Transcript: ESPN MLB All-Star and T-Mobile Home Run Derby Media Conference Call


Transcript: ESPN MLB All-Star and T-Mobile Home Run Derby Media Conference Call

ESPN will exclusively televise the 2024 T-Mobile Home Run Derby on Monday, July 15, at 8 p.m. ET. Karl Ravech returns as the voice of the Derby with analysts Eduardo Pérez and Todd FrazierFrazier, the 2015 Home Run Derby Champion, has called Little League World Series games for ESPN and will make his Home Run Derby analyst debut this year. The trio, plus ESPN Vice President of Production Phil Orlins, were made available to media earlier today.

ESPN’s Home Run Derby coverage will include a Statcast edition airing on ESPN2 alongside the traditional broadcast with Kevin BrownJessica Mendoza and Mike Petriello. The first round of the 2024 MLB Draft will also be available on ESPN and ESPN+ on Sunday, July 14, starting at 5 p.m. ET. The 2024 MLB All-Star Game will be on ESPN Radio as Ravech calls the event.

Q. My first question is for Karl and Eduardo. Your first initial thoughts on the initial pool of players participating in the Home Run Derby. And do you have any early predictions? We’ll start with you, Karl.

KARL RAVECH: I’ve learned over the years never to make predictions in this thing just because I would say without — assuming Aaron Judge is not going to do it, there’s very few fields where you’d say anybody is going to beat anybody else.

I wouldn’t say that I have a prediction. This is one of those events that I think, regardless of the people that participate in it, the event is bigger than those that participate in it. Again, Judge may be the one guy, given his prodigious ability to hit homers that changes that, but anytime he’s not in it, then to me it’s a field event, and it’s an event.

I can’t think of a more unique event than the derby in the middle of the summer in Texas with baseball superstars. I’d love to say that I think Bobby Witt, Jr., is going to win. I don’t think that would be really smart because I wouldn’t know who’s going to win. But I think in this, it’s the event over the field.

How many times have we had conversations about take the field, take this guy in major golf tournaments. This is a field event, but the event is what matters most. Who the hell would have picked Frazier when he was winning in ’15?

Q. I wouldn’t have.

TODD FRAZIER: Oh, man, that stings right there (laughter).

EDUARDO PEREZ: You know what’s interesting here is we still haven’t heard the entire field, and you wonder if there’s going to be a hometown guy or not. You mentioned Todd last time in 2015, that was in Cincinnati.

I think the right person we can ask later on is Todd, how important is the home-field advantage there? And is there a lot of pressure being the guest as well, the host?

We saw last year in Seattle where it just seemed like that sort of was an advantage for the home guy even though I think he was also exhausted because Julio at the time was also the host, so there’s a lot of things that go into it.

Again, Todd’s the perfect guy to ask, but in this case with the guys that are there, I’m actually going to go out on a limb and say that Gunnar Henderson, I think, has a really legit chance, has a legit chance because he has power to off fields. In this new format, I think it’s a brand new game for a lot of people.

Pete Alonso, do not put anything past Pete Alonso. I think he got embarrassed last year. He wanted to win it. He’s in the derby because he believes in it, and when you have stardom like that, that is in his walk here, and is just one of those type of guys that wants to be a part of it and embraces it.

He’ll take the mic as well and he’ll be all like a race horse there next to us. I don’t put anything past in the American League Gunnar Henderson, National League Pete Alonso. Never bet against that guy.

Q. Todd, a quick thing. I would love to hear your thoughts on the new derby roles. You’ve obviously participated. And how you would benefit from them.

TODD FRAZIER: I think in ’15 when we first started doing it, for me, each round I took 39 exact swings. I look back — I remember Aaron Boone saying it live, 39 or 37, I forget the exact number, but that’s under 40 swings.

I think it was a little bit more — we had four minutes, but we were cruising. At the same time, I think it’s a really good format. Guys aren’t going to be as exhausted. You’re going to see guys maybe take their time. You’re going to see guys maybe want to get it over with, feel like they can get in a groove.

So I think it’s going to be very interesting, but I think it does help out for the exhaustion level of the whole derby.

PHIL ORLINS: If I could just add one thing, there’s a lot of analysis done, the number of swings, like Todd was alluding to, interestingly enough, like you said, 39 back in 2015. We were actually trying to enforce balls landing before the next pitch was thrown, unsuccessfully at that time.

