Connect with us

BSM Writers

As Humans Fight To Survive, Baseball Fights Over … Money?

“Jay Mariotti writes that baseball isn’t as essential to our lives as we thought.”

Published

on

If not for years of plummeting TV ratings, 3 1/2-hour games that defy 21st-century life, an electronic sign-stealing scandal that didn’t punish guilty players, a juicing/dejuicing of balls that smacks of institutional cheating akin to PED use, marketing failures that reduce Mike Trout to a niche endorser and a sleepy reality that few people under 50 give a damn, then, sure, we could accept a syrupy premise: Resuming baseball would provide a spiritual and symbolic lift to a country still largely trapped in isolated misery.

But, to be blunt as a beanball, this is a sport in slow, clumsy decline, incapable of engendering the hope so potent when it served as a soothing pastime amid previous crises. And as Covid-19 continues to take lives and scramble coronavirus hotspots like a game of whack-a-mole, baseball isn’t endearing itself to the masses anyway. Yep, owners and players actually are engaging in the same labor warfare that repulses fans in normal times, much less during the medical catastrophe of our time. Given the existential option of billionaires vs. millionaires — pandemic version — or being droplet-assaulted in a grocery store by a maskless serial sneezer, you know what?

I just might choose Aisle 9.

The Doors and R.E.M. are warming up, ready to ponder the apocalypse. Here we have Dr. Donald J. Trump, ignoring warnings from Dr. Anthony Fauci and the World Health Organization that deadly consequences await if the American economy reopens too quickly. Here we have the predictable emerging whistleblower, the former chief of a federal agency responsible for developing a coronavirus vaccine, warning of “the darkest winter in modern history.’’ Here we have one nation, under God, quite divisible by those who care about precaution and staying safe and those who want to throw Spread The Virus parties with no regard for human life. Yet like some reality-deaf hybrid of cats, dogs, Hatfields, McCoys, Scorpions, Sub Zeroes, Krees, Skrulls, Trumpers and anti-Trumpers, the basebrawlers prefer to resume their age-old duel over revenues at the worst imaginable moment.

MLB Owners Approve 2020 Season Proposal - Betting News

The owners want players to accept a 50/50 split in an 82-game season, beginning in early July, that would feature geographical pods and expanded playoffs … the players say they’ve already agreed to prorated salaries based on the number of 2020 games played … the owners say an absence of paying customers will cost them 40 percent of total revenues … the players don’t want a salary cap and don’t trust the owners, never have, and want to them to open the financial books to see how much teams make from lucrative media deals … the owners order a purpose pitch thrown at union leader Tony Clark.…and one of the game’s prominent pitchers, Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell, becomes the first of no doubt many players to say he’ll sit out this season under the revised financial terms.     

“Just not worth it,’’ Snell told followers while answering questions on his Twitch channel. “Y’all gotta understand, man, for me to go — for me to take a pay cut is not happening, because the risk is through the roof. It’s a shorter season, less pay. No, I gotta get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine, OK? And that’s just the way it is for me. Like, I’m sorry you guys think differently, but the risk is way the hell higher and the amount of money I’m making is way lower. Why would I think about doing that?”

And all the while, there’s a sense the owners aren’t as headstrong about the most critical issue of any resumption-of-sports discussion: preventing virus outbreaks and keeping all players and employees safe. Major League Baseball is preparing a document addressing safety and health protocols, reports USA Today, and players and team personnel will be required to take regular tests for the virus — and also will be asked not to spit, extend high-fives, sign autographs, take photos with fans or use ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. But with hospitals, laboratories and nursing homes in hard-hit areas still plagued by test shortages, how can MLB and other leagues, in good conscience, hoard kits and deplete public supplies just to salvage some of their lost billions?

Do the painful math: Dozens of players, managers, coaches, doctors, trainers, groundskeepers, security officers, clubhouse attendants, cooks and other support members — in a league of 30 teams — would need to be routinely tested during a season that could last five months. I don’t care if teams purchase kits from private vendors; those tests should be prioritized for patients and doctors who need them. This also applies to the NBA, which weighs whether to resume its season within an isolated “campus’’ in Las Vegas and/or Orlando, and entities that either are returning or leaning that way: NASCAR, the PGA Tour and Major League Soccer.

