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Keith McPherson Is Just A Fan at WFAN Living His Dream

“The biggest thing I tell people is that there’s no gatekeepers. If you’re dope, people will find you. Make videos; make content; write your thoughts out and put them on Twitter.”

Derek Futterman

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Keith McPherson

As a high school junior, Keith McPherson announced Pop Warner football games in New Jersey, and was approached by a spectator who told him that he had a good voice and should consider studying communications in college. Initially, McPherson was confused, as he was unaware that communications was a college major, nor did he know what exactly it encompassed.

As time went on though, he realized that it was the career path he desired, and worked hard to find the avenues to create content and leverage his sports knowledge and digital expertise, learning on the fly and discovering unique opportunities to differentiate himself from others.

Throughout high school, McPherson was not only an avid fan of the New York Yankees and then-New Jersey Nets, but also an athlete himself, playing football at Ocean Township High School. During his college search, he was recruited to play football at Rutgers University, but ultimately departed his home state to attend James Madison University as an undeclared major. For two years, he played Division I college football as a quarterback, and after not taking the field as a sophomore, came to the realization that brought him back home to Monmouth County.

“Something clicked where I was like, ‘Okay, I’m not going to the NFL, and I need to focus on a career; I need to choose a career path. I’m a wild sports fan obsessed with all sports, and talking all sports radio and television, maybe I can do that,’” McPherson recalls thinking. “When I transferred, I literally transferred without football in mind.”

McPherson spent the next four years at Monmouth University as a member of WMCX radio and HawkTV, and graduated at the age of 23 eager to apply to his first job in media. The only problem was that each job he was looking for required three to five years of professional experience.

Unsure of where to turn next, McPherson began making income as a DJ at local clubs and bars, something that he started doing in high school, and eventually began working at his local Guitar Center store selling audio equipment to customers. Looking for an opportunity to work in media, everything changed when he saw a casting application for the MLB Fan Cave in New York City.

“That was the turning point,” said McPherson. “That was when I kind of knew, ‘Okay, everyone wants 3-5 years of experience. This is going to be the first thing I can put on my résumé.”

For the duration of the 2014 Major League Baseball season, McPherson, along with several other “cave dwellers” from around the United States watched all 2,430 regular season games at 692 Broadway for 14 hours a day, while creating digital content in the process. He affirms that while the days were exhausting, the experience taught him about the ways in which other people follow baseball – a lesson in cultural diffusion occurring within the “melting pot” of New York City.

After the baseball season ended, McPherson spent the next five-and-a-half months applying for media jobs, but heard nothing back. Preparing to take a job at The Home Depot, he then received his only call back for an interview from MTV, largely because the network had filmed its show Off the Bat from the MLB Fan Cave every Tuesday during the regular season. After two rounds of interviews, McPherson was hired, and for the next two-and-a-half years, he worked on the company’s social media team. Once he reached the three years of experience necessary to pursue most other media jobs, he took a risk and left his job to look elsewhere.

“I could look for a job and match my passion with my profession,” said McPherson, “and I quit MTV, [and] applied to jobs [while driving for] Lyft and Uber for a month.”

McPherson joined a startup company, for the first time, when he was hired in August 2017 as fuboTV’s first-ever social media manager, helping construct a strategy to help expand the streaming service’s reach and growth potential. Ten months later, he took a role as a digital marketing and strategy manager at Roc Nation, collaborating with athletes to help proliferate the company’s reach. Three months into this role though, McPherson made a broad observation that changed the course of his career.

“I was just noticing people rise in the podcast world and in the social media world, and that’s when people started using the term ‘influencer,’” said McPherson. “I’m looking at people that are using Twitter and Instagram, podcasting and YouTube to build their own brand; build their own name; talk about what they like and what they want to be about.”

One purchase of a new Mac computer and a video camera later, McPherson was liberated from any corporate ties. He began recording sports content that he distributed over multiple platforms in an effort to find his voice among others in the media.

“I was unemployed and I kept building my online brand, but you need to survive, and I wasn’t making money off my online brand,” said McPherson. “I was getting followers and views, so I was driving [for] Lyft and Uber [and] I was working at a restaurant for a little bit. I couldn’t work anywhere full-time because it would have taken time away from me editing or me creating.”

Throughout his journey working as a cave dweller and then in various roles pertaining to social media, McPherson always remained an active member of Twitter, specifically among the cohort of Yankees fans. One of the connections he made on the platform happened to be with Jimmy O’Brien, who was in the process of building a startup multimedia company called “Jomboy Media.” After nearly a year working independently, McPherson catalyzed an opportunity to join the growing company as an intern. It is safe to say he wasted no time making it known that he would be more than just a short-term addition.

“I understood what Jomboy was building, and I crushed it right away,” said McPherson. “Through crushing it right away, one of the more senior advisers was like, ‘Hey, if we want to keep this guy, we’ve got to pay him full-time because he’s already had full-time social media jobs and he’s out in front of the camera now building his own personal brand.’”

Two months after starting as an intern, McPherson became a salaried employee, and worked with those at the company to prepare for the start of baseball season. Then everything stopped as the COVID-19 pandemic became an immediate matter of public concern across the United States, forcing McPherson and those at Jomboy Media to work remotely.

“We had just launched the Bronx office down the street from Yankee Stadium,” said McPherson. “We were all excited about working in the Bronx together and going to the games at night…We were so excited for that season and then the pandemic hit and stopped everything.”

Despite the disappointment that arose from being unable to work in person, McPherson was used to doing things remotely from his time operating independently. Each day while fully remote, he focused on building both Pinstripe Strong and Talkin’ Nets, his Yankees and Nets podcasts, respectively, to the point where they gained massive followings on social media, rising levels of listenership and high-profile guests.

Come 2021, McPherson and New York sports fans were finally able to attend games in-person again, albeit with health and safety protocols in place. While the atmosphere was different, McPherson was finally able to record new content on-site, and distinguish himself from others in sports media by being among the fans.

“I’m the fan in the stadium,” said McPherson. “…I’m the guy that’s turning the camera on when we hit a home run. I’m the guy that’s turning the camera on when [Kevin Durant] shoots a three and the crowd goes wild.”

One day, McPherson noticed that new WFAN Program Director Spike Eskin had begun following both of his podcasts on Twitter, and soon after, members of Jomboy Media filled-in to host a midday show at WFAN. Aside from being verified on Twitter, McPherson had no idea who Eskin was, that he had replaced one of the format’s pioneers in Mark Chernoff, nor that Eskin was considering trying to add him at WFAN. Then about one week later, the new P.D. messaged McPherson to go to lunch for an interview about joining the team at WFAN.

“I literally had a WFAN keychain on my keys since I met Marc Malusis in 2014 at the MLB Fan Cave,” said McPherson. “I feel like I manifested it.”

Less than two weeks later, McPherson was on the air for a tryout, and eagerly planned how his radio show would go. Yet when then-New York Mets manager Luis Rojas made a questionable decision removing starting pitcher Taijuan Walker from the game, McPherson had to be quick on his feet and adapt his plans to fit what his audience wanted to talk about.

“I had this whole plan for what I was going to do, and that went out of the window,” said McPherson. “….[After the show,] I found out from Tom Izzo, the head of digital, that [they] definitely noticed a huge bump in interactions the night [I] was on.”

Encouraged by his first-show on-air, McPherson sought to get back behind the microphone as soon as possible talking sports with New York fans on a nightly basis. From the time he auditioned though, he had heard nothing from WFAN, and he tried to figure out what was going on by checking in with Eskin.

“He really couldn’t tell me much,” said McPherson. “I was kind of like, ‘Damn, I just want another spot. I want another night. I’ll do 2-5; it doesn’t have to be 11-2…,’ but little did I know they were working on stuff.”

When the news came out this past October that longtime WFAN nighttime host Steve Somers was set to retire, sports radio fans across the New York-Metropolitan area pondered who would supply the talk and entertainment they had grown accustomed to for over three decades. For Eskin, replacing Somers represented one of the first major decisions he had to make on the job, and it was essential that the station chose a voice that embodied the passion and fervor that exists among New York sports fans – a voice like Keith McPherson’s.

By the time the calendar turned to October, McPherson learned that he would be replacing Steve Somers in the 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. nighttime slot on WFAN, an outcome he was surprised to learn, but a challenge he was elated to face.

“I was like, ‘Woah, slow down. I’ve never done this before. I only have radio experience from college. I don’t want to be the guy that’s tagged as Steve Somers’ replacement. The Shmooze is iconic; he’s huge; he’s a one-of-a-kind voice and presence on the radio,’” said McPherson. “I didn’t know what to do, but I wasn’t going to turn it down.”

The news was formally announced in November on Carton and Roberts while McPherson and his wife were on their honeymoon in Puerto Rico, leading to him receiving congratulatory texts and messages on social media. Later that month, McPherson made his WFAN debut, becoming the first Black host to be a part of the weekday lineup since Tony Paige left the station in 2019.

“I just wanted people to give me a shot,” said McPherson. “I wanted the chance to learn on the fly. I wanted the chance to fail – and put my energy into WFAN and not be anyone else… I wanted to be Keith McPherson, but through this platform; through this historic radio station.”

Six months working in his new role, McPherson has been able to foster a connection with his audience and is creating engaging multiplatform content that appeals to New York sports fans. His philosophy on how to do that is simple, but seldom found and sometimes frowned upon in the industry.

“My style is just to let people talk,” explained McPherson. “You’re calling into my show; you’re calling into WFAN. If you have a take or a thought that some of you want to get off on air, go for it – we can have a conversation. It doesn’t have to be ‘Alright, I’m going to be short with you – hang up the phone on you.’ I’m no better than you. I’m a fan just like you are. I just happen to be on this side of the mic; this side of the phone. Call me up, and we can talk about any sports topic; any conversation.”

While his hosting style is his own, he has had the opportunity to speak with his predecessor Somers, and gain valuable advice as how to host an entertaining and informative radio program in the number one media market in the world. Before they spoke about the art of taking calls, being able to approach shows differently on slower versus faster sports nights and being able to discuss larger issues outside of sports, McPherson was excited just to meet Somers to gauge how he felt about the transition.

“I didn’t know how he would feel because if you read Facebook or Twitter, which I don’t do as much anymore, people were acting like I pushed him out, and WFAN forced him to leave for me,” McPherson stated. “I was like, ‘Damn, that’s not the case at all.’”

Throughout his time on the air, McPherson has enjoyed connecting with callers from younger demographics in an effort to broaden his listening audience and help grow the games he is talking about. It is one of the reasons why he was recently brought on as a co-host of Off Base, a studio television show on MLB Network geared towards millennials and looking at “America’s Pastime” through a different lens. Yet as radio and other platforms continue to move towards becoming more digital, being available and willing to interact with sports fans outside of the time on-air is essential to cultivating an engaged audience.

“When I’m on air, I tell people, ‘Hey, tweet at me,’” said McPherson. “Not everybody is bold enough to call in, but they’ll send a tweet… I feel like if you’re a radio host in sports, you need to have Twitter open while you’re on air; you need to be paying attention to what’s trending on Twitter – you’re live on air – that can help your show; that can help your broadcast.”

As radio continues moving into the 21st-century, finding the next generation of talent can seem like a daunting task – that is, if program directors fail to adapt their selection processes. McPherson’s being a sports radio host in a major media market with his only radio experience prior to it being in college is something that deviates from the norm in the industry; however, his hiring and early success may be indicative of a change in the way radio finds its talent. After all, stations are always looking to continue to find ways to improve their ratings and earn more revenue in today’s congested media landscape.

“The next great radio host and the next great people to invest in or to put on a mic – they’re already there,” said McPherson. “The biggest thing I tell people is that there’s no gatekeepers. If you’re dope, people will find you. Make videos; make content; write your thoughts out and put them on Twitter. Radio’s got to learn that it’s not always the people who have worked 10 years inside your station [that] become your next guys.”

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The Voices of Mike Gorman and Jack Edwards Will Be Missed in Boston

Gorman’s signature “Got it!” when a Celtics’ player hit a big shot will reverberate in Beantown forever, while Edwards’ “in your face” and “juicy rebound” will elicit smiles for years to come.

John Molori

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Photos of Jack Edwards and Mike Gorman
Credit: NY Times (Gorman) Stanley Cup of Chowder (Edwards)

In the span of just a few days, the Boston sports scene bid farewell to a truly dynamic broadcasting duo – two of the region’s most recognizable, beloved, and revered voices.

After 43 years, Mike Gorman is stepping down as the lead play-by-play announcer for the Boston Celtics on NBC Sports Boston. Similarly, after a nearly two decade run, Jack Edwards is leaving his post as Boston Bruins’ play-by-play announcer on NESN. Both men will end their runs after the Celtics’ and Bruins’ local playoff telecasts.

These two Boston icons could not be more diverse in personas – the staid, understated, and even-keeled Gorman, and the brash, feisty, and hot-tempered Edwards. While both of these men have forever planted their flags firmly in Boston media soil, their respective reaches went beyond New England.

Gorman, 76, is a Dorchester, MA native. He began his career at WNBH in New Bedford, MA. He also worked for WPRI in Providence, RI, the PRISM Network, and for NBC covering the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

The multi-Emmy award winner was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004 and received the 2021 Curt Gowdy Award and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021.

Edwards, 67, was born in Evanston, IL and raised in Durham, NH. The University of New Hampshire grad got his first media gig as a morning news producer and reporter at WGIR-AM Radio in Manchester, NH.

He also worked at WMUR-TV in Manchester, WJAR-TV in Providence, WCVB, WHDH, and WRKO radio in Boston, ESPN, and ABC. He did play-by-play for 2002 World Cup and 1995-2002 Little League World Series and won a 1991 Emmy for Sports Reporting at ESPN.   

Gorman was essentially the first ever TV voice of Big East Conference college basketball. Handpicked by Commissioner Dave Gavitt, his smooth tones signaled the dawn of one of the most successful and memorable college hoops conferences in the history of the game.

