How I Prepare to Call a Game: Texas vs. Oklahoma (ESPNU)

Content is king when talking about baseball.  Preparation is the foundation for every comment I will make during this game.  My guess is that I will use around 10% of the information that I have studied.

Step 1

Read every single game article you can find on both of the teams.  This helps you understand how the teams are playing, what the coaches are thinking, and what we can expect from the match up.

From my reading I know that these two teams are built around pitching.  Oklahoma was said to have a big offense, but Coach Galloway has continued to speak about his pitching being their strength.  Coach Garrido of Texas has said the same thing.  Texas hasn’t given up a run in 2 games and they have been playing very good defense.

Step 2

Look at the statistics of both teams.  Speaking on television doesn’t allow you to get too in depth with statistics that fans don’t understand.  So instead, I will look to use traditional stats and apply some more detailed analysis that viewers can understand.  For example, I will look at the number of at bats, hits, extra base hits, steals, walks, and strike outs as my base of reference for this game.

Step 3

Interview the coaches.  I like to listen and see if I can envision his view and opinions.  This will help me better understand the team that he is coaching.  I will also ask them about the opposing team and see if there are any ideas or keys that he has picked up.

Step 4

Watch how the players carry themselves.  I like watching how a player carries himself.  I don’t link their body language to their ability in the game.  My goal is to see if there is some sort of personality trait that I can draw on so that my comments can add a humanness to the game.

Now Stop

Once I have done these things I stop thinking about everything.  Since I have read everything I can, looked at statistics, talked to their coaches, and watched their players, it is important to just call what is going on in the game.  You can think of it as studying over a period of time vs. studying the night before.

In the Booth

The people over at ESPN taught me a really important key that helps me comment.  You may recognize these statements.

1.  What’s my point?

2.  Why does it matter?

I will have these 2 sentences written down on note cards right in front of me.  I will also have the word “absolutely”.

“Absolutely” happens to be a word that I say a lot on air, so by bringing it to my attention, I will be able to practice using other words.

Tom Feuer, is an Executive Producer for Fox Sports.  I have met with him and asked him for advice.  Last year I did a game and said “whatnot.”  I didn’t realize that.  After Tom told me that I eliminated it from my commentating.  There is nothing more important than asking for help to be better through constructive critique.  This isn’t about pride, this is about being as good as you can be and you can’t have that if everyone is telling you what you want to hear.

It’s Ok to be Quiet

Sometimes there isn’t a reason to comment.  During those times I just watch.  My goal is always to pack a punch so that people listen to my comments.  If I am talking the whole time viewers will not listen.

Talk to the Truck

My latest practice is talking back to the producer in the truck.  This is what can make a broadcast amazing.  We have headphones on and it is connected to a box with 2 buttons.  One button says, “Cough” and the other is the “Talk Back” button.  If we need to cough we push that button and it mutes our microphone.  If we press “Talk Back” it goes to the video truck outside the stadium.  This is the control center and you would be shocked to see all that is going on in there.

In my ear is the producer.  He will send us information about the game, tell us what clip is coming, and count us “in and out” of the breaks by counting backwards like you see in the movies.  If I see something, I can push that button and ask if we got a specific shot of a play.  The better we are at communicating together, the better the broadcast will be.  My job is to communicate everything to my producer and he then guides me through the game.

Have Fun!

This is so fun I can’t even tell you.  I love teaching the game to viewers and I love learning.  Every game teaches me new ways to be better.  My goal is to always remember how blessed I am that I get a chance to comment on a game that I love.  This is such a blessing and I hope you get to feel that from watching and hearing me comment.

Review

When the game is done and I am back at home the real work begins.  I will review the game over and over to see where I could be better.  For example, earlier this year I kept on talking and stopping right before the pitch was made.  It was choppy and I didn’t like it.  So today I will focus on making my statements flow better.   My hope is that you don’t even notice me until I show you something you didn’t see.

Time to Go

I am sitting in a Starbucks and it is 4 hours before game time.  My homework is done.  Once I finish this paragraph I can go back to the hotel and get dressed.  I like wearing suits because it lets me communicate to you something about me.  But today we will be wearing Polo’s.  I will still wear a suit to the park though because I believe that dressing is a major part of presentation.

Thank You

My career was ended earlier than I would have liked, but I am so thankful that I got a chance to play Major League Baseball.  When I was younger I couldn’t sleep the night before a big league game.  There was a nervousness and excitement as I drove to the games.  I have that same excitement right now!  God is good.  Happy Easter!


30 Comments on “How I Prepare to Call a Game: Texas vs. Oklahoma (ESPNU)”

  1. Michael Floyd says:

    I already had the reminder set so switch over from the Astros exhibition game – now I have even more reason to watch. I’m so glad you are getting this opportunity and enjoy the insight you bring to the game. Looking forward to what should be a phenomenal game. Best of luck, Godspeed and Happy Easter!

  2. Mitch (Michele) Molesky says:

    Morgan,
    I find this so fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing all this inside information. I really miss watching you play with the Astros but knowing that you are still involved with Baseball makes me happy. Here’s hoping our paths will cross again one day! Until then, Keep on enjoying the game🙂

  3. AmazingGreis says:

    Hook’em Horns! Been watching a little of the game. You’re doing a great job!

  4. richard koehler says:

    I’m watching your broadcast. I didn’t know that college baseballs are different than pro balls. Good stuff.

  5. Couch Tater says:

    I missed your broadcast, but look forward to hearing you another time. Have your own style, but play a radio broadcast of Vin Scully while you sleep for subliminal influence.

    “It’s a mere moment in a man’s life between the All-Star Game and an old timer’s game.” – Vin Scully

  6. Kevin Bradshaw says:

    Yeah, I thought the “whatnot” was a bit grating. And I think you have had, at times, a (bad) habit I’ve had at times- having so much to say at once.

    For example, make one simple, clear remark about a very narrow aspect of an event your commenting on. I thought you had (in that game last year) several good points which got lost.

    • Great point Kevin. You are right on being more concise. I think that I need to practice the less is more strategy. But this is perfect. I will keep practicing. Thanks Kevin.

      Morgan

  7. Valencia says:

    Loved your explanation of the ‘cough’ and ‘talk back’ buttons! There are a lot of people who have no idea what goes on to put a baseball game on the air. We just don’t show up and POOF the game is on the air. We production folks show up at least 5 hours before the game and our jobs aren’t done when the game is over.

    Your preparation is what makes a good analyst. And not talking too much also makes a good analyst. Sadly, Joe Morgan hasn’t figured that out yet. The thing Joe Morgan (and Tim McCarver) does is that he always says ‘when I played, this this and this happened’. I think if your play by play guy says ‘Morgan, when you were playing, what would you have done in that situation’ then by all means talk about yourself.
    I want an analyst to give me the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of the game. We all know the analyst played the game, that’s why he’s the analyst. Listening to you was like sitting in each team’s dugout. I’m sure most people want to be informed. You gave us that. Good job.

    • Thanks V- I felt good for the first game, but I really love teaching. My goal is to show viewers strategy that could be “in play” in different situations. There is so much I can show fans in a game and now I have to learn how to present that information clearly.

      Morgan

  8. Dan Szymborski says:

    It’s Ok to be Quiet

    Get this man into a broadcasting booth!

    Maybe I’m in the minority, but one of my pet peeves about sports broadcasts in general is that the on-air guys feel that if there’s quiet for more than a quarter of a second, the world’s going to blow up.

  9. lisa gray says:

    why are college baseballs different? how are they different?

    and i agree with szym – i REALLY wish that commentators would spend a LOT less time talking.

    ESPECIALLY the astros radio guys (and yeah, i know you can’t comment on that)

    • I will comment on the Astros broadcast. It has everything to do with the personality you are selecting. The Astros organization wants their commentators to comment non-stop because that is what they chose.

      We could make broadcasts so much better by giving fans good content. Teams generally follow the pack. Todays tv and radio broadcasts are about non stop talk. My guess is that it is less about the type of product you want to deliver, and more about doing what other teams are doing.

      It isn’t the broadcasters fault that people are annoyed. They are just being themselves and calling the games in their style.

      Morgan

  10. Bob says:

    I really enjoyed your broadcast, I learned a lot about the game.

    • Thanks Bob. My niche is different than what you have probably heard. My goal is to teach the game when I speak. Each time I open my mouth I hope to inform fans about strategy. Keep watching and we can learn together.

      Morgan

  11. H. Jose Bosch says:

    This was incredibly interesting. I’ve always wanted to be in the broadcast booth (more play-by-play than analyst) and anything that puts me behind the scenes is fun to read.

    I’ve had a chance to work a couple of games in college and it was amazing. Granted I was probably awful, but it’s still something I’d love to pursue.

    Another excellent post.

    • H- Don’t say awful. Everything is about repetition. Always think of ways to get better. You don’t need to think of the things that hold you back. Always move forward!

      Morgan

  12. Mark Mitchener says:

    Great blog, Morgan, especially the paragraph “It’s OK to be quiet”. As a sports journalist myself (for the BBC), I’d say that bit is something every broadcaster should read.

    One of the most admired sports broadcasters here in the UK (and Australia) is a former Australia cricket captain called Richie Benaud, who is the absolute master, on a TV commentary, of not saying anything if you don’t have anything to add – let the pictures speak for themselves rather than just stating the obvious.

    Unfortunately, “stating the obvious” is a familiar stock-in-trade for many in the media these days – it’s a trap I’m always keen to avoid!

    • Mark I believe the only way for me to make it in this business is to be myself. I like commenting when I think I can contribute. Other than that, I feel like people tune in to watch the game, not listen to me.

      Morgan

  13. Kelsey says:

    I heard you call this game. I thought you do a great job of trying to pick up tendencies from the pitcher. Also I like your take on throwing a fastball in a 2-2 count, makes a lot of since. Do you have a schedule of other games you are going to call?

  14. kilwa says:

    thank you for this great post

  15. […] commentator for ESPNU. Most recently, he did a game between Texas and Oklahoma, and chronicled both how he prepared for the game and broke down what he needed to do better. It was an interesting read, both in how I can learn […]

  16. Gary Waldeck says:

    Watched the ASU vs. Arkansas game last night. Morgan, you are very knowlegable about the game, but most of your comments were like you were talking to young kids or to someone from outer space that had never ever seen a basball game before. I found you to be the master of the obvious. Just my opinion of course, but I wish you would not talk so much. All you need do is eliminate some (all) of the stuff most baseball fans already know. A lot of the time you sounded more like a little league coach teaching his kids.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s