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Will Middlebrooks ‘Takes Pride’ In NESN Opportunity

“There’s something to be said and I take pride in this. I see the game differently than a lot of players that are in the media because a lot of players that are in the media are Hall-of-Famers.”

Ricky Keeler

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This season, 6-year MLB veteran Will Middlebrooks got to be a part of the NESN network doing pre and postgame shows before games and he got to be an analyst in the booth for the end of the season. Even though he may not be a household name to people outside of New England, Middlebrooks wants to share his perspective of the game to fans that may be different from others:

Middlebrooks was a guest on The Jared Carrabis Podcast this week and he said that he feels he can look at the game differently because the game didn’t come as easy to him as it did for other former big leaguers currently in the media.

“There’s something to be said and I take pride in this. I see the game differently than a lot of players that are in the media because a lot of players that are in the media are Hall-of-Famers. MLB Network, they want Hall-of-Famers or not even just Hall-of-Famers, players that had 10-15 year careers and were really good players. ESPN, they want Hall-of-Famers. FOX, TBS, they want Hall-of-Famers…I enjoy hearing what those guys have to say, but the game looked easy to them.

“I’m not going to say they didn’t grind or went through their own battles, but not like most of us. Most of us, it’s a really hard game and it beats the shit out of you for years and mentally you just crumble….I just feel like that’s what’s going to help me in being critical of players because I can explain to you why they screwed up.”

While in the booth, Middlebrooks knows his audience may not lean highly on analytics, but he knows he needs to blend in advanced stats in order to get people to come to the game so that baseball has its next generation of fans.

“It’s finding that line for this audience. You think about Boston and Red Sox fans, there’s way more 70-year-olds watching than 20-year-olds. That’s Red Sox baseball. The older you get, the more you probably love it….They want nothing to do with me talking about launch angle. They probably throw up in their mouths when I bring it up.

“But, if you want to grow the game, you need the younger generation to be those 70-year-olds one day and right now is when you kind of have to grab them. I’ll mix it in and I’ll find ways to mix it in in that old-school way.”

If Middlebrooks does more games for NESN in 2023, he will always remember the advice Dennis Eckersley gave to him in the booth and Middlebrooks called that a special moment for him and not something to take for granted.

“He was so passionate. I felt like he didn’t feel he was in the booth. We were on cam for a lot of that and they eventually went off-cam and he was still talking for a little bit. I looked over and he’s in tears. This means so much to this guy. It would be disrespectful of me to not take this seriously and not put everything I can into it if I get to do some games next year just because of how much he cares. It was cool. It was special.”

Sports TV News

Al Michaels: Condensed Prep Time For Thursday Night Football ‘A Downside’

“It’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us.”

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There were bound to be unexpected hiccups and unintended consequences as Al Michaels moved to Thursday Night Football with Amazon Prime Video.

He told The Boston Globe Thursday that one of the downsides of the week’s schedule is less prep time with the teams playing in the game.

“When we go to see the teams, it’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us,” Michaels said. “And all the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve built some great relationships with coaches and players and GMs and owners and you name it, and I don’t get that much time to spend with them anymore. That’s a downside part of it for me. Some of the best stories you get come from those relationships.”

Michaels has raised eyebrows this season while not being shy about his disdain for some poor matchups early in the schedule. However, he now understands that there are quality games as the season approaches its close.

“The schedule was a little leaky with the Carolina-Atlanta game and a couple of other games that we’ve had, but now we’re positioned for a nice run down the stretch,” said Michaels.

The 78-year-old was also asked how he remains energetic and passionate for the job he’s held for so long.

The games are exciting. I love sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no script. And unscripted television is the greatest.”

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Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

Jordan Bondurant

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The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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