Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Live From The Broadcast Booth

I've always been curious on how things work. My mom remembers me tearing my bike apart so I could put it back together again. There were always extra pieces afterwards that I couldn't figure out where they went on the bike. It just reinforced I was curious about things and not mechanically inclined.
My curiosity took me to the broadcast booth at Colusa Casino Stadium in Marysville, California to oversee how a baseball broadcast works.
We at home just listen to the game in progress. The highlights we hear on soundbites is the finished product.
We don't see the hours of preparation a broadcaster does to deliver a quality broadcast. It involves preparing game notes, getting info about every player on the roster and going to the clubhouse to gather a story or two that a broadcaster may tell during the game.
As I said, we hear the finished product. I wanted to see a work in progress. How does one with so much information to deliver make it happen? I was bound to find out.
It's not as easy as it seems. I can't just write my friendly local Major League Baseball team and ask to sit in the booth and watch. (The Oakland Raiders didn't even respond to my request for a press pass. Yup, not so friendly)
I was thinking about writing the local AAA team, the Sacramento River Cats, to sit in and listen and gather notes. AAA is a notch below the big leagues, so I figured I would get a minor league rejection letter.
Hmmmm, what to do?
Then it hit me. There's a collegiate summer baseball team in Marysville called the Marysville Gold Sox. I listen to the strong radio signal of KUBA 1600 AM and remembered they broadcast the games over the summer.
So I wrote their play by play man Geoff Flynn and asked for press box access. The worst they could say is no.
I wrote a month in advance. No answer. I figured I was just getting a summer league rejection letter. Two days before the game, I got a response!
I was told I was more than welcome to sit in and watch. Just come on up to Marysville.
So I brought my notepad and scorebook to the pressbox.
"Hi! Are you Felix? I'm Geoff, nice to have you here!" Geoff quickly showed me around the pressbox and introduced me to everyone. Everyone being two other people. An older gentleman who was the scoreboard operator and a young man who was the PA announcer.
Geoff had to gather a few notes and quickly left for the clubhouse. A young lady came in with food and cold soda for Geoff and she asked if I wanted anything. I had a big lunch and I told her I was fine. I would later regret not getting a soda as it got very hot up there in the cozy confines of the broadcast booth.
Geoff came back and hurriedly recorded his opening. During all this time, he was constantly talking to a producer back at the studio. The producer always told him how much time it was until commercial break was over and after Geoff would conclude a half inning of play, the producer would tell him he was "clear", meaning he was off the air. It was roughly 90 seconds or so of commercials, and Geoff would sign on again to describe more action.
During the course of the game he would obviously describe the play by play. Between pitches he would tell a story of that particular batter. The Verizon Air Series is a college wood bat league. It's basically kids getting some extended playing time and getting experience hitting with a wood bat. The kids (I feel old saying that, but they're kids) come from all over the country. Some from big schools and others from schools I never heard of. (Heartland College, New Mexico Highlands....where are these places?)
I asked Geoff if he gets to know the players so he can pass on a story about some of them during a game. He said he doesn't get to know them as much as he'd like, as the season goes by so fast and the lack of roadtrips doesn't help getting to know the guys. (That's for another post, the team itself)
Geoff asked if I'd like to talk for an inning or two. I think I said yes before he finished his question!
So we quickly got ready for me to make my radio debut.
"You're on in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1", the producer from the studio told us.
Geoff told the audience at home what inning we were headed to and then he introduced me for everyone to hear in the north valley.
He asked me what brought me to Marysville, why was I interested in the Gold Sox and he asked me about my blog. I was nervous at first, but I got comfortable quickly. I was mostly trying to avoid talking over him, so I spoke between pitches or after a play was made. Geoff had a job to do and I didn't want to interrupt him. It was his booth and I was a guest. The two innings I was on the air, it went very quick. No on air catastrophes to speak of, although I did describe the Gold Sox as being sloppy.
I went back to keeping score of the game and taking notes for this post. I wanted to tweet some of what was happening, but doing three things all at once was impossible. I could barely keep score.
Geoff was great at handling everything happening in the game, keeping score, and preparing for the later innings. He was constantly talking to the producer back at the studio.
His setup for the broadcast was simple. It was a laptop hooked up with Skype, a Wi-Fi card, a mini mixing board and a digital recorder. And of course microphone headsets. It was that simple.
Over the course of the game he would tell a funny story and look over at me with a smile while telling it. I could see in his eyes and hear in his voice he loves his job.
Radio seems very fast paced and sitting in the booth I could see that it is.
I really enjoyed the opportunity to sit and watch.
I asked Geoff about "The Grind". I worked in professional baseball for one summer. I was warned about the Grind. By the end of the season, I was exhausted. It's a grind to show up at the ballpark everyday and go to work. A regular job is a grind, so is life in general. But in baseball being at the ballpark 12 hours a day, it's an exhausting grind.
He says he was very tired and the grind is getting to him. I totally knew how he felt.
I stuck around for the post game show. I spoke with Geoff, the PA announcer and the scoreboard operator long after the fans left. It was a very long day and I had a long drive home. I thanked Geoff for letting me drop in. I told him I was coming for the final homestand. I told him I would email him letting him know when I was coming. He said not to email, just show up.
This is Skip signing off until next time!

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