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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

First Pitch: Dear ESPN and TBS, Please Show This in Your Pre-Game Broadcasts

Last year when the first #PNCBLACKOUT campaign rolled around, I was a bit skeptical of how it would work out. I figured the crowd would be amped up, but I don’t think anyone was expecting what actually happened.

A few hours before the game, I exited PNC to go outside to do a radio interview. What I saw was just a preview of that night. Federal Street was packed, due to thousands of people coming over the Clemente Bridge. It rivaled walking through Rockefeller Center a few days before Christmas. You’re just walking down the street, everything seems normal, then you turn a corner and suddenly you’re swimming through people, just trying to move five feet.

Then the fans started pouring in the park. They were loud. They cheered everything. They waved their Jolly Rogers, and gave thunderous ovations to every player that was announced in the pre-game ceremony. There was a “Let’s Go Bucs” chant almost half an hour before the game even started. They sang along with Andrew McCutchen’s mom during the National Anthem.

I looked up at the TV in the press box during the intros, when every Pirates player got the biggest cheer of his life, and every Reds player got the biggest boo (most notably with Aroldis Chapman and Dusty Baker). I expected to see the scene on the broadcast. Instead, what I saw was Pedro Martinez offering up analysis.

At the time I thought that there was nothing Martinez could have said that would have been better than just showing the atmosphere at PNC Park. There was no sound on the TVs, and I don’t think anyone would have been able to hear it if there was. But unless Pedro said “The fans are going to go crazy tonight, make Johnny Cueto drop a ball, then give up a home run to Russell Martin on the very next pitch. MARK IT DOWN!”, then there was no need for the analysis.

I bring this up now because over the next two days, MLB will have some amazing playoff atmospheres. The AL Wild Card game will be hosted in Kansas City. By the Royals. A team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 1985. Here were some other things that happened in 1985:

**Compact Discs were released. No one even uses those anymore.

**Windows 1.0 was released.

**Back to the Future was released. We’re a year away from living in the future described in the sequel.

**22 members of the current Royals active roster (the September expanded version) weren’t even born yet.

I’m going to just take a guess that the crowd in Kansas City is going to be insane.

As for the Pirates, we saw what happened last year. The Pirates are calling for another #PNCBLACKOUT this year. And this time around, we know what to expect.

So here is my advice to TBS and ESPN this year (not that I think their producers will be reading this): Just show the crowd. There’s no need for pointless studio analysis at that stage in the pre-game. You don’t even need to talk over the crowd shots. It can just be a live feed of the stadium. There will be thousands of fans going crazy in Kansas City and Pittsburgh the next two nights. There will be millions of fans watching at home, also going crazy, and I know they will want to see the scene inside of the stadium, rather than the same old pre-game analysis that never really offers up anything substantial.

As we saw last year, a fan base that has been starved for a playoff appearance can become the story of the game, and can impact the game. Hopefully, Royals and Pirates fans at home will get to see some of this during the next two nights.

Links and Notes

**Houston Astros Hire New Manager, Banister Stays in Pittsburgh

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Minor League Recaps and Top 10 Lists

**World Series Projections Show a Tough Path For the Pirates

**Pirates Currently Pick 23rd in the 2015 MLB Draft

**Edinson Volquez Officially Announced as the Wild Card Game Starter

**Morning Report: The Top Prospects That Didn’t Make the Cut

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Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.


Pirates Prospects has been independently owned and operated since 2009, entirely due to the support of our readers. The site is now completely free, funded entirely by user support. By supporting the site, you are supporting independent writers, one of the best Pittsburgh Pirates communities online, and our mission for the most complete Pirates coverage available.

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Matt Lipner

Finally, some public criticism of ESPN and the other national networks. The analysts are terrible, mostly retired players that know very little about current teams. Keep up the , solid work, Tim.


Al Leiter on MLB.tv gave a fairly detailed summary of why he thinks the Pirates will win. Home crowd, better athletes, Marte/Harrison/Martin, Volquez has been strong, Giants 3rd worst team for chasing pitches out of zone.

Baseball analysts on ESPN/Fox are too shallow in analysis. I think they spend 3 minutes reading bullet points prepared by someone else and believe that’s enough to appear “knowledgeable”.


I hope he is right!


Best article you have written all year Tim. Way to many people on tv telling us what to get excited about intead of just showing us so we can decide for ourself.


Back to the Future was released. We’re a year away from living in the future described in the sequel.

So the Cubs are going to beat Miami in the World Series next season?


Haha, nicely done!