Over the years, that wasn’t even tried anymore. Last year Randy Arozarena peaked with 57 swings in three minutes, and the lowest amount of swings was 43 swings in three minutes. So that just gives you a little bit of an idea of where the pace evolved to as it got more and more competitive and more and more desire to get as many pitches and swings as possible.

KARL RAVECH: Todd Frazier, how would you be feeling after 57 swings?

TODD FRAZIER: Not very good at all. I don’t know how some of those guys did it. I was exhausted after that, after the first time.

Q. Todd, since Eduardo was already thinking where I was, tell me a little bit about 2015 and what it’s like to do the Home Run Derby in front of the home crowd and kind of what that experience was like for you.

TODD FRAZIER: Yeah, there’s certain people that like playing in front of their family and friends. Certain people don’t like doing it. I sure as hell relish over it. I enjoy having family and friends there and playing in front of my home crowd.

I remember my brother Charlie and I last rounds, the last month before Spring Training, the last round we would do a little Home Run Derby session just in case, and lo and behold it did happen.

It’s nothing like doing it realtime, but I enjoyed playing in front of the home crowd. They kind of willed me to get through that last round to win it all, and it makes it more exciting. You hear the crowd getting crazier. It makes it more exciting for the fans too who are watching at home.

Here’s the hometown guy going. We’ve got to at least watch this guy hit. So I think it makes it more exciting for people, fans at the stadium. I remember somebody telling me they live four or five miles away, they can hear the roar of the crowd, and that was something that I’ll never forget.

Q. Karl, you took over in 2017 for Chris Berman. I don’t know that there’s a harder act to follow on being the voice of the Home Run Derby than that. What are your memories of how Chris added to kind of the aura of the derby? And how did you kind of approach, how do I make this my own?

KARL RAVECH: I think my career has been, in a way, about not necessarily making something my own by having it be focused on me, whether it’s hosting the Baseball Tonight show for as long as I did or the college basketball, College World Series, the Little League, I learned early on, whether it was working with Stuart Scott, Chris Berman, Bob Lee, Dan Patrick and Olbermann, to me, trying to emulate somebody else is like chasing a mirage. I’m not somebody else; I’m me.

I learned over my career — as I told Jess this on a podcast recently — to me, we serve as the condiments to the meal. We are the A-1 Steak Sauce, we’re the ketchup, we’re the mustard. What we’re trying to do is maybe make your viewing experience, in a sense, taste a little bit better, but you’re going to the derby for the derby. You’re going to the World Series for the teams that are playing. You’re coming to Sunday Night Baseball — like last week we had, at its peak, almost 3 million people watching.

With all due respect to Eduardo and Buster and me for sure, they were not there watching because we’re doing the game. They’re there because the game is Red Sox and Yankees and it’s 0-0 after seven. And then you hope the things that we adjust enhance that experience, but they’re not there for us.

So I’ve never looked at any of these events that I’ve been lucky enough to do and tried to make them my own. I think, in making them my own, I make them as much about the people sitting next to me as anything. I rely heavily on the analysts no matter what scene or set that I’m on.

My goal is to make them the best. The event is what it is, and that’s probably why I answered Jess’ question the way I did. The event is what carries this. I’ve never — I, as a professional in this industry, have never tuned into a game or event because of who’s calling it. I have tuned in because of who’s playing in it.

Then if the person that’s calling it I enjoy, it just makes it that much better. I don’t know if that answers your question, but look, I was never, other than out of respect and perhaps as a tribute, going to sit there and say, back, back, back, back, and he hits it to Plano, Texas. That’s Chris Berman. That’s not Karl Ravech. I’m not ever going to try to be him or anyone else.

Q. The last is for all four of you guys, and I wish you’d weigh in, maybe with the exception of Todd whose favorite memory is actually winning the derby. What’s your most indelible memory of the derby, whether you called it, watched it, were part of the production?

KARL RAVECH: I’ll just go first. To Todd’s point and what we’ve talked about with the home field guys and the other parts of the dynamics that exist between the — in Todd’s case, the brother. I thought the Bryce Harper Home Run Derby was as cool a derby and finish as anything I’ve ever seen. And the raw emotion of him winning it — and you do see that. You saw it with Todd. We’ve seen it with Bryce. We’ve seen it with several others.

