Some of the Cardinals' broadcasters now are making their way back on the road after being confined to calling all the team's games last season and so far this year off video feeds while in St. Louis.
And the benefits to being on hand can be monumental, as Post-Dispatch Cardinals beat reporter Derrick Goold knows. He has been traveling with the club throughout the now-subsiding coronavirus pandemic and there is no comparison, from his standpoint, to being physically present.
"I hope that it is noticeable how being there has improved the coverage," he said. "That was the goal — to make observations that were only possible at the ballpark a strong part of the coverage."
That translates to all covering the team.
"There is a practice aspect of being there for broadcasters — is the roof in Arizona closed or not? They can look," Goold said. "But there’s a larger look at the story you can tell by being there, too."
For instance: "Describing what it was like in Milwaukee when the fake crowd noise suddenly stopped, the buildup to the fracas between the two teams which we saw develop in person while the broadcast was looking elsewhere, or describing the moment Johan Oviedo walked out into Wrigley Field for the first time ahead of his major-league debut."
Those type of observations can't be made from Zoom — They situations are not covered there.
"When you take the in-person out of the equation and replace it with a (video) screen, everything is an exchange — questions for quotes — and that doesn’t always allow for the same level of information or insight," Goold said.
Those are among the many things the TV broadcasters who remain shackled in St. Louis, and those covering teams in other cities who are not traveling, will continue to miss, These are insights they could be gleaning to relay to viewers — who pay for the telecasts. The team's radio crew, meanwhile, now is back on the road.
“You can’t replace being on-site," said Dan McLaughlin, Cards TV play-by-play announcer on Bally Sports Midwest. "There is no substitute. None. The relationships, conversations, insight, and being at the ballpark. We aren’t around, and those aspects of this job are very important. On-site, you can see everything. It’s frustrating when I don’t know about changes, following the action, seeing where the ball is hit, or even just the feel of the atmosphere. I take great pride in doing the job the best I can and when you aren’t there, it’s limited.”
Cardinals radio announcer John Rooney concurs.
"There are times even standing at the airport waiting to get on the charter flight or at the team hotel waiting for an elevator that you can pick up something you might use on the broadcast," he said. "For example, (shortstop) Paul De Jong might say something about his rehab assignment that we might fit in. Those are little things, but they combine to create a big picture that enhances the broadcasts."
Goold cited another example of the benefits of being on hand, a recent lengthy in-person interview he had in Los Angeles with Albert Pujols for the lead story in the next day's Post-Dispatch sports section and website. He asked Pujols, who is near the end of his spectacular career and recently was released by the Angels before signing with the Dodgers, what he still had to chase in the sport.
“I love the game of baseball,” Pujols said. “I can ask you — you can be one of the best writers, and write your great story, but if you still have that passion why are you then going to stop? You still have the passion for it."
That exchange underscores the value of in-person interviews.
"It was a conversation between a player and reporter who have known each other for many years," Goold said. ". . . That was reflected in how he flipped the questions on me, and how when he had to go to a meeting he asked me to stay put so he could return and pick up his thought from there. That doesn’t happen on Zoom."
Bally Sports Midwest has missed all those kind of in-person benefits — and will continue to do so.
Baseball reporters were limited to Zoom video conference and telephone access from the time camp opened last summer until several weeks ago being allowed to conduct socially-distanced in-person interviews, with the the journalists wearing a mask.
Then this week there was a significant step closer toward normality, as media members now can conduct on-field interviews provided they have proof the are vaccinated, wear a mask and the person to be interviewed is comfortable with the situation.
"On the Cardinals beat, this has been greeted as a welcome advancement from the players I’ve spoke to," Goold said. "It has allowed for conversations, for discussions that aren’t straight you ask, I answer, team records, Zoom over. Like anything, conversation is better in person when it doesn’t feel like everything is being broadcast by a third party."
The Zoom sessions are functional at best, with little in-depth material coming out of them — as would be expected in a rather antiseptic environment in which multiple reporters usually are asking questions to subjects who are not eager to share background material in such settings that generally are controlled by the club.
". . . One of the best parts of baseball is the stories," Goold said. "On the field (Wednesday), we were told a story — complete with setup, plot twist, and joke. That doesn’t happen on Zoom, definitely not a group Zoom."
Our primary story about this topic: https://tinyurl.com/jc82565c