The incremental reopening of America likely will lead to a new wave of the virus — “needless suffering and death,’’ says Fauci — that makes the resumption of sports even more delusional and ill-advised. But baseball commissioner Rob Manfred and the owners, contrary to the measured and health-first mandate of NBA commissioner Adam Silver, refuse to hear anything except the eerie silence of locked ballpark turnstiles. This has led to unfortunate back-and-forth crossfire this week, with the players who are taking the health risks — jeopardizing themselves and family members upon returning from home ballparks each night — being attacked by critics with obvious connections to management agendas.

Skipping over Illinois schools, J.B. Pritzker takes aim at budget ...

Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker has the owners of Chicago’s two MLB franchises, Jerry Reinsdorf and Tom Ricketts, on speed dial. Think it was simply coincidence when he launched this bomb: “I realize that the players have the right to haggle over their salaries, but we do live in a moment where the people of Illinois and the people of the United States deserve to get their pastime back — to watch, anyway, on television. If they’re able to come up with safety precautions, as has been suggested by Major League Baseball, that works, I hope the players will understand that the people of our United States need them to recognize this is an important part of leisure time that all of us want to have in the summer: to watch them play baseball, to root for our favorite teams. We need that back. We need that normalcy. I must say I’m disappointed in many ways that players are holding out for these very, very high salaries and payments during a time when I think everybody is sacrificing.’’

Next time, the governor might try doing homework. The players are not “holding out for these very, very high salaries.’’ The owners, in fact, are attempting to extract more from the Players Association after the union already agreed in March to reduced compensation for a coronavirus-limited season. Sadly, we are subjected to this distasteful rhetoric anyway, amid what might be our most daunting life challenge as a collective society. The world might cease to exist tomorrow, but, hey, at least the owners will have made the players look like bad guys again.

“It feels like the conversation about an MLB restart has shifted to the economic issues and that’s really frustrating,” tweeted Nationals closer Sean Doolittle, among the most vocal of players firing back. “Until there’s a vaccine, let’s focus on keeping everyone as safe as possible & minimizing the risks so we can play baseball again.”

Which followed this tweet from a Doolittle feed worth following: “Bear with me, but it feels like we’ve zoomed past the most important aspect of any MLB restart plan: health protections for players, families, staff, stadium workers and the workforce it would require to resume a season. We need to consider what level of risk we’re willing to assume.”

The outspoken Reds pitcher, Trevor Bauer, was bound to weigh in, calling the owners’ stance “laughable” in a video. “The ask is basically: Take more risk by getting back sooner and take less pay. We’ve already agreed to take … a 50 percent pay cut, and now they’re asking us to take another pay cut,” he said, adding in a tweet, “Same song and dance from @mlb. Leak a story. Negotiate through the media. Make players out to be the bad guys.’’

He ended with gusto: “GTFO.” Feel free to translate.

World Series Champion & Three-Time All-Star Mark Teixeira Joins ...

You might know my feelings on this topic: It’s unconscionable to resume sports in a pandemic until the people in uniform know they’re safe beyond doubt — and with no vaccine or cure in sight, they will not be safe. I just expected civil discourse under unprecedented circumstances, not Tonya Harding’s goon whacking Nancy Kerrigan. The hypocrite award goes to ESPN analyst Mark Teixeira, who made more than $200 million during his big-league career yet thinks the players should agree to another financial haircut. Manfred himself couldn’t have made a better argument.

“Players need to understand that if they turn this deal down and shut the sport down, they’re not making a cent,” Teixeira said. “I would rather make pennies on the dollar and give hope to people and play baseball than not make anything and lose an entire year off their career.

“This is unprecedented in the history of the Players Association. And every other year, I would stand together and say, `The owners aren’t going to do this to us and we’re going to get paid our full fare. If I’m going to put myself out there, I’m going to get paid a full day’s wage.’ The problem is you have people all over the world taking pay cuts, losing their jobs, losing their lives. Front-line workers putting their lives at risk. These are unprecedented times, and this is the one time I would advocate for the players accepting a deal like this. A 50-50 split of revenues is not that crazy. If I’m a player, I don’t like it, but I’m going to do whatever I have to do to play and that means taking this deal.”