In the early 1980s it was Gorman‘s voice that became synonymous with amazing players like Patrick Ewing of Georgetown, Chris Mullin of St. Johns,  Pearl Washington of Syracuse, Ed Pinckney of Villanova, and many others. Edwards, meanwhile, was an excellent SportsCenter anchor at ESPN fitting into the clever, slick, and sarcastic style of people like Rich Eisen, Kenny Mayne, Stuart Scott, and Craig Kilborn.

In their Boston broadcast booths, both men fostered unmistakable catchphrases that set them apart from the crowd. Gorman’s signature “Got it!” when a Celtics’ player hit a big shot will reverberate in Beantown forever, while Edwards’ “in your face” and “juicy rebound” will elicit smiles for years to come.

More than just broadcasters, Gorman and Edwards were as Boston as a lack of parking and bar hopping on Boylston Street. They were not just welcomed into viewers’ living rooms. They were actually a part of the living room, like a time-worn recliner or a coffee table ingrained with bottom of the glass stains.

Both men also enjoyed epic runs with longtime color analysts. Most recently, Gorman was working with Brian Scalabrine, but for 39 years, he cultivated one of sports’ longest running broadcast teams alongside Basketball Hall of Famer Tom Heinsohn who passed away in 2020.

Heinsohn was as demonstrative, loud, and boisterous as Gorman is serene, tranquil, and halcyon. Still, the pair flourished together. Gorman tells a story of how he had prepared voluminous game notes for his first broadcast with Heinsohn. Before the opening tip, Heinsohn grabbed the notes, tore them up, and threw them into the Boston garden ether. As Gorman relates, Heinsohn wanted the pair to talk about what they saw on the court, not on a piece of paper.

Edwards’ NESN partner, former NHL player Andy Brickley, is one of the best hockey color analysts not only in Boston, but on the national scene as well. The pair worked in smooth synchronicity like a center and winger on the ice. Edwards was unafraid to criticize, bristle, and chastise opposing players while Brickley reeled things in knowing the game inside, outside, over, under, through, and any other preposition you can choose. 

Like any good play-by-play and color analyst team, Gorman and Heinsohn and Edwards and Brickley complemented each other tremendously. Use whatever comparison you want, the Yin and Yang, words and music, or peanut butter and jelly. Although with Edwards, there may have been a little bit of Fluffernutter in there as well. 

Many would say that it is easier to create a lasting broadcast presence locally than nationally. I beg to differ. In fact, it is even more difficult especially in four sport, hardscrabble, gritty, and often pessimistic cities like Boston, New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia.

Both Edwards and Gorman had pretty impressive predecessors.  Men like Bob Wilson, Fred Cusick, Dale Arnold, and others graced the Boston Garden calling Bruins games. Similarly, the likes of Len Berman, Roger Twibell, Bob Cousy, Glenn Ordway, and others called Celtics hoops over the years.

It takes longevity, work, talent, and time to create the legends that are Mike Gorman and Jack Edwards. I had the pleasure of interviewing both men on a number of occasions over the years and talking to them off air was no different than listening to them on air.

Gorman is the epitome of class and cooperation – extremely conversational and wonderful in sharing an open exchange of thoughts. Edwards is a bit more of a wild child – ultra candid, unapologetic, and willing to go places others would not dare tread.

Gorman perfectly balanced his role as narrator, pace setter, and straight man for the explosive personalities of Heinsohn and Scalabrine. I once asked him about his style and he answered, “I try to be non-intrusive, hopefully adding to the viewing experience without interrupting it. A little humor every now and then helps, and knowing when to be quiet is all important. Play-by-play is supposed to be spontaneous, not planned.”

When Edwards took over full-time duties as the Bruins’ TV voice on NESN in 2007, I asked him the same question, and he replied, “The model play-by-play guy is very vanilla. I’m a Heath bar crunch sundae. I am good at getting the facts, but I always try to convey something on another level, and that has gotten me into a lot of hot water. I am intense. My job is to identify the drama in a game and relate it to the viewer.”

Amen to both. Edwards’ perch high above rink side and Gorman’s courtside seat will be filled by young broadcasters who will stake their claims and establish their legacies, but they will never be Mike Gorman or Jack Edwards, two men whose styles, while different, were similarly captivating.

And while they will no longer sidle up to the microphone or slap on the headset, their echoes live. Old broadcasters never truly go away. Their voices remain in the sports’ consciousness, like a Larry Bird jump shot, a Bobby Orr goal, or remnants of cigar smoke wafting through the Boston Garden rafters.

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MLB Central Stays at the Center of the Action

“I think for me, the beauty of what we do is the fact now that the chemistry between the three of us is so strong.”

