Somewhere in America, just outside a major league baseball stadium, a pair of travel-worn 18-wheelers rest like ships at anchor. From deep within these vessels emanate the sound of muffled voices and the incessant hum of electricity.
A look inside one of these leviathans reveals the glow of more than 40 flashing television monitors, the amplified voices of lead announcers Jon Miller and Joe Morgan and the roar of 20 frantic producers and technicians in each truck who compose the crew of the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball team. Week after week, this television crew travels across the country to cover Major League Baseball’s game of the week.
Tim Scanlan, coordinating producer for ESPN Baseball, is the captain of this team. During the off-season at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., Scanlan charts the seven-month course of the trucks and their technicians. That includes upgrading equipment, installing new computer and production equipment, outsourcing roughly 50 percent of the filming and technical duties to freelancers in the host cities and budgeting several independent remote mobile production units to transport the seven or more cameras from city to city. Once that is done, Scanlan repeats the process for the slightly smaller but equally complex Wednesday Night Baseball unit. Staying ahead of the curve both in terms of schedule and program quality is Scanlan’s biggest challenge in managing these remote teams. “That’s my job,” he says. “That’s the biggest challenge that I have.”
So what’s new for the 2002 season? “More microphones,” says Scanlan. “We want microphones everywhere. We want the viewer to feel even closer to the game.” Actually, most of us here at CIO would rather just see the Red Sox win the World Series.