That moment with his father on that field in front of that crowd, that was a chills kind of moment for me. He made it feel like it meant a great deal, not only because of the Home Run Derby, but where it was and who was throwing those pitches.

There was a moment there like, oh, my God, like Bryce’s dad is not throwing enough strikes here. This is not going to go the way we thought it was going to go. And he was able to win it with the last couple swings, which I thought was as cool as anything I’ve seen.

EDUARDO PEREZ: Justin Morneau winning it in 2008 because nobody remembers Justin Morneau winning it. It was all about Josh Hamilton at Yankee Stadium, epic, the amount of home runs he was able to hit. I think it’s the first thing that comes to mind immediately.

Obviously going back, it was always Junior with his hat on backwards, absolutely with that beautiful swing, hitting home runs in the derby as well.

Everybody always seems to go back to that 2008 year, that All-Star Game, and it was, again, Justin Morneau winning it, but it was all about Josh Hamilton in the conversation. It showed the greatness of this competition and the strategy behind it.

TODD FRAZIER: If I had to pick one besides mine, the first one that comes to mind is Mark McGwire hitting those home runs at Fenway Park. He was hitting some mammo home runs. As a kid watching that, you’re like, wow, this is absolutely incredible. With the home run race he had going on with Sammy and the home runs he hit there, it was something to watch.

KARL RAVECH: And the other part of that, too, is remember, they were going over the monster, and the people behind left field chasing the baseballs was incredible. It was really cool.

TODD FRAZIER: It was like at a local little league field or something. It was pretty nice.

PHIL ORLINS: Boring answer for me because Todd just said it. My number two might have been Sosa in Milwaukee, which was incredible with the 500-plus home runs, measuring pretty well. But number one to me was Fenway, the sea of people out there beyond the Green Monster, all the shots of the ball, the cuts of the ball flying over the Green Monster into the sea of people.

That McGwire at-bat was the signature Home Run Derby moment for me.

Q. My question is for Karl. For a long time for me at least it felt like baseball had a close to monopoly on the sports conversation for these couple days in particular in mid-July, anchored by the derby and the All-Star Game. I think that has changed to some degree with the birth of WNBA, growth of soccer in the U.S., and just the year-round conversations that exist in every sport now. I’m curious for you, at work, with friends, with family, tracking the broad conversation, how much competition you feel for general fan attention in mid-July from other leagues and events compared to ten years ago.

KARL RAVECH: Again, I think that all depends on who the viewer is. I think, if you ask a certain group of people that follow the WNBA, they’re going to be interested to know that it’s playing.

I still look at baseball as the event of the summer. I think the summer has shrunk a little bit, given the events that last so long now playoff-wise with the NBA and NHL, and the NFL of course and college football seemingly starting a little bit earlier.

But, again, I do believe that this particular event, similar to the Little League World Series, which we’re all going to go do in a couple of weeks, if not months, is — there are signature events, and the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game. I grew up going to a summer camp in Amesbury, Massachusetts, where we had no cell phones or televisions, where every kid had a screen, and we would watch the All-Star Game. That was a thing to do.

I know that happens in the community I live in now with boys, girls, grandmothers, grandfathers, parents. You get pizza. You have the group. They all watch the Home Run Derby. It’s a signature single event, and it stands out so that I wouldn’t necessarily look at the competition because I think it appeals to such a mass group, where maybe a regular season Tuesday night game doesn’t work. A Sunday night exclusive game does work. A Home Run Derby standalone does work.

Again, I love it, and I think it stands out over the other ones because I happen to be as big a baseball fan and a fan of the people that participate in the derby as anybody in the world. I would watch it when I’m not doing it. I would watch it prior to being involved with it.

I’m not being in any way dismissive of the other events; bring it on, I’m good with competition. That’s how we work. That’s how we work. That’s how we live. I’m good with it.

Q. Todd, you’re going to be joining the Home Run Derby broadcast for the first time in your career. What does it mean to you now for you to be given a chance to give your perspectives and contribute to this event that, again, you had won in your career?

TODD FRAZIER: Listen, every young kid dreams about — if you love baseball, you dream about playing in the Major Leagues. I dreamed about playing in the Major Leagues, but I also love commentating and pretending to be a broadcaster.