So, if I’m hearing correctly, the players should bear the entire financial burden of bolstering the American psyche AND take all the health risks? And if they don’t, they’re the dirty rats? We’re actually doing this dance during a pandemic? Teixeira, it should be noted, works for a bleeding sports network that is all but performing mass prayer sessions every night for the return of sports. Think he didn’t hear “Attaboy’’ a few times this week in Bristol? He also heard from the other side. “I refuse to judge someone I don’t really know off of one comment, but damn this statement is just so stupid lol,” Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood tweeted about Teixeira.

The owners and their management underlings, of course, wouldn’t be going anywhere near a ballpark this season. They’ll be ensconced in virus-proof vaults, chatting with relieved accountants. Never mind the numerous MLB players more vulnerable to the virus because of preexisting health conditions, including cancer survivors and heart patients. “There’s no way I want to get sick and bring it home to our 18-month-old girl and possibly get her sick,’’ A’s pitcher Jake Diekman, who has autoimmune deficiencies related to colitis, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Jessica Cox Wiki (Mike Trout's Wife)

We haven’t even considered Trout, whose wife, Jessica, is due to give birth to their first child in August. He already is on record as telling NBC Sports: “What am I going to do when she goes into labor? Am I going to have to quarantine for two weeks after I come back? Obviously, I can’t miss the birth of our first child.’’ MLB can’t conduct a realistic season if Trout is away for an extended period, or if he chooses not to play at all.

And what happens when inevitably, as seen in Dana White’s hellbent push to stage UFC 249, an athlete tests positive? White didn’t blink after Ronaldo “Jacare’’ Souza and two of his cornermen had to be sent home, proceeding with spectator-less shows on Saturday and Wednesday and not seeming to care about a virus outbreak in his Florida quarantine bubble. Remember, this is the man-child who said, “I don’t give a sh-t about the coronavirus.’’ Would White even come clean if there were multiple positive tests? Wouldn’t he cover it up to protect his business?

MLB and the NBA, neither a rogue operation such as UFC, have to be transparent to maintain the public trust. But MLB has had trouble with the truth in various scandals, and it scares me when Manfred and the owners shamelessly drag money into the bigger equation. If they are capable of this much, will they be completely honest about testing protocols and results? When players test positive — and they will — will MLB insist on continuing the season and risking virus breakouts? If so, money would be the driving force, not safety, and that is abhorrent.

Take me out to the ballgame, where it’s OK to spare lives if owners and TV networks can squeeze in their abbreviated season.

Coronavirus: South Korea declares highest alert as infections ...

All anyone needs to know about the coronavirus is South Korea. And I don’t mean those wee-hours KBO games aired by ESPN, where cardboard cutouts serve as fans and the first ball arrived from a kid inside a rolling bubble. The world had praised that country for beating back the virus, to the point of reopening schools, returning to offices and resuming sports. But bars and nightclubs also were reopened, foolishly, and a 29-year-old man who went clubbing came down with Covid-19. That quickly, more than 100 others tested positive, prompting another mass shutdown as Seoul awaits the dreaded second wave.

As the good doctors say, it takes only one positive test to unleash the pandemic monster. Somehow, that harrowing truth has eluded billionaire owners who’d rather talk money than medical sense. Thus, with twisted priorities that don’t reflect the mood of a national emergency, baseball isn’t as essential to our lives as we thought.

Actually, we’re better off without it. As if a Mariners-Padres game in an empty ballpark really could improve your life.

Jay Mariotti, called “the most impacting Chicago sportswriter of the past quarter-century,’’ is the host of “Unmuted,’’ a frequent podcast about sports and life (Apple, Podbean, etc.). He is an accomplished columnist, TV panelist and radio host. As a Los Angeles resident, he gravitated by osmosis to movie projects. He appears Wednesday nights on The Dino Costa Show, a segment billed as “The Rawest Hour in Sports Broadcasting.’’

Barrett Blogs

Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?

