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One major lesson the YES Network should take from spring training

YES has struck gold with in-game player interviews, and should continue them in the regular season — in moderation, that is.

MLB: Winter Meetings Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Spring training is a time for experimentation. Pitchers try to add new pitches to their arsenals, position players try their hands at new positions to increase their versatility — there have even been cases of players working to become switch-hitters during preseason workouts, as the Rays’ Ji-Man Choi attempted in 2020.

In a similar vein, the YES Network has used this spring’s exhibition games to experiment a bit: in order to spruce up a broadcast in which only one person from the YES team, Meredith Marakovits, is actually at the game (the other two have either been in the studio or at home), the crew has regularly done in-game interviews with players and coaches. It has been a resounding success, allowing fans to hear directly from members of the Yankees organization in a way that is largely unfiltered and natural — and, in the case of Luke Voit’s reaction to Rob Brantly’s first home run of spring training, endearing in a “You’re definitely getting a call from the FCC later today” sort of way.

Due to the remote nature of last season’s broadcasts, they had a very different tone than usual. Between Paul O’Neill doing show-and-tell from his basement and the fact that, during road games, no member of the broadcast team was actually at the ballpark, they sometimes felt less like a game broadcast stream and more like a radio show or podcast that happened to be streaming and commenting on the game. That’s not a bad thing — there’s a lot of downtime in baseball, which makes it the perfect sport to weave conversations about topics other than the game into the broadcast. This is something that the YES Network should lean into this year, especially if some of the 2020 travel restrictions remain in place to start the season.

Incorporating innings and half-innings with mic’d up players would fit seamlessly into these broadcasts. There would have to be restrictions, of course — it would be unreasonable to put a mic on somebody with active responsibilities during a game, for example. That essentially limits you to players unlikely to see the field during the interview segment, such as other starting pitchers, players on the injured list, and relievers (at least early in the game). And obviously you would want to cut back on the amount of these segments, so that they don’t become tedious over 100+ broadcasts.

Done in moderation and with carefully-chosen games, however, mic’d up players would add an immense amount of entertainment to the broadcast. After all, who wouldn’t want to hear Gerrit Cole talk about his relationship with Jameson Taillon during the latter’s first start in pinstripes on the Yankee Stadium mound? Or Luis Severino providing updates on his recovery from Tommy John surgery early in the season? Or Zack Britton and Darren O’Day reminiscing on their time in Baltimore during a game at Camden Yards?

Chosen properly, in-game player interviews would perfectly complement the story of the game. After all, the goal of the broadcast is to present it in the most engaging way possible.