When MLB Network broadcasts todayâ€™s regular season unveiling of new Yankee Stadium (1:05pm ET), the visuals will monumental. Hall of Famer Yogi Berra will throw out the first pitch, more than 40 former Yankees will be introduced during a pre-game ceremony, Kelly Clarkson will sing the National Anthem, and in sadder news, Paul Olden will replace longtime PA announcer Bob Sheppard (although a recording of Sheppard will announce Derek Jeter throughout the day).
But, beyond all this, it may be the man in front of the camera and behind the mic for MLB Network that this game may also be well remembered for.
Bob Costas makes his return to the baseball broadcast booth for the first time since he broadcast at the old Yankee Stadium for NBC on October 17, 2000, where the Yankees closed out the ALCS with a win in Game Six over the Seattle Mariners. Costas will be joined by Jim Kaat, and Harold Reynolds calling the action.
Earlier this week, Costas talked of returning to baseball broadcasting and to those that will be in the booth with him today. Asked if he was going into the game cold, Costas offered up that a practice production run was done during an MLB exhibition game this year.
"We did a Saturday game at Citi Field, with the Mets and the Red Sox,â€ť Costas said. â€śWe did six innings of the game as a rehearsal game and I would imagine there's some aspect of it that's like riding a bike and there's a little bit of rust to knock off, but I don't anticipate any major problems. Is it possible that by the third or fourth game I'll be in a slightly better rhythm than the first game? Yeah I guess that's possible. We'll see."
Asked about his broadcast team, he made it clear that Kaat and Reynolds were key to what he sees as the start of a successful run with MLB Network.
"I wanted to make sure Jim Kaat was a part of the group because he pitched in the true original Yankee Stadium,â€ť Costas said. â€śHis career began in 1959 so he pitched against Ted Williams, he faced Mickey Mantle at the old Yankee Stadium, and while the broadcast won't be exclusively about new stadium, old stadium, it certainly has to be part of it. I thought that Jim's perspective would be important and as [MLB Network CEO Tony Petitti] said, Harold has been such a prominent part of the network that it is appropriate that he be involved on this first broadcast. So I think it's going to be a combination of introducing people outside of New York to the new Yankee Stadium, but also talk about the Yankees prospects and the Indians prospects for the season ahead and the pitching pairing that the rotations hold is CC Sabathia against Cliff Lee so you can't ask for much more than that. So as long as the weather holds up, I think were in good shape."
Asked what were some of the key story lines that he saw for the 2009 season, Costas mentioned the Rays, Yankees, and Cubs, and then added something off-the-field.
â€śIt will be interesting to see what teams that are out of contention early on do in terms of shedding payroll, given the state of the economy.â€ť
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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