expanded allowing players to be micked and interviewed during games after doing so on a limited basis from 2017 to 2020. It became a weekly occurrence on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” and produced some funny moments.
“I was pleasantly surprised that he picked up and maintained his momentum, as this isn’t the first time we’ve asked for and had a collaboration,” ESPN vice president of production Phil Orlins said. . “So to see it kick off this year, with tangible enthusiasm from the players to be a part of it, has been a nice breakthrough.
Fox first conducted the in-game interviews with the players during the 2017 All-Star Game in Miami. ESPN followed in 2018-19 in spring training before having him in limited capacity during the shortened 2020 regular season.
He was suspended last year due to frayed relationships with the MLB Players Association. But now that there is labor peace again, the mic is back with ESPN seeing most of the benefits so far.
ESPN analyst David Cone said having players on the mic also gives them a chance to show their personality and increase the marketing of the game.
“Their personalities need to be shown more like other sports, and that’s the best opportunity,” he said. “It’s great that the opportunity was there and that it was taken. Each of the players presented a side of their personality that otherwise would not have been seen.
Players have also shown that they can continue playing at a high level with the earpiece and mic on. The only comparisons to what MLB and ESPN do is having NASCAR drivers interviewed during races or players interviewed at Premier Lacrosse League games.
“We don’t know what that player is going to say or what the outcome will be. We’ve had situations where Francisco Lindor receives a ball on the ground, and he was scared to death to kick it while Max Scherzer was on the mound, and he’s on the mic with us. And then the relief on the human side because he was happy to have played along,” ESPN analyst Eduardo Perez said.
In addition to Lindor discussing New York Mets teammate Scherzer’s intensity on the mound, Cincinnati’s Joey Votto made an impromptu play-by-play from first base in the opener against Atlanta.
Boston outfielder Kiké Hernandez discussed whether he would throw home or second base if he had a ball on him. When the Yankees’ Anthony Rizzo had a base hit to center, fans could hear Hernandez coming on the ball and then making a hard throw home.
Lindor, who was mike in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies on May 1, said there wasn’t much adjustment from what he normally does during a game.
“I speak during games anyway, so it’s not something different,” he said. “Fans hear a bit of interaction and how I deal with the game and it’s always fun for the fans.”
Three-time AL MVP Mike Trout is set to be this week’s mic player when the Los Angeles Angels host the Mets.
“It’s definitely different for me because I don’t talk to anybody out there (in the outfield) but I think it’s good for baseball. I’m just going to have fun with it,” Trout said.
The only positions that haven’t yet are pitcher and receiver. ESPN announcer Karl Ravech also noted that it might also be interesting to have a referee do it for a week.
“I think the unknown of any individual is what makes this all great,” he said. “We think we know some personalities and they’re going to be great. We think we know some personalities that are probably not conducive to this or are proving amazing at this kind of side game.
“We learned a lot about Bryce Harper when he was DH. He gave us so much insight from a star player that you wouldn’t get otherwise. And yet Harper, for the most part, is probably seen as a quiet guy. Took us so much away from him because we’re talking about baseball, you know, his comfort zone.”
Mic’d up is likely to expand to other shows as well. MLB chief revenue officer Noah Garden says Fox will do it at next month’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles, while opportunities are also there for Peacock games on Sunday afternoons and coverage. from Apple TV+ on Friday nights.
“We have always worked with our media partners to innovate in our broadcasts and I think it is important for us to continue in this way. Those went well and you keep moving forward,” he said.
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