When the Steinbrenners decided to include a 59-by-103 foot screen in center field in their plans for the new Yankee Stadium, senior director of scoreboard and broadcasting Mike Bonner knew he was getting a new toy.
Bonner has held his position since 1999, meaning he's the proud owner of three World Series rings. He operated the scoreboard at the old Yankee Stadium, which was small compared to the team's new screen.
"In the old building, we had this little postage stamp in right-center field," Bonner said. "Maybe fans noticed it. The resolution wasn't very good. It was one of those things where I'd put a crowd shot up and maybe somebody would notice it, maybe somebody didn't. Here, you can't miss it."
Bonner is in charge of embarrassing you, among other things. The other day, Bonner, who likens himself to a TV producer, told his team to cut to a man holding a beer who hadn't realized the cameras had found him in the stands. Within moments, a gentleman seated next to the man jumped up in the excitement of getting framed on the giant television, spilling the beer and sending Yankee Stadium into frenzy.
"I guess that's my job," Bonner said. "My cameramen are my eyes. They're getting me the interesting shots. Really, they paint the pictures."
In reality, Bonner is so much more than the man who'll catch you eating nachos with cheese hanging from your lip. He's the man who runs one of professional sports' most complex production and sound system teams, made up of 25 broadcasters, technical experts, cameramen, graphics designers and feature producers.
Every morning, Bonner comes into work and sets a lineup, much like a television producer would do for his own show. For night games, Bonner gets to the stadium at 9 a.m. For day games, he pulls into the Yankee Stadium parking lot around 7:30 or 8 a.m. That's the life of a scoreboard producer.
During games, he sits in the cockpit of the control room located behind home plate. Bonner watches several television screens broadcasting multiple camera angles and chooses which one should be used on the main scoreboard at each moment. He's the wizard behind the curtain.
"It's presenting a show," Bonner said. "We do a tease every night just like you see on TV. We're making fans feel like they're part of our television show that's only seen by the 50,000 fans here at Yankee Stadium. It's really that progression to our own TV show. It's not some nice scoreboard show that happens to be running. We're putting on a program."
While there are several elements Bonner can script during a game, his job is really to produce live television. When a home run is called, he announces it to his staff, so the proper graphics are put up on the screen. He calls for replays when a great play is made. The height of the craze comes during a rain delay, when all scheduled programming becomes to-be-announced, on-the-fly time slots.
"You can't script for Mother Nature," Bonner said. "You plan something out -- 'This is going to happen at 6:56 and this is going to happen at 7:03' -- and then you end up in a rain delay and it's all TBA."
Most of the pre-production work that gets flashed on the screen in-between innings, such as trivia questions and player reads, are done in February or March during Spring Training. However, there are a few cases where Bonner's staff is forced to play catch-up. On Monday, the scoreboard team had to pull out the green screen for Ichiro Suzuki's arrival, and the team is continually creating feature content with highlight-reel plays throughout the season.
In addition to his production work, Bonner also heads up broadcaster relations, making sure that booth space is given to the proper outlets and television trucks and cameras are stationed in the correct areas. He also works with the new AT&T Yankees on Demand platform, which sends the company features on the team throughout the year.
As Bonner wraps up his 13th year and his 14th season with the Yankees, he said he couldn't imagine working for another team. While he acknowledges that Wrigley Field and Fenway Park both have their own charm, he enjoys giving fans the fruits of modern technology. He feeds those in the stands stats and splits available by phone or computer, but not previously available by scoreboard until he received the state-of-the-art facility with the new stadium.
"I'm blessed to work with the Steinbrenners and work for the New York Yankees," Bonner said. "I wouldn't do it for this long if I didn't enjoy it. It's a job, it's very long hours, but I've always said all of these years, 'Maybe I'll have to get a real job.' I hope I say that until I retire."
Ethan Asofsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com.