Derek Futterman

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MLB Central – Robert Flores, Lauren Shehadi, Mark DeRosa
(Illustration) Robert Flores, Lauren Shehadi, Mark DeRosa; "MLB Central" Logo – Courtesy: MLB Network | Studio 21 – Courtesy: Clickspring Design

As the sun takes its respite on the East Coast, Mark DeRosa is wide awake and locked in on the slate of Major League Baseball games across the country. There are usually no more than 15 games occurring on a given night, and he makes sure to select two or three contests on which to place extra emphasis and scrutinize ahead of MLB Central the next morning.

Once the clock strikes around 10 p.m. EST, he is on the phone with members of the production team at MLB Network to share his observations and deliberate potential topics. In addition to preparing for conversations with MLB Central co-hosts Lauren Shehadi and Robert Flores for the next morning, he also works to compile a nuanced, precise breakdown. Reaching the final product that airs on television in front of the display in Studio 21, however, takes collaboration and synergy from several different departments.

The breakdowns DeRosa presents are not always centered on clear highlights, but rather the granular details that affect causation with the potential to shift an outcome. In combining quantitative and qualitative means of study, he has established a reputation as a sharp baseball luminary with a production mindset.

“I always feel like my breakdowns and my analysis to be deeper than what you’re going to get in a highlight package,” DeRosa said. “There might be a pitch in the fourth inning that didn’t get called. There might be a stolen base in the fifth inning that no one saw that doesn’t show up necessarily in the box scores or plays that don’t show up necessarily in the box scores that I know have massive effects on the way the manager manages the rest of the game [and] the way the players attack the rest of the inning, so that’s how I try and approach it.”

DeRosa played college baseball at the University of Pennsylvania before embarking on a 15-year MLB career. The journey across the big leagues took him to various organizations, including the Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs, and firmly entrenched at a confluence of varying approaches tailored towards a common broad end goal. Communicating with perennial All-Star sluggers such as Chipper Jones, Albert Pujols and Michael Young added and refined his philosophy on hitting. DeRosa aims to convey these esoteric principles to viewers of MLB Central as he dissects the game.

“I just try and take you inside the mind of the great players,” DeRosa said. “I was a role player for a long time in my career, and I sat on the bench and had a firsthand experience with Hall of Fame pitchers and Hall of Fame managers and just kind of picked their brains throughout the course of the early parts of my career to try and formulate a plan and understand what they were thinking.”

When MLB Network revealed that it was going to be debuting a daily morning show on its airwaves, DeRosa was not sure how the logistics of such an endeavor were going to work. Matt Vasgersian had experience in the timeslot working as a co-host on Hot Stove during the offseason, which in turn allowed DeRosa to feel that he could stick to his baseball analysis in its early stages.

“When that red light’s on, I’m no different than when it comes off,” DeRosa said. “Everyone who’s ever played with me knows that. My heart’s in the right place; I’m not jealous; I’m proud of my career.”

Lauren Shehadi Rises Through the Ranks

From the onset of MLB Central, DeRosa has worked alongside Lauren Shehadi and observed her deft knowledge and professionalism. Shehadi remembers being present at Oriole Park at Camden Yards when Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. played in his 2,131st consecutive game, breaking the historic games-played streak of Lou Gehrig. A 20-minute standing ovation and significance of the feat catalyzed her to find a way to stay around the sport in perpetuity.

In order to pursue her dream, Shehadi attended the University of Florida and immediately began to hone her craft. While attending school, she worked as an overnight editor at Suncoast News Network and also had production responsibilities, including listing birthdays and the winning lottery numbers. During her formative years in the business, she accidentally gave the wrong person a $250 lottery winning, an aberration that caused her to think she was not cut out for the role. Despite the blunder, Shehadi persisted and worked with the outlet’s sports director to create content for her demo reel, which she then sent to hundreds of broadcast outlets around the country.

“It’s so interesting because I was a waitress when I was young, and I always feel like you need to be a waitress to understand how to be a good guest at a restaurant,” Shehadi said. “You have to know what that waitress or waiter is doing and what they’re going through to understand how to be a kind guest at a restaurant. I feel the same way in television production.”

Working as a co-host on MLB Central is a role Shehadi considers a labor of love, but it took repetitions and a willingness to improve to be considered for such an opportunity. Despite being nervous to relocate to Minot, N.D. to begin her job at KXMC-TV, the outlet’s news director, Jim Olson, turned out to be an invaluable mentor. He helped her inject personality into the newscast while keeping the stories focused on the subject matter.

As a weekend sports anchor and weekday sports reporter, Shehadi would travel to capture footage from local sporting events and bring it back to the station. There was one instance when she carried her camera into Saskatchewan, Canada to film a junior varsity ice hockey game and then drove back, always ensuring her station wagon was fueled.

“You had to fill up your sole tank of gas because it was that cold,” Shehadi recalled. “If your car stalled out, you’d die of hypothermia, so you had to have full gas wherever you went. You had to be aware [and] you had to plug in your car at night.”