Published

on

How many times have you heard this sentence uttered at conferences or in one of the trades; radio has to do a better job of telling its story. Sounds reasonable enough right? After all, your brands and companies stand a better chance of being more consumed and invested in the more that others know about them.

But what specifically about your brand’s story matters to those listening or spending money on it? Which outlets are you supposed to share that news with to grow your listenership and advertising? And who is telling the story? Is it someone who works for your company and has a motive to advance a professional agenda, or someone who’s independent and may point out a few holes in your strategy, execution, and results?

As professionals working in the media business, we’re supposed to be experts in the field of communications. But are we? We’re good at relaying news when it makes us look good or highlights a competitor coming up short. How do we respond though when the story isn’t told the we want it to? Better yet, how many times do sports/news talk brands relay information that isn’t tied to quarterly ratings, revenue or a new contract being signed? We like to celebrate the numbers that matter to us and our teams, but we don’t spend much time thinking about if those numbers matter to the right groups – the audience and the advertisers.

Having covered the sports and news media business for the past seven years, and published nearly eighteen thousand pieces of content, you’d be stunned if you saw how many nuggets of information get sent to us from industry folks looking for publicity vs. having to chase people down for details or read things on social media or listen to or watch shows to promote relevant material. Spoiler alert, most of what we produce comes from digging. There are a handful of outlets and PR folks who are great, and five or six PD’s who do an excellent job consistently promoting news or cool things associated with their brands and people. Some talent are good too at sharing content or tips that our website may have an interest in.

Whether I give the green light to publish the material or not, I appreciate that folks look for ways to keep their brands and shows on everyone’s radar. Brand leaders and marketing directors should be battling daily in my opinion for recognition anywhere and everywhere it’s available. If nobody is talking about your brand then you have to give them a reason to.

I’m writing this column today because I just spent a day in New York City at the Disney Upfront, which was attended by a few thousand advertising professionals. Though I’d have preferred a greater focus on ESPN than what was offered, I understand that a company the size of Disney with so many rich content offerings is going to have to condense things or they’d literally need a full week of Upfronts to cover it all. They’re also trying to reach buyers and advertising professionals who have interests in more than just sports.

What stood out to me while I was in attendance was how much detail went into putting on a show to inform, entertain, and engage advertising professionals. Disney understands the value of telling its story to the right crowd, and they rolled out the heavy hitters for it. There was a strong mix of stars, executives, promotion of upcoming shows, breaking news about network deals, access to the people responsible for bringing advertising to life, and of course, free drinks. It was easy for everyone in the room to gain an understanding of the company’s culture, vision, success, and plans to capture more market share.

As I sat in my seat, I wondered ‘why doesn’t radio do this on a local level‘? I’m not talking about entertaining clients in a suite, having a business dinner for a small group of clients or inviting business owners and agency reps to the office for a rollout of forthcoming plans. I’m talking about creating an annual event that showcases the power of a cluster, the stars who are connected to the company’s various brands, unveiling new shows, promotions and deals, and using the event as a driver to attract more business.

Too often I see our industry rely on things that have worked in the past. We assume that if it worked before there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for the client. Sometimes that’s even true. Maybe the advertiser likes to keep things simple and communicate by phone, email or in-person lunch meetings. Maybe a creative powerpoint presentation is all you need to get them to say yes. If it’s working and you feel that’s the best way forward to close business, continue with that approach. There’s more than one way to reach the finish line.

But I believe that most people like being exposed to fresh ideas, and given a peak behind the curtain. The word ‘new’ excites people. Why do you think Apple introduces a new iPhone each year or two. We lose sight sometimes of how important our brands and people are to those not inside the walls of our offices. We forget that whether a client spends ten thousand or ten million dollars per year with our company, they still like to be entertained. When you allow business people to feel the excitement associated with your brand’s upcoming events, see the presentations on a screen, and hear from and interact with the stars involved in it, you make them feel more special. I think you stand a better chance of closing deals and building stronger relationships that way.