For me, to be with this group, with Karl and Eduardo, these guys are at the top of their game. They’re the best of the best. In baseball terms, they put the ball on the tee for me pretty much, and I just have to hit the home run.

These guys, they’ve been doing it for years. They make it seem so easy. I’m sitting there sometimes like, all right, I’ve got to say something. I’ve got to do this. I just have to sit back and let them drive the bus. It’s been an honor, man.

These guys have taught me a lot, and now the culmination of me announcing the Home Run Derby, I pinch myself every day. It’s a huge opportunity for me, and I can’t wait to get in the box with these guys and scream and yell and laugh and see how far these guys hit the ball.

Q. For Phil, what kind of new technology this year could we expect to see in the Home Run Derby or changes to the broadcast format?

PHIL ORLINS: First off, the vast majority of the focus has been on the new rules and reimagining some of the coverage around those new rules. One of the things I’m really excited about is sort of the containment of the pace, a little more like the three-point shootout within the first three minutes, but also we’re going off the clock for the bonus — I try not to call it bonus time because there will be no clock. Call it the bonus period that follows each at-bat.

To be able to go back to the out-type format, three outs, an additional bonus out can be earned. So four outs if you earn the bonus. The opportunity to go off the clock, not be in a split screen, shoot all the action full, have reactions and orient that towards the biggest moments of the contest has been a really big priority, and with that, some redesign of the way — like some of the graphic layouts change. Again, a little bit more like three-point shootout where you’ll see across the bottom of the screen like 40 slots for each pitch, and each one will get filled in with either a home run or an out, things of that nature changes.

Beyond all that, I guess I would say the other things that are added into the coverage, we have added 4D replay, which we’ve done before, but we’ve always done it at mezzanine level. So 4D replay is the immersive, 180-degree kind of matrix spin cameras. We’ll be putting them just outside the batter’s dirt circle, so they’ll be 15 feet away from the hitter. 180-degree spin shots, freezes, all that kind of stuff.

We have to set that up in 30 minutes after the batting practice ends, so that will be an exercise to watch in and of itself.

Then beyond that, there are a lot of commonalities to last year, but really excited about the second year of the Statcast alternative show, the animated portrayal of the home runs with the data. I think it’s one of the really great usages of data and new technology to create a truly differentiated visual experience.

It got tremendous — look, I don’t think it’s going to be as essential because the actual live contest will not be quite as out of control as it was the last couple years, but it still is a really, really comfortable, easy way to watch and see all the home runs relative to the live presentation, where it’s like cut, cut, cut, and multiple balls.

It just is what it is when you’re trying to shoot a hitter, a pitch, and two or three balls in the air at the same time.


Q. He did. I guess the other area I’m interested in is the ratings for the derby are not too far off the game itself. What do you attribute the popularity of what’s essentially the skills competition? The fact that it is approaching what the game is itself, how do you — yeah, why do you think that is, and how do you continue to build toward it?

PHIL ORLINS: Home runs are timelessly attractive and alluring. Head-to-head, individual star-based competition is alluring. I know I talked to Evan Grant, who was on the call earlier this week, and whatever the ratings are, one of the measures I use for the popularity of the event is look around when the last pitch or out of an event takes place and see how full the stadium is at that moment.

At its best, that’s always a ringing endorsement of the compelling experience of the Home Run Derby because more often than not, you can barely find an empty seat at the end of the Home Run Derby. I’ll let other people draw conclusions elsewhere about other events.

The ratings themselves, like it has a great, great foundation. Then the job for Major League Baseball and for us is to optimize that experience. In 2015, when Todd won, MLB, Tony Pettiti at the time, wanted to move to clock-based head-to-head format. I think it had gotten a bit slow and needed more juice. We were on board with that from the moment he made that call in ’15.

Then things evolved over time, but I am an absolute nerd when it comes to not only studying ratings, but minute-by-minute audience flow, and the action-based concept that Tony wanted was very, very important, but I think it’s equally important and valuable now that we come up with a concept to restore some of the drama and grandeur and imagery that came from those Mark McGwire-type moments in the past.

So this is absolutely an effort to bring both those elements – the speed, the head-to-head – with the grandeur and drama of big long home runs. Just very, very thankful to MLB for their partnership on testing and developing it. Cross my fingers, I think it’s going to add an exciting twist to it, and I think it’s also going to make the event the best viewing experience it’s ever been.