As Shehadi became more experienced in the industry, she cultivated versatility and built her skillset across different platforms of dissemination. While working for CBS Sports as a contributor to its website and college sports network, she learned how to convey information in a compendious manner and express her opinions.

From there, Shehadi secured an audition for MLB Network and perceived that she did not know as much about the game as was necessary. Because of this, she safeguarded against oblivion and studied every player, manager and ballpark around the league. In developing this erudition, she also combatted initial apprehension about speaking while listening to a talkback feed in her ear during a show.

“Why is Freddie Freeman so good at the plate? Because he’s able to slow the moment down,” Shehadi said, “and I think as broadcasters, that’s what you try to do. I think in my early years at MLB Network, I wasn’t able to [do that], and I work on it every day still.”

MLB Network Lauren Shehadi Preparation Sheet
Courtesy of MLB Network

Displaying propensity and intelligence for baseball is not only achieved by accruing knowledge, but also a cognizance of when to ask questions. Shehadi considers herself a casual baseball fan and contributes to an environment that encourages open conversation and dialogue.

When former first baseman Carlos Peña referenced high-probability swings during his analysis, she thought she knew what it meant but was not entirely certain. Since she played softball and studied the game, she assumed that there could be someone watching from afar who may not know as well. As a result, she decided to ask Peña to confirm what entailed the concept he was discussing.

“I was just literally crossing my fingers in hopes that I wouldn’t end up on YouTube where it’s, ‘See, this girl that hosts a baseball show doesn’t know what this is,’ and he said, ‘You know, it’s a good question,’” Shehadi recalled. “I thought, ‘Okay.’ He said, ‘The bat stays through the zone [for] a longer time,’ which is what I thought it was. But you don’t always know, and the beauty of our show is that he can answer that question and someone at home learned something that day.”

Akin to DeRosa, Shehadi watches several baseball games simultaneously every night using her phone and television. Once the new day commences, she views Quick Pitch to see the rest of the action, reads articles on the league website and studies the network’s research packet. At the same time, she considers the discussions and perceptions made about players, some of whom come into the studio for live appearances.

Robert Flores’ Road to the Show

When Matt Vasgersian became the new play-by-play announcer for Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN, the MLB Network morning program named Robert Flores as the new co-host of the show. Flores, who formerly worked at ESPN, had been employed by MLB Network since 2016 hosting a variety of programming. DeRosa stated that he has brought a different element to the show through his love of the Houston Astros, leverage of social media and humorous witticisms. 

“I feel like Robert Flores kind of ties it all in a bow with his ability to host and his one-liners, and I just think [MLB Central] gives the fan at home everything they would need with a smile on their face,” DeRosa said. “They laugh, they learn and they can enjoy a nice breakfast and a cup of coffee and enjoy the visuals.”

Flores began his career while at the University of Houston, working as an associate producer within the KHOU sports department. From the beginning, he could ascertain the speed of the newsroom and adapted his workflow to fit in the breaking-news environment. Being amongst industry professionals within a top-10 marketplace prepared him to transition to Monroe, La. out of school with limited resources in a smaller locale.

From there, Flores moved to Waco, Texas to serve as the sports director for KWTX-TV where he was responsible for managing personalities under a departmental aegis. He worked in the same role later in Austin, Texas at KEYE-TV while also continuing to garner repetitions as a reporter. The experiences within his formative years in the industry helped shape him into a professional with the sagacity and foresight to plan ahead and optimize a roster of on-air personalities and production personnel.

“It’s managing people from it’s simplest things like scheduling to the more complicated, intrapersonal and taking into considerations what others’ needs and what their wants are as well and trying to kind of fit it all under the same direction of what you want your sports department to be and things like that, so it was a great experience,” Flores said. “Again, I met so many great people along the way and so many that I’m still friendly with and keep in touch with every now and then.”

Flores endured challenges within the industry when he lost his job in 2004 and ended up being out of work for six months. Four years earlier, he had lost his father and was trying to combat the trauma associated with both outcomes.

As he continued the job search, Flores began to think about alternatives and considered exploring the real estate and insurance industries. He remembers asking his wife if he should change career paths, and she urged him to give the process more time and remain patient. Everything changed when his agent called to deliver the news that ESPN was interested in hiring him for a job on the network, and he was able to inform his son minutes later when he arrived home from school.

While Flores enjoyed his time anchoring SportsCenter and contributing to other programming at ESPN, the era was different in that social media was not embedded within the fabric of modern society. Although he joined MLB Network in 2015 and was known by its viewers across programming, there existed a risk that moving to MLB Central could cause him to suffer from imposter syndrome. After all, Flores was expecting harsh criticism upon his debut on the show; however, he entered the role unfazed and focused on delivering for the audience.

