The recent restart of team sports, which had been shut down since March because of the coronavirus pandemic, has created highly irregular circumstances for most announcers who cover the games. Very few are traveling, and the St. Louis broadcast contingent is no exception.
While the Cardinals are on the road this week, Dan McLaughlin and Jim Edmonds are working the telecasts from a studio at KETC (Channel 9) in midtown St. Louis. On Wednesday night, Fox Sports Midwest Blues broadcasters John Kelly and Darren Pang were in an adjacent room calling hockey.
Cards radio broadcasters John Rooney and Ricky Horton set up shop in the booth in which they normally work at Busch Stadium, although they are farther back in it than for home games so they can see added TV monitors. And Blues radio announcers Chris Kerber and Joey Vitale called the game Wednesday from the team’s practice facility in Maryland Heights.
All those locations, with TV monitors and other amenities, will be in vogue for the rest of the season for Cards road games and all Blues contests FSM has (the club’s games are taking place in Edmonton, Alberta).
So far, things seem to be going well considering the circumstances.
“It’s been great,” McLaughlin said. “The bottom line is putting games on the air for the fans. They want to see baseball. Period. Let’s give them something to enjoy.”
He said there have been “no problems at all. We have everything we need to present the game. Nobody should be complaining. There are monitors to see the entire field and what folks see at home. So you just have to be on your toes.”
Rooney said that other than a few minor bumps — announcers not seeing the scoreboard and the count on the hitter, a delay on the monitor showing defensive alignments — things are flowing.
“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “Some things you have to pay special attention to, but so far things have been pretty good.
“You’re going to make some mistakes . . . but you want to have fun with it. At least we’re bringing games to the fans, especially the ones who can’t get out. That’s important.”
The Blues’ game Wednesday was an exhibition, and the team gets going for real on Sunday when it faces Colorado.
All NHL broadcast entities — local outlets as well as NBC and NBCSN — are working off feeds provided by the NHL, which will utilize more cameras than normal and have enhanced sound.
A five-second delay is being implemented in order to try to remove any foul language that is picked up.
That will be gone “before it gets to us,” FSM executive director Larry Mago said.
He added that he was pleased with how Wednesday’s production went.
“It was really smooth,” with the announcers “in midseason form” and said he is “guardedly confident” going into games that count.
“I think from a technical standpoint we’re good to go,” he said.
Kelly and Pang got their first run under the new system Wednesday.
“Overall, I was pleased with our show,” said Kelly, who said he never before had broadcast a game from a studio.
He said because he could not see all the players on the ice as well as if he was on site, he leaned more on Pang, the analyst, while doing play-by-play. That figures to continue.
“It was more of a conversational call of the game than usual,” Kelly said. “Darren is so good at that anyway. I’m totally fine with that.”
Kelly compared the set-up to anyone having a new situation at work, where it takes time to adapt.
“We’ll get better as we get more comfortable,” he said.
There was a glitch, as Kelly once walked in front of Pang while Pang was on camera.
“In hindsight it’s pretty funny,” Kelly said, chuckling.
What wasn’t so funny was that some customers of Spectrum (Charter) cable did not get that telecast until only about 5 minutes were left in the game, which was shown on FSM Plus. Instead, they were shown a Kansas City Royals baseball game — which should have been blacked out in St. Louis because of Cardinals territorial restrictions. The issue is said to have been resolved and steps are being taken so that it is not repeated.
Meanwhile, Kerber said the set-up he and Vitale have for their broadcasts on WXOS (101.1 FM) “is exceptional in every way.”
He added that the broadcasters suggested after the game that the monitors be rearranged to make it easier for them to follow play, and that will be in place for the next game.
“It’s really impressive what (the NHL and 101.1 engineers) have done,” Kerber said. “Nothing will ever take the place of being on site, getting the feeling of what is going on, but when you consider everything going on” this is a good alternative.
McLaughlin echoed those sentimentsabout how this set-up is OK for the time being, but does not replace on-site broadcasting.
“It’s important to be around the team,” he said. “That daily access is invaluable when you’re broadcasting a team. However, this is what we have now and I’m thrilled to be back.”
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