Lee Foo Young

I just hope we’re celebrating just as loudly AFTER the game!

Lee Foo Young

**Compact Discs were released. No one even uses those anymore.

Nobody? 3/4 of my record collection is on CDs. My car and home CD player play MP3s, so I can have (for instance) my whole Moody Blues collection on one CD.

I never ‘cottoned’ to IPods and head phones (or whatever you call those things you stick inside your ear canals). I just crank up the speakers (whenever my wife ain’t around, of course).


CD’s are not dead. In fact, we manufacture and sell a CD collection of the Cinnamon Bear (5 CD set) and its a hot seller at Christmas time. We also convert a lot of cassette to CD as well.
Ah..my favorites…The Moody Blues…Days of Future Pass…To Our Children s Children’s Children…Every Good Boy deserves Favor…and the list goes on.


I agree with you somewhat, but I see a real benefit in MP3’s vs CD’s as far as space goes. What I have not joined the trend with is smart phones that people have glued to their domes for 7 hours per day (and the $40/month for the ability to do what you can already do at home and–in most cases–work. Long live the flip-phones that really turn ‘off’ when you don’t want to be on call for everyone in your phone book.


I hope we get to see the pregame atmosphere in kc.. i can’t imagine it not being as loud and electrifying as pnc was last year. totally agree Tim


Nice article, Tim. Every year I hope for situations like this. The other day I was watching ‘MLB Now’, and their intro was a twenty minute skit on Jeter, then after talking for 5 or 6 minutes about the playoffs, they would go back and repeat a new story about Jeter, followed by plays that he made in the past. He already announced his retirement a year early for publicity, why do they feed the need so much? I don’t even watch ESPN anymore for these kinds of reasons, and MLB network is now following their lead. On a positive note, Kansas City, Oakland, and Pittsburgh are in Wild Card games, which puts a sour face on every national mouthpiece that can’t talk about Boston or the Yankees. Go small markets!


And hardly a word about paul konerko!! Who’s also retiring.. who’s also a face of franchise.. who’s also one of the greats of the game over the last 15 years.. who also does it the ‘right’ way


Well said. He was the face of that franchise for a decade, and always one of the few players who could be looked highly upon. No love for him even though Chicago is a large market.


I too am disgusted with ESPN, but sadly, despite saying they would be an alternative, Fox 1 is just as bad. Twenty minutes on Jeter last week, also 20 minutes on the latest NFL thug to beat up someone or twenty minutes on the stupid press conference after the Monday Night Football game.


I don’t think anything will beat last year’s WC game for atmosphere at PNC, except perhaps a WS Game 7. We sat in Sec 307 last year, not going this year. While it’ll be nuts, there’s no chance it will be as emotionally charged as last year, if only because Bucs and their fans have “been there before”. This year we only bought one game – game 4 of NLDS.


I think the atmosphere will be pretty damn electric. Although Cue-to is easy to chant…Bumgarner not so much. Maybe “go home Giants” chants will break out instead.


“Maaaaaad-ih-son” wouldn’t be too hard.


I like “MA-DI” for tonights chant.. pronounced maddi btw.


Thanks for pumping me up, i cant make this years WC, but im very excited, I LOVE PLAYOFF BASEBALL!!


My son and I were there last year, we were down the right field foul line. We met up with the season ticket holder who we split the package with, he and the 4th partner were in our regular seats behind 3rd base. We were there when Byrd came out to warm up 1/2 hour before the game and got a huge cheer. That’s also when the pregame Let’s Go Bucs chant started.

This year the account holder not only never sent in the playoff deposit, he never told us he wasn’t sending it in so we’re out of luck. (I put the money up last year and would have done so again.)


to the defense of whoever you shared your tickets with, the Pirates botched everything this year, they required you to put up all the money for the ENTIRE postseason and the deadline date was like Sept. 5 or something which was wayyyyyyy too early and it was even looking bleak that we would get to the postseason let alone have a home game at that point


We had to pay up front for every possible home post season game last year too, I got refunded after the Pirates got eliminated. There wasn’t enough communication between the four of us this year, I dropped the ball too by waiting too long to look into it.


Are you nuts Tim ?……
Why would they waste all that air time on the game when they can fill that time talking about Derek Jeter.


ESPN sucks anymore. Sunday on Sports Reporters it was 8 minutes on Jeter, 8 minutes on the 49ers and 8 minutes on Jamis Winston! That’s it. Three topics and no mention of exciting baseball playoff races (or to be fair any other interesting NFL or NCAA stories)


My sentiments exactly!

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