Q. Phil, for you, Karl talked earlier about how he sees the commentators adding to this broadcast as different condiments and so on. How do you feel about the different commentators you have both on the main feed of this Home Run Derby and on the Statcast alternate feed, and what are they going to bring to the broadcast?

PHIL ORLINS: The main — like I said, I get a little nerdy about research and audience and all that stuff. I think of a little bit of sort of a bell curve for our audience where the majority of our audience falls into — this gets wonky nerdy, gets into what we call traditionalist and diehard viewers. They probably make up more than 50 percent of our audience.

Therefore, the main broadcast is always designed to provide an entertaining, fairly aggressive, progressive documentation of the event, a fair amount of new data and that type of stuff, but not enough to alienate either of those core groups.

I always look at it as the bell curve is the middle. We want to be a little on the progressive side of that largest group, whether that’s Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN or whether that’s Home Run Derby on ESPN. I think Todd, Eduardo bring experience, enthusiasm. Karl’s great at calling the event, conversational, makes it comfortable, natural, all those kind of things.

The Statcast one, you sort of have to decide like, so where else do you want to go with the alternative? Do you want to go what I would call like the diehard/new school direction, which is really on the progressive cutting edge, or do you want to go for an entertaining, casual approach, which is what you could say for some of our Kay-Rod Casts or our Manning Casts or things of that nature.

The play with this is to go really aggressive, differentiated, and talk about stuff in a different way than we ever would with real deep layers of data. We skipped most of the interviews except for the winning interviews. We’re just diving all the way in. Every swing, we’re going to have strike zones, and you can see where every pitch is thrown. Hot zones, where the hitter likes it, where the pitcher is trying to throw it, ball marks for it, exit velocity and launch angle as it leaves the bat, distance it lands. All those pieces are in there.

It’s extremely aggressive. We like it. We do borrow from it on the primary coverage. We’re always trying to figure out the right spot for each, but I don’t know that we would ever go that — the other last piece of it, too, is it is on a 30-second delay, the bigs of the data, so that’s a differentiator, also. But that’s not really commentary based.

EDUARDO PEREZ: Don’t doubt that Todd and I, we can geek out on you guys, too, just in case. We can geek out on you guys. We can talk bat speed. We can talk bat length. Can we talk that? I know we can, but we’ll think about it.

PHIL ORLINS: He was on (indiscernible) in Dallas. He played that from there to Sunday Night Baseball. Now Trevor May will be taking his place on July 21st on the Statcast wall, but that’s another call.

Q. Todd, as somebody who’s competed in the Home Run Derby and won it, what are some things you noticed about not allowing the timer to put pressure on yourself and sort of conserving your energy?

TODD FRAZIER: I think, when there was a timer, when I did it, it was trying to figure out when to make a timeout call. I think one of the — I wouldn’t say the easiest things, but knowing you’re going second I thought was a huge help, knowing how many home runs you needed to hit. So you either had to get going a little sooner, or you could take your time.

There’s a lot of strategy that goes into this, and I think that’s why the first round is going to be excellent. If you’re batting second to last or third, second, first to last, whatever it is, you don’t know how many home runs you need to hit, so there’s going to be strategy in that. Who’s going to hit first? Who’s going to hit last? How are we going to decide on that?

Just little things like that, where I used to sit there — I sat down with my brother, listen, here’s the concept in between every time. Here’s what we have to do. Make sure you’ve got four balls in your hands instead of three at the time.

There’s little things that not a lot of people understood went into how to win this Home Run Derby. We looked at where the flag was, where the wind was going. So there’s a lot of strategy and a lot of schoolwork, I guess you could say, that goes into it, but ultimately you still have to hit the ball out of the park.

  • What advice would you give to some of the first-time participants for this year?

TODD FRAZIER: Well, the advice I remember, I remember Pete Alonso won his first one, and I was playing with him. I said, Pete, the biggest thing is in between each round, don’t try to swing too much because you’re going to get a lot of swings.

I told him basically I lived off Pedialyte. I had three bottles of Pedialyte during the whole time. That’s what kept me going. I had a banana. I told him what to eat. I told him what to do.