Given that many local clusters have relationships with hotels, theaters, teams, restaurants, etc. there’s no reason you can’t find a central location, and put together an advertiser appreciation day that makes partners feel valued. You don’t have to rent out Pier 36 like Disney or secure the field at a baseball stadium to make a strong impression. We show listeners they’re valued regularly by giving away tickets, cash, fan appreciation parties, etc. and guess what, it works! Yes there are expenses involved putting on events, and no manager wants to hear about spending money without feeling confident they’ll generate a return on investment. That said, taking calculated risks is essential to growing a business. Every day that goes by where you operate with a ‘relying on the past’ mindset, and refuse to invest in growth opportunities, is one that leaves open the door for others to make sure your future is less promising.

There are likely a few examples of groups doing a smaller scaled version of what I’m suggesting. If you’re doing this already, I’d love to hear about it. Hit me up through email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. By and large though, I don’t see a lot of must-see, must-discuss events like this created that lead to a surplus of press, increased relationships, and most importantly, increased sales. Yet it can be done. Judging from some of the feedback I received yesterday talking to people in the room, it makes an impression, and it matters.

I don’t claim to know how many ad agency executives and buyers returned to the office from the Disney Upfront and reached out to sign new advertising deals with the company. What I am confident in is that Disney wouldn’t invest resources in creating this event nor would other national groups like NBC, FOX, CBS, WarnerMedia, etc. if they didn’t feel it was beneficial to their business. Rather than relying on ratings and revenue stories that serve our own interests, maybe we’d help ourselves more by allowing our partners and potential clients to experience what makes our brands special. It works with our listeners, and can work with advertisers too.

Continue Reading

BSM Writers

Brandon Kiley Doesn’t Pretend To Be Someone He’s Not

“There was a time where the audience probably said, this guy isn’t a St Louisan. But this is home for me now and I’ve adopted it.”

Published

on

There must have been something about Brandon Kiley that everyone saw as a young aspiring sports radio host. Nick Wright saw enough to bring him to Houston at SportsRadio 610 as an intern for a summer. Will Palaszczuk saw enough to urge him to apply for his old job in Columbia, MO at KTGR. Ben Heisler saw enough to know he’d fit perfectly with Carrington Harrison in afternoon drive at 610 Sports in Kansas City. 

Maybe you can chalk it up to Kiley being able to make such great contacts. Or maybe it’s just that he was supremely talented at a young age. Odds are it’s a combination of both. But he was destined to be a sports talk host somewhere, it just turns out he’s having success over the air in a city he never imagined he’d work in. 

A Kansas City kid, Kiley knew at 16 years old he wanted to be a sports radio host. He was even more sure of it when he started doing college radio at Mizzou. But it was in Houston where he got his real taste of what sports radio was like.

“I went to 610 in Houston for the morning show with Nick Wright,” Kiley said. “He basically just assigned me as an extra producer. We had known about each other through Twitter and I had a little bit of a relationship with him beforehand. I think he knew I was willing and able to take on more tasks than a typical intern would usually do. Essentially, I became an extra guest booker, cut audio for them, and came up with topics at night. It was like he had an extra producer for the summer and it was my first real experience doing something like that.”

Imagine the confidence he left Houston with as he traveled back to Columbia for another year of college at Mizzou. Few, if any, on campus could have claimed the kind of summer Kiley just had. He parlayed that experience into a once-a-week show at KCOU, the student radio station. The following semester, he pitched the idea of doing a daily show

“I told them I’d take any time slot available,” Kiley said. “The one that I got was the very glamorous 6-7 am time slot. There weren’t a whole lot of college kids that wanted to wake up that early every morning. I ended up having a rotating cast of co-hosts and it ended up being super valuable because I learned how to work with a lot of types of personalities.”

He excelled as a host and found his style behind the mic, and soon after, he got his first big break. In March of 2014, Will Palaszczuk contacted Kiley and told him he was taking another radio job outside the market. The two knew of each other, seeing as both were in Columbia and covering the same games in town. Palacsuk told Kiley he needed to apply for the spot he was leaving at KTGR.