“In today’s society especially, I think fans are more apt to not like something, and I get it,” Flores said. “Matt Vasgersian was very popular [and] remains very popular with our fanbase… and I know there was some skepticism about me joining the show. I saw all of the, ‘Where’s Matty V?’ tweets and, ‘This guy stinks,’ and, ‘Get him off,’ and I understood it.”

In the five years that Flores has been part of the show, he has let his personality flourish and shared different ways he interacts with the game, including through playing MLB The Show video game series. Playing the simulation game over the years has helped him become more familiar with major-league rosters and prospects, granting him additional context and a different lens through which to talk about the league.

“To be fair, I do like to shoehorn dropping my Twitch handle and my Facebook page where I do my video game streams,” Flores explicated, “but I think it’s kind of looked at as kind of if I can get a joking eye roll from Lauren or from someone that says, ‘Hey, way to make the ‘reference’ to your gaming channel,’ I think it’s part of my charm, and I say that tongue-in-cheek.”

The Morning Commute

The composition of MLB Central as a studio show contrasts many of its counterparts in that it utilizes more hosts than analysts. Shehadi and Flores both view their role to serve as point guards to set up DeRosa for success in disseminating his opinions and insights.

“I think for me, the beauty of what we do is the fact now that the chemistry between the three of us is so strong,” DeRosa said. “I honestly know how to get Robert going, I know how to get Lauren going and vice-versa that I think the people at home – although I’m the former player that’s going to give the opinion – I still think that they’ve built this relationship at home with the three of us.”

The show also champions diversity and inclusivity, inspiring the next generation and trying to serve as role models. Flores is of Mexican-American descent and is honored when aspiring professionals reach out to share their gratitude for his work and how he represents what is possible. As a woman in the industry, Shehadi is aware of the misogyny and intransigence that can be faced, but she knows that there is respect for her work and that she belongs. Everyone on MLB Central is accepting of one another and attributes part of its success to strong chemistry.

Studio 21 is somewhat like Grand Central Station, especially since it houses multiple studio programs in addition to MLB Central, some of which include MLB Now and Quick Pitch. For Shehadi and DeRosa, it is one of their destinations on the travel itinerary, which involves both of them taking multiple flights per week.

Every week following the Tuesday morning show, Shehadi flies to Atlanta, Ga. to host studio coverage for MLB on TBS with Curtis Granderson, Pedro Martínez and Jimmy Rollins. Whereas MLB Central will focus on all 30 teams, MLB on TBS studio coverage primarily discusses teams featured within its Tuesday night doubleheader on its Pregame and Closer editions of the show. While Shehadi is in the TNT Sports studio, she is watching every game around the league and feels the most prepared for MLB Central the following morning. The key through it all is endurance and stamina, but she does not take the multifaceted role for granted.

“I feel so blessed to be able to do it, and it’s not lost on me that I get to host both,” Shehadi said, “so I just pray for no delayed flights and pray that I get everywhere on time.”

Similar to taking an extended road trip as an MLB player, DeRosa flies to the New York metropolitan area every week to be in studio for MLB Network. After the Friday morning show though, he boards a flight to return home to spend time with his family and coach his son’s baseball team. While he is away for the weekend, he still remains connected to the show by reviewing previous episodes and finding areas where he can improve, akin to a baseball player reviewing film.

“I like it when we go off-script occasionally – when we’re laughing; when things get a little funny at times and then we’re able to rein it in,” DeRosa said. “So I think for me, the idea of a good show to be honest with you is if I can get the people behind the cameras to start laughing, I usually think we’re doing something right.”

Flores believes that DeRosa is one of the most talented studio analysts in sports television and does not receive as much credit as he deserves in this regard. In formulating and constructing his breakdowns with the understanding of what will stand out to viewers with fluctuating interest levels and aptitude towards the sport, DeRosa tries to appeal to everyone. Last spring, he served as the manager of Team USA during the World Baseball Classic and had a chance to foster deeper relationships with several star players such as Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt and Mookie Betts. In turn, he discovered more about their personalities and work ethic.

“I thought Paul Goldschmidt – he is, he’s a silent assassin – but when I gave my first meeting the first day we met as a group, as soon as I finished, he asked me if he could address the team,” DeRosa recalled. “I did not expect that, so I walked away with a completely different mindset of [who] Paul Goldschmidt was.”

Beyond the Box Score

DeRosa, Shehadi and Flores provide authentic commentary about the topics at hand within a casual environment geared towards viewers with varying levels of proficiency and experience in baseball. The program attempts to spotlight as many different MLB teams as possible on the show and recognize the parity and emerging young talent within the game; however, there are signature teams discussed more often because of recent success. While MLB Central is situated in the mornings, the segments and topics are not proprietary to that daypart and could effectively function in different areas of the schedule.

