Kevin Burkhardt is entering his eighth season as SNY's Mets field reporter, a role that has earned him local and national critical praise. A former car salesman in New Jersey, Burkhardt recently accepted a job as host of FOX's new MLB pregame show, after spending the winter as one of FOX's NFL play-by-play voices. He will split his time this year between FOX and SNY.
With Opening Day approaching, MLB.com recently caught up with Burkhardt for his thoughts on all things Mets.
MLB.com: Does it seem like your time with SNY has flown by?
Burkhardt: Yeah, I mean this is my eighth year, which is kind of crazy. I feel like I just got the job in some ways -- it was such an exciting thing when I got that call. I grew up in a family full of Mets fans so it was pretty neat, and eight years later, here I am. It has gone by quickly, and hopefully this year, I'll get a taste of maybe a little bit better baseball. We'll see what happens.
MLB.com: What's it like working with SNY broadcasters Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling on a daily basis?
Burkhardt: We like to call it a four-man booth. Even though I'm out roaming around somewhere, they kind of take me in like a family member. We have a lot of fun. We have a lot of good conversations where I'll start one, and we'll interact a little bit because I'm the guy in the clubhouse. They're really not, so I can offer a little bit of a different perspective than they can.
We have fun. I think that the personalities that you see on air are who we are off it. So when we're out, away from the ballpark, that dynamic is pretty much what you see on the air. We actually like each other. We bust each other's chops all the time, and I think that works well for the broadcast.
MLB.com: What do you like about this Mets team, and what areas maybe need improvement?
Burkhardt: I like the pitching a lot, even with Matt Harvey out. I think everything came together for Dillon Gee last year. Getting away from that shoulder surgery, having the second half that he did, he's a father now -- I just feel like it's all coming together for him. Jon Niese, as long as he can get going here -- he's had a tough camp -- I think Niese is fine. You know what you're going to get from him, a good left-hander. Zack Wheeler is hoping to take the next step forward like Harvey, and maybe we'll see Noah Syndergaard in June or July. So I really love the pitching. I'm not worried about Bobby Parnell, he showed he can do the job last year.
I'm just worried about the offense. Last year, they led the league in strikeouts. If you do that and don't hit a lot of home runs like they didn't, that's a problem. So they need to find ways to score runs, and that's what I need to be convinced of.
MLB.com: How much do you see Curtis Granderson and Chris Young helping?
Burkhardt: Granderson helps a lot. He's going to hit home runs -- he's done that this spring -- and I think having that protection for David Wright will really help. The one thing to keep in mind is that Marlon Byrd had 21 home runs when they traded him last year in August, so it's not like they didn't get any production from right field. They got a lot, so they need more than Granderson, and I think that's where Chris Young comes in. He's had a great camp, he's hit the ball hard. They need him to have a good year. They need Ike Davis to have a good year. If they do that, then they'll be able to win some games.
MLB.com: If you had to pick one of those players you mentioned, who is the most important Met in 2014?
Burkhardt: I think it's Ike Davis, I really do. We've seen it a bit -- he had those first couple months before he hurt himself a few years ago in Colorado, he was over .300, he had seven home runs, he looked awesome, and then he had that crazy ankle injury when he was trying to catch a popup. We saw even a couple years ago when the average wasn't there, he hit 32 home runs. That's a major threat. And to have that for a team that doesn't necessarily hit a ton of home runs is huge. If they can get that from him, I don't even care what his batting average is. If he just goes out there and hits home runs and gets off to a start where he's not hitting .100 in April, I think it's huge. It's a huge difference for him.
That position and the shortstop position were black holes for the Mets last year. If they get any kind of production there, I think their offense could be decent.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo.