In-game chats are talk of town

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 6:55 AM ET

As more baseball traditions become things of the past, its broadcast taboos are also being thrown out the window.

Last season, ESPN was finally able to hook up in-game interviews with Major League Baseball managers for Jon Miller and Joe Morgan during the weekly Sunday Night Baseball telecasts.

For years, the sideline interview has been a staple in leagues such as the NFL, NBA and NHL but baseball got off quietly.

It took some creativity to get player and manager insight during a broadcast, an idea ESPN's senior co-ordinating producer for MLB and the NHL Tim Scanlan believes is working well.

"Baseball didn't have that defined halftime or intermission," said Scanlan. "We used other sports to show them. We usually got the same type of questions in the other leagues. We told them baseball is much richer than that and if we were to do this during a commercial break, we make sure there's no impact on the game at hand."

For most football, hockey and basketball games, the questions range from 'What do you want to do differently next?' or 'What's the extent of so and so's injury?'

In baseball telecasts, Miller and Morgan can chat with the manager about upcoming pitching matchups or certain decisions in the heat of the action. The answers often give the viewer a unique perspective on managerial decisions.

Scanlan and his team will often decide beforehand a storyline to pursue but he gives Miller and Morgan the freedom to roll with the game.

In last Sunday's telecast of the Mets at Washington, live interviews with Willie Randolph and Frank Robinson added fodder for Miller and Morgan. They started talking about Mets leadoff hitter Jose Reyes, who had yet to walk this season, but the conversation led in a different direction.

"We asked him specifically about his pitching staff and what he intended to do after the rainout on Saturday and Pedro Martinez pitching on Monday," Scanlan said. "It was really informative stuff."

The National Lacrosse League has done player interviews in the middle of the action for a few seasons -- usually emerging from a TV timeout into a quick on-the-floor chat. But almost every other league has kept sideline reporters at bay until the buzzer sounds.

Anthony Cicione, director of programming and production for The Score, which has the NLL's rights, said having players talk about the upcoming action puts viewers right on the floor.

If it were up to him, he would do timeout interviews in every sport and mike the players as well.

"Slowly but surely you're starting to see some of that happening," Cicione said. "The NFL have the game mikes going on. But some of the sports are a little bit inhibitive to be doing that. It's great the NLL allows us to do that and have been open to us."

Putting microphones on players is something Scanlan and his crew have tried as well. The problem is none of them can go live because of the possibility of foul language or slander. But with baseball -- the most traditional of all the major leagues -- opening up to new ideas, everyone else should follow suit, including the NHL, for which Scanlan also does broadcasts.

"One of the sports we're pushing with our baseball success is the NHL," he said. "We're rolling tapes for them. We're using the Major League Baseball interviews, the referee mikes in the NBA and the NFL wired segments with players wearing microphones. But we really need the stars of the NHL to say something."


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