“I think there’s a very fine line walking the three kinds of tenants if you will of informing and providing context and entertaining,” Flores said. “I think you’ve kind of got to be very careful not to do one more of the other, but I really think that our show is portable, I really do.”

Although MLB Central does not implement live callers from consumers akin to sports talk radio, it still finds ways to interact with the audience and impart sentiments of conviviality and revelry. Whether it be through poll questions or replies to a segment earlier in the program, there is a recognition and respect for consumers watching across multiple platforms.

“We have a bunch of really great viewers who have been with us for almost a decade, and we constantly highlight them on X,” Shehadi said. “We constantly put their tweets on the screen, and some of them we disagree with all the time.”

DeRosa, Shehadi and Flores hosted their 750th episode of MLB Central last summer and all remain committed to the program. Everyone leaves their ego at the door and approaches the show in a manner resembling a player arriving at the ballpark for a game.

Concurrent with rules changes across Major League Baseball that led to augmented attendance, greater offensive output and a hastened pace of play, MLB Central remains aware of the latest innovations in sports media and looks to continue innovating within the dynamic landscape. Although there is an early wake-up call to arrive at the studio and prepare beforehand, DeRosa, Shehadi and Flores are able to effectuate a morning show of which they are proud and hope to continue for years to come.

“I love what we have both on screen and maybe more importantly what our show unit has off screen,” Flores said. “It’s a very collaborative effort. We have so many talented men and women behind the scenes in our research department; in our control room; from the producer to the director to our assignment desk, [which] plays a vital role in booking guests. It’s just everyone pulling in the same direction. I can honestly say it’s the most enjoyable professional experience I’ve ever had.”

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BSM Writers

Advertising Strategy for 24/7 Businesses

With lower ad costs aimed at the audience who makes staying open late worth it, you can be ringing in the profits on the night shift.

Jeff Caves

Published

on

Graphic for a business sign "Open 24 Hours"

If you have prospects who are open for business between Midnight and 5 am, why not have them make it worthwhile and help them develop an advertising strategy? They might be surprised how inexpensive it can be.

Many companies operate 24/7:

– Convenience stores, gas stations, and truck stops.

– Fast food chains like Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, and McDonalds.

– Hospitals and Emergency Care clinics.

– Hotels, motels, and grocery stores.

– Airports, bus depots, and cabs.

With an effective marketing strategy, “it’s gonna be all right on the night shift.” Here are some insights and tips to give these prospects to help them attract and retain customers to their 24/7 business:

Understand the Night Owl

At night, customers seeking services or products often prioritize convenience, speed, and availability. Sometimes, price isn’t the controlling factor, nor is it even the best quality they seek. Make offers and go to market with these needs to better cater to your target audience and keep them returning for more.

Advertise: Digital Billboards

Digital billboards are great for visibility, especially at night when there’s less competition for attention. Consider strategically placing advertisements along busy freeways or nightlife hotspots to capture the attention of passersby and promote your business’s offerings and operating hours. If you can buy :15 ads on Times Square in NYC for $40, you may be shocked at what you will pay locally for rotating ads from Midnight to 5 am. 

Radio Ads on the Cheap

Radio is a powerful medium for reaching customers during the late-night hours. Larry King was America’s most listened-to-talk radio program in the late 80’s. For 16 years, he broadcast live between Midnight and 5:30 am from coast to coast. Select radio stations with programming tailored to your target audience’s preferences and air ads during peak nighttime listening hours. Pop music stations for night clubbers at 2 am or News Talk for late-night drivers wanting to stay engaged. Give incentives to overnight listeners to visit your business NOW. While the audience may only be 10% of the daytime crowd, so are the prices. And let’s face it, if they are driving and listening to the radio, that’s your #1 prospect! Expect rates at most stations under $25 per commercial in major cities and less in other areas. Promote late-night specials, highlighting convenience and speed of service. If you are a hospital, airport, or bus company, brand your business with the overnighters, reminding them you are open when they need you.

Mobile Digital Advertising

Target potential customers in the vicinity of your business during late-night hours. Use geotargeting to deliver ads to mobile phone users in high-traffic areas like concerts, ballgames, or nightlife districts. Drive foot traffic right through your front door. Promote time-sensitive offers or exclusive late-night deals through mobile ads. Don’t expect a price break, though, when purchasing them.

Easily Monitoring KPI’s

Regularly monitor the performance of your efforts and adjust as needed. Your late-night business is probably way less than daytime, and tracking key metrics such as foot traffic, sales, and customer feedback will be easier. If an offer is working on your radio campaign, look into buying more stations and cut back on areas that don’t work. Apply the 70-20-10 rule to your ad budget.

With lower ad costs aimed at the audience who makes staying open late worth it, you can be ringing in the profits on the night shift.

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