By David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun
6:00 AM EDT, October 23, 2013
Watching baseball on television is one of the great joys of my life.
But I have to be honest. By the end of the year, I couldn't watch the Orioles any more on MASN. I was so mad about them playing without a sense of playoff urgency — and the MASN announcers refusing to call any of them out.
I could not stand to hear manager Buck Showalter or his players stand there, loss after winnable loss, talking about how "resilient" they were and how they had to just keep "grinding" while the MASN talent nodded in dumb agreement.
So I switched to other channels for my nightly baseball fix, and one of the new pleasures I found was watching Bill Ripken in-studio on the MLB Network.
This is Ripken's fifth season with the MLB Network, and he is now on-camera there about 100 days and nights a year. He will be doing World Series pregame shows tonight, tomorrow and Sunday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and I know I will be watching him and MLB rather than Fox, which has the games, or ESPN. I think he's that engaging and insightful an analyst.
I talked to Ripken a few weeks ago about his prime-time appearances on the MLB Network and the way his TV career seems to be headed in a very good direction these days.
Q: So, the MLB Network studios are in Secaucus, N.J., and you live here, so what's your schedule like when you get to the point where you are on the air as often as you are?
A: I drive up the day of. ... We have a production meeting four hours prior to your air time. I'm usually there five to six to seven hours before my air time. No offense to Secaucus, New Jersey, but that's pretty much all there is to do: Go to the network and hang out.
Q: Is it a little bit like professional baseball and going to the park?
A: It is an analogy to your former baseball life. If you go to a city and there's a 7:05 game time, it's not uncommon for you to show up at the yard at noon.
There are people around there you like seeing, people you get along with, and you have a good time with them. You goof off, you do your stuff. Then it's time to go to work and prep for the game. That's the production meeting. Then there's a little downtime to decompress from that. And then, soon enough, the light comes on the camera, and you're on.
When it's two days in a row, I go back to the hotel after the light goes off. I try to get some sleep, wake up the next day and do it all over again.
There are an awful lot of similarities with the baseball life and the broadcasting of the baseball life, especially with the stuff I'm doing now in-studio.
Q: I know you are doing some game announcing both at MLB Network and on Fox. You did one game with Bob Costas this year for MLB Network. Do you like working with him? Is he a friend? Do you like game announcing or in-studio analysis more? Or does it make a difference?
A: Let me hit the Costas part first. I think I'm in fairly good standing with my network folks and bosses up there, but they have a lot of guys who do games. John Smoltz and Jim Kaat, they both do really good jobs. And usually Kaat and Smoltz are assigned with Costas.
But I made a point to say to my bosses, 'Look, if you need somebody at any point in time where the other schedules don't work out, please ask me first.'
So that might be the best way of answering your question as to whether I like Bob or I'm a friend of Bob's. I don't know if I'm friends with Bob, because that has to be reciprocated from Bob. But do I like to work with Bob? Absolutely. I even told Bob at the end of the game we did in Boston. He said, 'That was a good game, good broadcast. That was fun.' And I told him, 'This was kind of a semi-bucket-list thing I had, and I can now put a check in the box, because I wanted to work with you.' ...
When you're around Bob even for a little bit, and you see how he talks about the game and how prepared he is and how smart he is, I think you'd have to be half a moron not to want to work with him.
Q: How about in the booth or in the studio?
A: If you were going to give me the choice between game or studio, I'd pick studio. There's a lot more you can do. I try to view the game and see the game in a way that maybe someone has not seen before or thought before sitting at home. You have more time to do that as a studio analyst.
As a game analyst, you point some things out real quick, and, boom, here comes the next pitch. Or here's the next hitter, and then there's three outs and the next commercial break.
But in studio, you have a way and you have some time to see something that maybe happened the night before. And in your pregame, you can really address it. You know, it's somewhat magical when it comes to the boys and girls up there in the edit bays at the network. Working with them, you can do some pretty special things and shine some light on something new.
Q: As the season comes to an end with the World Series, what's your assessment of your season on-air? I know you've been nominated for an Emmy, which is something you have to feel good about.
A: Well, the people up at the network seem to think I have enough versatility to get the job done. I seem to be in pretty decent standing up there. I don't know, maybe I found a niche. Maybe I'm a little bit better at doing this than I was playing.
At times, I thought I was pretty good playing, but doing this stuff right now and getting nominated for an Emmy, that's pretty cool. I was never an All-Star before, but, I guess, if you're going to nominate me in this kind of world, maybe I'm doing OK.
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun