A View From Studio 3: The lowdown on 'Rundown'
Many times it starts with a box of Krispy Kreme donuts. Still warm. Hand delivered to MLB Network by my co-host, Lauren Shehadi. She grabs them in New York City before heading to the studio in New Jersey. If there are donuts anywhere in the 140,000-square-foot facility, "The Rundown" staff will find them. We enjoy a good sugar buzz during our morning meeting.
On this particular day there were no donuts, but there was a different kind of buzz. Plenty of chatter about Prince Fielder and his substandard performance.
We came to no determination, but there were some curses used by our one, unnamed, resident Tigers fan. Of course, it wouldn't be a day at MLB Network without some commentary on Yasiel Puig. His celebration during, and after, his Game 3 triple is still a topic in some circles. Half the room was adamant that the Dodgers outfielder was out of line, the other half loved his antics. Baseball is fun, they said, so why not celebrate success?
As the 2013 season comes to an end, it's appropriate to acknowledge the success of the hard-working men and women on "The Rundown." Dozens of people who come to play every day. "Gamers" who don't always get the credit they deserve.
We had a full plate on this Wednesday (minus the donuts) for our 1 p.m. ET show. Two games to preview, reporters in two different ballparks thousands of miles apart, national insiders wired for sound, plus a pregame press conference in which Don Mattingly would address his team's dire situation. Down 3-1 in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series, Los Angeles had no room for mistakes.
Where to start?
Our show producer, Marc Capalbo, and coordinating producer Bryan Meyers begin the process of forming the show on the previous day. They bounce emails, phone calls and text messages back and forth as frequently as high schoolers making plans for a Friday night. As the games unfold, it's their job to create an outline for the next day's program. It includes everything from editorial content to sponsorships to commercial breaks.
But they don't do it alone.
"The high quantity and quality of work from the assignment desk, editors, graphics department and researchers goes unnoticed to most viewers, but is what makes this show so fun to be a part of," Capalbo said.
Because the Cardinals were in a potential clinching situation heading into Wednesday's 6-4 Game 5 loss, we began the program talking about the NLCS. Our Dodgers reporter in Los Angeles, Alanna Rizzo, reported live from the field in the first segment of the show. Her topics evolved over the course of the day.
Adam Helfgott, our associate producer working on the assignment desk, has the task of communicating with the Los Angeles crew numerous times throughout the day to help form the contents of the live report. It's his job to identify specific pieces of video and statistics that can be used to enhance the information delivered from L.A.
Helfgott will repeat this process with our other correspondents. It's a cast of thousands this afternoon. Reporters Kristina Akra and Heidi Watney covering the AL and NLCS, respectively. Insiders Jon Heyman, Joel Sherman and Richard Justice contribute opinions and scoops from across the country. Plus, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Derrick Goold joined us from Dodger Stadium with his perspective on the Cardinals' winning ways. Every one of them required the assistance of audio and video engineers and remote control camera operators in our state-of-the-art facility.
Analyst Bill Ripken also joined the show to discuss Bob Costas's interview with Ozzie Smith 28 years after the shortstop's dramatic home run in Game 5 of the 1985 NLCS.
Coordinating the "hit" times for every one of these contributors requires precise choreography. All it takes is for one reporter to be held up by a late-running press conference and the whole show can go up in smoke. That's where Capalbo, Meyers, and show director Lucas Altman make their money.
Calling every shot in a control room that looks like NASA's mission control, Altman pilots his technical director, associate director, audio engineers, camera operators and floor directors through a one-hour ride. It's a ride that can be as smooth as a Lincoln Town Car if all details are accounted for.
Hours before the show, John O'Malley, a broadcast associate, is tasked with developing on-screen graphics. On any given day, O'Malley and the folks in his department produce 50 or more graphics that will be used on MLB Network.
"Working closely with the assignment desk, as well as the researcher involved with the show, we try to provide the talent, as well as the reporters at the ballpark, with various graphics that help support and better illustrate their news of the day," O'Malley said.
The folks in the graphics department are responsible for every fact, statistic or name that appears on-screen. But their job wouldn't be possible if not for the research department. That group is comprised of about a dozen folks, who spend their days preparing the hosts and analysts for any and every possible fact and scenario. In cooperation with the producers, the researchers condense the best and most pertinent information before it's turned into a graphic to be used on the show.
Of course, without videotape or video clips, we don't have jobs at MLB Network. So thank goodness for a video library so large it's truly mind-numbing. Media manager James Murphy is one of nine people in his position who oversee millions of hours of archived video. At any given time there are roughly 4,000 hours of video on the MLB Network servers. For those who know what a "terabyte" is, our library uses 105 of them.
If you have never heard of a "terabyte" (I'm with you), think of it like this: If you wanted to find footage of Pablo Sandoval blowing a bubble in 2010 and compare it to video of the Panda blowing a bubble in 2012, our media managers can find it for you within seconds. Video editors then take over and prepare the footage to match what is discussed on screen.
Thanks to the dedicated staff, which also includes make-up artists, wardrobe coordinators, engineers, master control personnel, teleprompter operators and scheduling coordinators, this process goes on every day at MLB Network.
Wednesday was smooth sailing for "The Rundown." Another show in the books.
It's time for lunch. Maybe I can find a leftover donut. If not, there's always tomorrow's morning meeting.