“There was literally one sports station and one sports show in town and it was that one,” Kiley said. “I applied to him the previous semester and said, hey man, if you guys have anything available I would love to come work there. It just so happened he got a job elsewhere and he called me up and said, ‘Hey man, I don’t know what your plans are, I’m about to take another job and they’re going to post my job available. I don’t know if they’re going to make it a producer or co-host gig, but I think you should apply because I think you’d be good at it’. Will’s good work helped a ton in terms of me landing the gig. I graduated and told them I wanted to make it full-time.I was essentially a producer and co-host for the afternoon show. I never even applied anywhere outside of Columbia”

For two years, Kiley stayed at KTGR and covered the Missouri Tigers. He was fresh out of college and living in a college town doing what he loved in his early 20’s. It wasn’t a bad life. But one night in Columbia changed his entire professional career. It just so happened it occurred on the rooftop at Harpo’s, one of the most well-known establishments in town.

“My roommate at the time, we both worked at the radio station in Columbia,” said Kiley. “He worked at the hit music station and I worked at the sports station. We all went out one night at Harpo’s and he said, ‘Hey, I just want to let you guys know I’m getting out of radio and moving to Kansas City.’ I was like, oh shit, what am I going to do? Our lease was up in two months, so the timing worked out well and I was looking at Barrett Sports Media looking where I could go next.”

“My girlfriend at the time, now my wife, was from St. Louis and there was a job available there. I had always thought, that’s not a place I want to live, why would I ever want to live in St. Louis? They didn’t have a football team, it just didn’t seem like a great fit for me. But my buddy tells me he’s moving and I’m like, St, Louis it is! That night I ended up applying for the job and got a call back from Chris “Hoss” Neupert, who at the time was the PD here, and asked if I would be interviewed with him and Kevin Wheeler, whose show I would be producing.”

So off to St. Louis he goes. For three and a half years, Kiley embraces his new city and tries to work his way up at 101 ESPN. 

But the Kansas City kid felt a pull back to his hometown. Oddly enough, Ben Heisler even reached out to tell him he was leaving the station to pursue another opportunity in sports. It felt like the perfect time to pursue his dream of doing sports radio at the station he grew up listening to.

“I’m from Kansas City and grew up listening to 610 Sports Radio,” Kiley said. “A guy I listened to growing up was Nick Wright. I also listened to a bunch of Carrington Harrison, Danny Parkins and Ben Heisler. Those guys had what I consider one of the best shows in Kansas City sports radio history. I got to know them through Twitter and Heisler sent me a text. He knows I’ve always been interested in moving to KC. He tells me he’s about to get out of radio and into more fantasy football stuff and his job is going to come open.

“I had applied for multiple other jobs in KC over the years and had never gotten any real consideration. When Heisler left, I knew Carrington and thought this might work out. I ended up getting in contact with their PD Steven Spector and it felt like a real opportunity. I got what I considered to be my dream job, producing in the afternoons and hosting a Saturday show at 610 Sports. I thought, what could there be more in life than this? This is the best.”

But life happened and he had to make a decision around three months after moving to Kansas City.

“2-3 months later it became clear, it was going to be difficult for my girlfriend, now wife, to move to Kansas City with all of the family ties she had in St. Louis,” said Kiley. “It was the decision of, do you stay in Kansas City and chase the dream or do we alter the dream, in terms of the job, and see if there’s anything in St. Louis?”

He never thought his best years and most successful years as a sports radio host would come in St. Louis but they have. It’s a city he loves and he’s worked hard in hopes it will love him back. But he’s also not going to pretend to be someone he’s not. Though it can sometimes be hard for St Louisans to accept someone that’s not from there, Kiley doesn’t act like he attended World Series games in 1982, listened to Jack Buck growing up or watched Kurt Warner at the Edward Jones Dome. He’s himself.

“That wasn’t my love and I can’t pretend that it was,” said Kiley. “Have there been times, especially early on where that was a potential issue for me? Yeah it was. There was a time where the audience probably said, this guy isn’t a St Louisan. But this is home for me now and I’ve adopted it. It does in a lot of ways remind me of Kansas City, where if you take the time to know what the soul of the city really is, in terms of sports, I think people can appreciate and respect it.”