I said, in the cage, take nice, easy swings, keep the blood flowing through. You don’t want your obliques to start inflaming on you. Make sure you’re nice and loose.

He took that heart and said, listen, incredible what you said and thank you for the help.

Q. Phillip, listening to you talk about baseball, you light up. So when it comes to having somebody like Phillip behind the scenes, you can tell he’s very passionate about the game. How does that enhance the broadcast and the overall experience?

KARL RAVECH: I’ve known him since college, and you’re the first person, other than seeing his name on the screen, that I’ve ever heard him referred to as Phillip.

Q. I like full names. I’m weird about that.

PHIL ORLINS: My relatives call me that, Jess. You’re good.

KARL RAVECH: I would say this: It’s an interesting perspective, and I’m sure the former players can speak about managers and the tone they set, et cetera, and how important it is.

To Phil’s, I think, undying credit, he has generally — he has encouraged everybody to be as authentic in their skin as they can be. Just be yourself. Have fun with it. Be loose. Be conversational.

Just the couple of phrases that I — when I’m done with this job, whatever it may be, that I would look back on, the authenticity in the broadcast. That’s the thing that Eduardo is phenomenal at. I’m not sure there’s a more authentic broadcaster that I’ve ever met than Frazier.

David Ross is similar that way. They are who they are.

I think that the encouragement of some behavior like that on television that you take from the green room we all sit in, and it’s the same dude out there. I try to be the same way. That sort of pathway that he’s provided us to be ourselves, to know that the support technologically is always going to be there.

I know that Phil would prefer to be in a room with all this equipment than he would in a roomful of people; that I understand. And it’s the same way with the broadcast. We’re way ahead of the other broadcasts because of all the stuff he’s focused on.

What Todd said about me, he puts the ball on the tee, and we’ve got to hit it off. In the case of Phil, it’s more about putting a golf ball on a tee than a baseball. He’d rather find a fairway than a left-field seat. He allows us to be who we are, and it works incredibly.

EDUARDO PEREZ: I echo everything that Karl says. The one thing that has stood out the entire time since I’ve had to work alongside with Phil, I remember he’s always saying be inclusive and be a forward thinker, and do not be afraid just to think outside the box and implement that.

We’ve been able to do it obviously on the technological side of it, and I’ve been fortunate to grow with that. When he included me in the Statcast version of it, I thought it was awesome. It opened up a new world to the old-school thinking of me because I grew up in the sport the entire time, and I’ve seen it grow. He’s been a major part of it now.

To be able to see it from this angle and to see where it’s gone because of him pushing us to see where we can take this sport and the basis of technology, but the most important thing is he puts the fan first. I think that’s what is important.

I think it adds to, but it doesn’t take away from, that old-school person watching the game or watching the event. I think that’s where he’s made us a lot better.

Yeah, being authentic is, I think, because of Phil, because of Karl, it’s because of our entire team, our production team that has really adopted that belief.

TODD FRAZIER: For me, I’ve known him for a couple years now, and he’s real with me. A guy from — I told him, where I’m from, dude, to be as constructive as possible. He lets me know what I need to work on. He lets me know what I’m doing right, and I think that’s the sign of a good manager per se.

I’m learning a lot more from him, and he’s learning a lot more from me, and he just lets me be myself. That’s probably the biggest thing I could take away from him.

Q. What have you guys seen from Mason Miller this season?

EDUARDO PEREZ: A lot more than the hitters have seen (laughter).

I think the important thing with Mason Miller is that he’s healthy. That’s the most important thing is that he’s healthy this year because we knew that he could throw hard. We knew the slider has always been there. But him being available, I think, is the most important thing for the Athletics.

He’s absolutely just been dominant. He’s been dominant because he’s believing in that, number one, and as a hitter, you can’t look for anything else but that. When he spins it, you’re in trouble.

For me, Mason is a special breed that this year is showing what he can do when he’s healthy.

KARL RAVECH: To me, he’s sort of everything that pitchers are in 2024. They try to throw as hard as they possibly can accurately and throw with as much spin as they possibly can, and then the question is hopefully how long can he stay healthy.

He’s a valuable commodity for a lot of these teams that are in this playoff race. They’re going to be calling the Oakland A’s and saying, what’s it going to take to get Mason Miller? But he is pitching in 2024, especially out of the bullpen.

Unfortunately, many of them have short shelf lives, then they get hurt, then they come back, and hopefully they throw even harder.

He is Paul Skenes, especially on the back end. He throws harder than most, and he gets most of the guys out when he’s on.

TODD FRAZIER: Just to echo, an absolute bulldog. He’s a guy that, when they come in in the ninth inning, it’s game over. As a defender, that’s a really good feeling knowing if you’re up one or two runs, game is over.

He’s got to be one of the biggest surprises. I don’t remember somebody coming in and mowing guys down like this and throwing as hard as he can. Kudos to him and his work ethic.

Q. Karl, when I talked with Phil last week, we talked a lot about how chaotic the broadcast has become with the clock element, with three balls in the air at one point in time. I’d love to hear your perspective on the challenge the last few years of presenting what’s taking place to the fans. You obviously love this event.

KARL RAVECH: I love the event. There’s a couple of things I liken it to. To me it’s a lot like an air traffic controller. There’s planes up in the air, and you’re trying to figure out which one is coming in to land and who’s taken off and who’s fallen in behind it. It’s a challenge because honestly we only have two eyes. We have a multiple number of screens.

You just can’t be everywhere at the same time. You think a ball that’s hit really well is a homer when, in fact, it ends up hitting off the top of the wall.

Look, there are a number of challenges that go into it, and I think what I’ve learned over the last couple years is in a sense to let the moment kind of build up until the end where the graphics are accurate because, I’ll be honest with you, there have been times where the numbers in the stadium aren’t the same that are on the screen in front of you, and it can get a little confusing if you let it.

I will say that all the Baseball Tonight experience that I had hosting that show with somebody in my ear and updates coming instantly, I got to a place where I would relish when things are not going well. It’s my job to land this plane smoothly. I think I was prepared for this environment through all the work that I did prior.

I loved when things got screwed up, I really did, behind the scenes. My goal was to make sure the viewer at home had no idea that all these fires were burning. I love that. I literally would kind of come off of a show somewhat deflated when nothing went wrong.

I think this Home Run Derby provides that. It’s an automatic. It’s a lot. There are going to be things that are happening that are beyond our control that allow me to feel like, okay, I got to be Sully Sullenberger here. We’ve got to find a body of water to get this thing down smoothly and have no one really know what’s going on in the kitchen, or as “The Bear” now on TV, with all the stuff that goes on in that kitchen, we don’t anybody to know how stressful it is out there when that meal is coming out, and I love those opportunities.

PHIL ORLINS: No chance of nothing going wrong on this event (laughter).

Q. Do any of the other three of you have any memories of watching the ’95 Home Run Derby or anything related to that when it happened in Texas?

KARL RAVECH: I was there. Do I remember it specifically? Give me a couple of things that occurred. The only thing I think I remember about ’95 was it was a billion degrees, and Buck Showalter came to the set wearing his Rangers jacket. We were like, oh, my God. It is so hot. Why are you doing that? Why do you have the Rangers jacket on when we are sitting on blocks of ice trying to stay comfortable?

That was for Baseball Tonight and SportsCenter, and he showed up that way. My recollection of ’95 was how hot it was. I hope I’m accurate about that, but I do remember Buck showing up and thinking, this doesn’t make any sense to me, Buck.

Q. I do believe it was literally hell. Phil and I talked a little bit about this. The format changed in the middle of the derby, and the extra round was added. I didn’t know if anybody just had any memories of Frank Thomas or Albert Bell or anything like that.

KARL RAVECH: Nothing specific.

PHIL ORLINS: I remember Albert Bell. I just remember he was down to his last out. If I recall correctly, he had six home runs, nine outs, one out to go, he had six home runs, and I think that advanced him to the final where he finally lost to Frank Thomas.

Every year it was amazing in the beginning especially, and even more recently, but like Griffey at the Warehouse in ’93 and Juan Gonzalez won. Frank Thomas hit a 521-foot home run, if you believe the measurements, in Pittsburgh, and Griffey won.

Bell hit six home runs with nine outs, and Frank Thomas won.

It’s almost like the guy who provided the big memory, even down to Sosa hitting the longest home runs in Atlanta at Turner Field in 2000 and then going to Milwaukee the next year and winning. It just seemed like it happened every year that way, and it was literally hell.

