This segment brought to you by your friendly Astros broadcasters.
A typical ballgame starts at 7:05 p.m., but the process to get ready for that game takes time — often, hours — for those bringing it to the fans through radio and television broadcasts.
Specifically, “the guys in the truck” — also known as the television production crew — arrive to the ballpark six hours before gametime and are immersed in a constant flow of tasks involving building graphics and video that are eventually shown on the nightly telecast.
At Chase Field in Arizona, the TV truck is located just outside of the media entrance. Seven people are crammed into a space estimated to be 10 feet by 18 feet in diameter, and there are 17 computer screens are all going at once, containing everything from graphics for that night’s game to video footage needed for tomorrow’s game to camera angles from various points of the ballpark.
The traveling production crew consists of four people: the producer, Wave Robinson (pictured above, with Jim Deshaies), the director, Paul Byckowski, and two associate producers — Mike Uguccioni (graphics) and Jerry Blancas (video).
The on-air talent spends hours preparing as well. Most of the broadcasters ride the bus to the ballpark three hours before gametime, although the radio announcers — Brett Dolan and Dave Raymond — often go early in order to tape the daily pregame show with manager Cecil Cooper. At home, Raymond and Dolan alternate series while working with play-by-play announcer Milo Hamilton, but on the road, the two call every game together.
Much of preparing for a game simply involves chatting with the manager and players during the hours leading up to gametime. Broadcasters are usually around for Cooper’s daily session with the media, and you’ll often see them interacting with the players in the dugout and on the field during batting practice. These conversations are crucial to a broadcast, for obvious reasons — all of the injury updates and anecdotal information you hear on the airwaves comes from the information they’re gathering pregame.
Prior to the TV broadcast, Wave will pop into the booth for a quick meeting with Brownie and J.D. (Also known in stuffy circles as Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies.) As I quickly learned, this is about as casual a gathering as you will find. By this time of the year, I would imagine Brownie and J.D. don’t need a lot of coaching in terms of when to read a promo or mention a sponsor or talk about an upcoming show on FS Houston. After five months I’m assuming they can probably recite this stuff in their sleep. (I can just picture J.D. sitting up in bed screaming “Stay tuned for our Dodge Grab Life by The Horns feature when we talk to Carlos Lee about his favorite offseason activity!”)
Pregame meeting in the booth…You can see that Brownie and J.D. are paying really, really close attention to Wave’s pregame pep talk.
Brownie, Brett Dolan (right) and Dave Raymond (left) hang out in the dugout during batting practice.
Five days a week, the pregame show features the manager. Saturdays, however, are designated as “Coach’s Corner.” Here we have Dave Raymond interviewing hitting coach Sean Berry. On Sundays, the guest is GM Ed Wade.
Before every game, Wave prints out dozens of cue cards for the TV broadcasters, who have a rundown of when each promo needs to be read. Here we have two that will probably sound familiar to the TV audience.
I snapped this picture about an hour and a half before gametime. FS Houston’s Greg Lucas and Brownie spend quite a bit of time preparing for the game. Brownie is extremely detailed — he has flash cards and highlighters and a scorebook so marked up by the end of the game that it is impossible to decipher…well, unless you’re Brownie.
Inside the truck…as you can see, each screen is split into four sections. Hard to imagine these guys miss anything going on at the ballpark an any given day.
I was lamenting the cramped quarters until Wave said this was one of the bigger workspaces in the league. Most of the time, they have an 8-foot by 10-foot area in which to squeeze six people.
The visiting team crew uses three cameras on the road — one above third base that looks into the Astros dugout, one in the dugout and one for a location that varies from trip to trip. The rest of the cameras are shared with the local team’s Fox crew, which can be somewhat limiting from a creativity standpoint. At home, the FS Houston crew uses 10 cameras.
That’s Jerry Blancas on the far right. Those cool video montages with shots from all aspects of the ballpark that you see late in the game are put together by Jerry.
Up in the booth, Brownie and J.D. spent an inning with Luis Gonzalez, who officially retired and was honored by the Diamondbacks that night. Gonzo also joined the D-Backs front office as a consultant to the president of the club.
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