Kiley doesn’t hold on to his Kansas City roots on the air, in terms of the topics he talks about. He’s a Chiefs fan and even writes for Arrowhead Pride, but he’s not going to talk a lot about the Chiefs in a city that doesn’t have an NFL team. He’s also a Mizzou grad and talks about the teams on Rock M Nation, but again, he’s rarely, if ever, going to do several segments a day on the Tigers. Instead, he knows the audience wants to hear about the Cardinals. Blues talk is clearly next in line. Everything else falls down the order if not off of it completely. 

Kiley grew up watching baseball, so he can easily break down what issues the Cards’ offense may be having in the middle of May, but hockey was different. He didn’t grow up around the game and the transition to having in-depth conversations on the Blues was a more difficult task. 

“When I came here the first time it was during the middle of a Blues’ playoff run. At that time I was just plopped into this thing, and I didn’t know shit about hockey. I had probably watched about 10 hockey games in my entire life. I’m looking at Kevin Wheeler like, I’ve got to be honest I don’t have a lot on hockey I’m going to be able to help you with. If you could help bring me along with it, that would be great. Over the years I’ve been able to take it in. I used to host a show with Jamie Rivers, who’s a former Blues player. If you told me five years ago I’d be able to do that, much less enjoy doing that, I would have said you’re out of your damn mind.”

Whereas most sports radio shows in football markets are searching for content to help fill segments, this is one of the sweetest times of the year for Kiley and everyone at 101 ESPN. The Blues are deep in the playoffs and the Major League Baseball season is underway. His show BK and Ferrario covers it all every weekday from 11 am – 2 pm. 

Kiley never thought this would be his life, but he loves what he’s built in St.Louis and doesn’t give off the vibe he’s looking to leave anytime soon. He’s a great example of someone who didn’t pigeonhole himself into just one market. He was willing to look outside of his hometown and has found true success. 

Continue Reading

BSM Writers

Will Middlebrooks Has Been The Breakout Star Of The Red Sox Season

“If I was going to work for an organization or a regional sports network, why not the Red Sox, for someone that I’m actually a fan of?”

Published

on

The Boston Red Sox experience in 2022 is just different. In every way.

The team has struggled out of the gate. They certainly aren’t the team that was two wins away from the World Series last year.

Fenway Park doesn’t even accept cash anymore.

But it’s not just that the Red Sox are different on the field or at the ballpark – they are different on television too.

When loveable, longtime Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy died in October 2021 at the age of 68, we knew that consuming the Red Sox on TV would never be the same.

There is no replacing Jerry Remy. One person can’t do it. No way.

And the fans know it.

The bosses at the NESN know it too. They haven’t tried to replace Remy on the broadcasts with just one person. 

In fact, they’ve brought in several new people to the broadcast team. A group of people just rotating in, giving viewers a different experience and a different perspective every night. 

They’ve added former Red Sox players Kevin Youkilis and Kevin Millar to the broadcast booth roster. They’ve added Tony Massarotti of 98.5 The Sports Hub as well.

And in the pre- and post-game studio, they’ve taken a similar approach, which is an extension of previous years, mixing and matching host Tom Caron with a slew of former Red Sox players including Jim Rice, Tim Wakefield, Ellis Burks, Lenny DiNardo, and former Sox infielder Will Middlebrooks, who will be in the studio for about 40 games this season.

I think that NESN has found a formula that works. It’s been fun and informative – and different. In a year that serves as a constant reminder of what’s been lost as a viewer, it’s refreshing to realize that these broadcast teams are giving you something gained.

A star is born.

When I mentioned to Caron that I wanted to write a piece on Middlebrooks, he said: “He’s a rising star.”

And it’s easy to see why he feels that way.

Will Middlebrooks is young (33), accessible, opinionated, active on social media, and he has the playing resume to legitimize his point of view.

But it took some real coaxing to get into the business in the first place. After a devastating leg injury ended his playing career in 2019, Middlebrooks was unhappy.

“I sat around and sulked and was angry about it for about three months,” he said. “And my wife, Jenny (Dell), finally said, ‘You need to get off your butt and do something, find not just, work, but find something you’re passionate about again.’”

He didn’t know at that time that he was passionate about media work, but Dell, who works for CBS Sports, volunteered him to do a show at CBS Sports HQ in Ft. Lauderdale, near where their family resides.

“She said, like it or not, you have a show in three days. You’re going to try it out, and if you’re good at it, they’re going to hire you,” he recounts of their conversation. “I was like, I don’t want to do it. I’m not ready to talk about baseball. I hate baseball right now. I just have such a bad taste in my mouth from everything that happened over the past year.”

But that didn’t deter Dell from pushing her husband to take the chance.

“She said, well, I don’t care. I already told them that said you would do it,” he says. “So she kind of threw me to the wolves, but for the best. And I went in and I gritted my teeth and just got it done and then talked baseball. I did it a couple of more times and they said, ‘Hey, you’re decent at this. We’re going to hire you on for a year!” “And here we are, I’m four years into it,” he joked.

And over those four years, Middlebrooks has ballooned into one of the most recognizable follows for baseball fans. In addition to working at NESN and CBS Sports, he’s also one-half of the Wake and Rake podcast, has appeared on ESPN Radio, has done color commentary for college baseball, and has more than 155,000 Twitter followers.

Resonating with Boston 

When I ask Middlebrooks about landing the NESN gig for 2022, he beams through the phone. He says he wanted the challenge of working in Boston and he welcomed the opportunity to expand his media footprint.

It’s evident that he loves the Red Sox – and the city of Boston. How couldn’t he? He made his Major League debut with the organization, played parts of three seasons with the team, won a World Series with the Sox, and met his wife in the city.

“If I was going to work for an organization or a regional sports network, why not the Red Sox, for someone that I’m actually a fan of?” he said. 

While it’s clear that Will loves Boston, and it’s clear why NESN loves him, what needs more unpacking is the attachment that the Red Sox fans have to him considering he spent just those three seasons there and doesn’t live in New England full-time. 

Middlebrooks can’t quite figure out why the people of the region hold him so close, but he does have a good hypothesis.

“I think that if I left anything, it was people saying, ‘well, he played hard. He gave everything he had,’ he said. “And I know that’s really important in Boston, just the blue-collar mentality of ‘keep your head down, work, play as hard as you can, even if things aren’t going well, just bust your butt and be a good teammate and all that.’”

But there just may be something else at play.

“I think a lot maybe had to do with when the marathon bombings (2013) happened…I’m pretty outspoken on social media about that stuff and with my teammates, we all rallied around each other,” he said. “I think I was just lucky enough to be a part of a team that was really special to everybody in Boston. So they embraced me after that.”

The Family Dynamic 

Dell has been in sports media for more than a decade as a host and sideline reporter for CBS and NESN before that. She knows the business and its nuances. She understands when and how to look at the camera and when and how to ask questions of athletes. She knows the expectations of her husband’s current employers. She’s undoubtedly a great resource to have.

But as Middlebrooks finds his own footing in the business, and as his star grows, what is that dynamic like? She has the answers to the tests already, but how does he balance using that resource versus figuring things out on his own?

“I’m very open to anything she has to say,” he said. “I’ll come out of my office, like, ‘Hey, that was pretty good!’ And she’s like, ‘Yeah, it was good…but…”

“She always has something, and at first it used to really annoy me, because I’m like, man, I thought I was doing really good,” he said. “And she’s like, ‘No, you are doing good. I’m just trying to help you get to that next level. There are just little things here and there that you don’t know.’ And as a competitor, it’s really frustrating. But you know, after a couple of minutes I walk away, I’m like, you know what? I’m really appreciative to have that access to someone that can help.”

What’s Next?

At such a young age with such already vast experiences, it seems plausible that even bigger media steps could be in play for the former infielder. I asked him if he has a goal he’s working towards. Sunday Night Baseball? The MLB Network? Something else?

“One thing I’ve really learned is to not look too far down the road and kind of just live in the moment and enjoy the moment,” he said. “I’m really happy with being with with CBS and with NESN, and within that umbrella, of course, I would like to grow. Does that mean in the booth? Does that mean more games pre and post? Sure I’m up for anything where they want me, because what I’m doing right now, I feel like is a dream job outside of playing and I’m so happy with it.”

Middlebrooks has been on the NESN broadcasts all week and will continue through this weekend as the Red Sox host the Mariners in a four-game series.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending

Copyright © 2021 Barrett Media.