I'm always happy when baseball's opening day is upon us, but from a sports media standpoint this is an even happier year. While the advance weather forecasts for the midwest and northeast aren't the greatest for a March 31 and April 1 schedule of games, there is a big positive to opening the season on a Thursday and Friday.
That positive is the NCAA Final Four. As in, those still being on Saturday and Monday. Ever since the NCAA Tournament pushed back a week several years ago to the first weekend and Monday in April, it became a problem for the media. The MLB openers and the NCAA Championship Game are both stories and games which merit the full spotlight. Finally, they will have it.
While many of the paying customers won't like the weather for the baseball opening weekend, this move could provide benefits for the local teams in terms of more thorough media coverage surrounding opening day. Those who put baseball atop their list don't have to deal with all of the NCAA hype on opening day, then to have The Masters take the lead for the first full weekend of games. And the sports media can provide us with coverage of one "lead" story at a time.
As we have come to expect, MLB Network is as ready as ever to step up their coverage for what is already their 3rd full season of coverage. Along with expanded studio coverage on Thursday and Friday for opening day, MLB Network is planning to show more than 100 live games again this season, including live doubleheaders shown most Tuesdays during the season. They will also pick up a local telecast on many Friday nights, and continue to pick a Saturday night telecast (except for the 3 which Fox has rights to). All this in addition to continuing to originate Thursday Night Baseball telecasts with Bob Costas on play-by-play.
Yet, it gets even better during April, as MLB Network plans "30 Clubs in 30 Days" with plans to show at least one game with every team. This starts on Friday with the Seattle vs. Oakland opener. The Network is also adding to its live studio coverage during the week with additional programming starting mid-afternoon to lead into the evening's games.
Meanwhile, ESPN brings us 3 games on Thursday and 2 more openers on Friday. Then, the Sunday Night Baseball opener is San Francisco at L.A. ESPN goes up against the NCAA Championship game on Monday with the Yankees vs. Twins, before sticking around to show the same two teams on Wednesday night (4/6). Play ball!
While baseball rolls on the TV side, A's fans face more uncertainty over radio broadcasts of the A's games. The A's are supposed to continue on KTRB 860 this season and that station has carried several of the team's exhibition games. However, with the station still in receivership (as of press time late Tuesday), reports have surfaced that the station could withhold the A's broadcasts to force more negotiations with the team. The station failed to air last weekend's 2 games vs. Colorado, but has been airing (or scheduled to at press time) the games vs. the Giants from San Francisco on Monday and Tuesday nights.
CLEVELAND: The Cavaliers' current season now has a single bright spot, and that wasn't until Sunday (3/27) when legendary play-by-play voice Joe Tait returned to the microphone for the first time all season. Tait, still recovering from heart surgery in January, plans to also call the 4 remaining Cavs home games before his previously planned retirement. He needed help and his cane to get to his broadcast area and struggled a bit during the broadcast (his first since an exhibition game in October), but the good news is he made it back.
ARKANSAS: Sometimes all you can do about an embarrassing situation is to issue an apology and move on. The University of Arkansas' Hog Sports Network was faced with that very situation last week (3/23) regarding the women's basketball game in the WNIT vs. Oral Roberts. The network radio broadcast did not get on the air until the second half of the game due to what was later described as "technical and communication issues".
This led to Hog Sports Radio Network Program Director Dave Barr issuing a public apology, which also appeared on the school web site. Yet, rather than blame the source of the problem, Barr apologized on behalf of the Network.
HOUSTON: Raheel Ramzanali has been moved to a midday co-host position on KGOW 1560, working with a variety of co-hosts starting on Monday (4/4). Ramzanali replaces John Harris, who is moving to the overnight slot for Sporting News Radio.
DALLAS: 105.3 The Fan is changing its morning show starting on Monday April 11th when it debuts "New School with Shan @ R.J." from 5 to 9 AM. R.J. is R.J. Choppy, formerly of 103.3 ESPN for 9 years, while Shan Shariff is a former sports talk host in from Kansas City. They will replace Jagger and Gregg Henson, whose contracts are not being renewed.
NEW YORK: The recent trend of some TV stations' local newscasts reducing or eliminating sportscasts has come to New York. WPIX-TV has dropped the sports segment from its 10 PM newscasts, instead going with anchor Jodi Applegate on weeknights and Jim Watkins most weekends handing a roughly one minute scores and highlights recap. As a result, Glenn Petraitis, who had been handling weekend sports recaps, is no longer with the station. This will make the newscast's ratings over the next 6 months very interesting to watch, since WPIX-TV continues to air some Mets games this season. I would think they will lose some audience since Mets fans will likely switch to SNY's 10 PM sports updates for additional Mets coverage. And when Mets games run past 10:00, they figure to lose a portion of the "non-sports" audience which doesn't have to wait for WPIX news.
This after WNYW-TV had reduced the Russ Salzberg sports segment to roughly one minute at the end of the hour, with Salzberg signing off the entire newscast to end the show on some nights.
BOSTON: Congrats to long time former Bruins radio play-by-play voice Bob Wilson. This past Saturday (3/26) the team honored him by officially renaming the home radio booth the "Bob Wilson Radio Booth". Among those on hand to honor the 82-year old Wilson were team President Cam Neely, current radio voice Dave Goucher, and former TV voice Fred Cusick.
CHICAGO: WSCR The Score 670 has renewed the contract of evening host Laurence Holmes for 2 more years. Just in time for Holmes to be pre-empted on many weeknights as the station's White Sox play-by-play begins for the new season.
BALTIMORE/D.C.: WBFF-TV 45 has brought in Morgan Adsit as its new weekend sports anchor starting April 9 & 10th. She replaces Kristen Berset who moved a few miles south to WUSA-TV 9.
MILWAUKEE: Trenni Kusnierek, formerly of MLB Network and Fox Sports Wisconsin, has joined WTMJ 620 as afternoon sports anchor, replacing Bill Michaels, whose contract was not renewed. She starts on Monday April 4th.
BATON ROUGE: LSU baseball continues to get extended local media coverage this season. "Inside LSU Baseball" is a new weekly half hour TV show airing at 10:35 PM Sundays on WBRZ-TV 2 and streamed on LSUSports.net. This is in addition to the (LSU coach) Paul Mainieri Show on Mondays.