Just to be clear, the rules — I know we talked about this at length obviously, the rules. The rules changed between the old timers’ game and the Home Run Derby. We were not quite aggressive enough to change them in the middle of the Home Run Derby.

Q. Just a question about the derby itself. We see so many of these events that change format, they do special things, go to special places. The derby, even with some of the format changes over the years, has stayed relatively similar and managed to maintain a lot of its audience. I’m just curious, what do you think goes into that? Is it just a function of being on in a relatively quiet period in sports, or is it something to do more with just the romanticization of the home run? Is that something that’s just so appealing to people that you don’t really need to make a lot of extra changes around it?

KARL RAVECH: I’ll just go quickly first because I do think a lot about this. I think about the events that I used to watch a lot and really enjoyed growing up. One of them was the NBA three-point shooting contest. Another was the Slam Dunk Contest.

With regards to baseball, I have a feeling that the idea of hitting a baseball that far appeals to everybody that’s ever had a bat and a ball, whether it be baseball or softball, and just how unique that skill set is.

In basketball, I don’t know of the guys that are on the bench or on an active roster, how many of them can’t dunk a basketball. I would imagine it’s less than 5 percent. They all can do it.

And in the case of hitting a baseball as far as these guys do in a short period of time, I think there’s an ability to relate to and yet not be able to relate to it. Like we’ve all done this. We’ve all tried to hit a ball over a wall. We may have succeeded at the Little League level. Some have done it in college. These guys here have done it professionally. And yet it’s something you long to be able to do.

I never find myself thinking, God, I wish I could dunk because I’m 5’7″, but that’s never going to happen. But it feels like there’s a relatability to a bat and a ball and hitting it over a fence or a wall that has people sitting there — I don’t even know.

I think this is what works about the Little League World Series. It just brings you back, allows you to visit a time in your life when you felt you were going to be capable of doing it, or you did it. Now you’re watching these guys hit it, like Phil said, 500 feet or consistently hitting it 450 feet, and you’re marveling at a very human action that is so far beyond the pale for so many people.

It’s a tradition that, as we all know, goes back hundreds of years, and yet we’re still mesmerized by it. They’re just so darn big, and television does such an incredible job of allowing you to be up close and personal with the people that are pitching and hitting, and maybe equally, the people in the stands that are amazed by it, that get drawn into it.

I do think it’s a unique event that people have no ability to relate to, but everybody thinks they can relate to it, if that makes any sense.

EDUARDO PEREZ: And there are certain events in your lifetime that you always remember where you were when those happen. It doesn’t matter what level. I played at the Major League level; I will always remember my first home run. I guess you guys will if you guys played Little League or even high school ball or American Legion.

I’ll always remember my first home run and where I was. I could probably say it was at 3:47 in the afternoon. I remember the people around it. You always remember the moment. This is what baseball and that home run does, where you’ll always, as with Little League, it doesn’t matter. That moment, the smiles on their face, it’s like, I can do this.

Then it stops, right? You get to a certain limit. Even Major Leaguers when they see guys hitting them at a consistent rate or length, they’re in awe as well as they’re watching from the sidelines.

But the fan base, all my friends who never played the game, they want to know when’s the derby. That’s their interest is, okay, I’m going to be watching the derby. It’s because they can see themselves in that position, but yet again, they’re in awe of that position. At one time or another, you go through it, if you were able to play the game.

Some that weren’t able to do it, they’re even in more awe of it, as far as these guys can really hit it.

Again, I’m lucky to be next to Todd this year because in 2015 he was able to stand there without a turtle, without a cage, and in front of millions of people watching, being put under that pressure of saying, okay, here we go.

The one thing we can never forget in this Home Run Derby is that pressure that’s added to the person throwing the ball because it’s a team effort. There’s a strategy behind all this, and that’s the part that we’re looking at.

It’s not just the swing because we know the bat speed, we know the bat length. We have all the data. It’s who’s chucking that baseball and how far can that ball go? All that data we have now, and that’s going to be fun to watch.

Q. Karl and Eduardo, with the All-Star rosters being announced the last few days, I’m curious if there’s any players you were surprised were left off and you think should have made it.

EDUARDO PEREZ: Is it too early to tell, though? You never know how many guys get added, and it will happen. If you’re a New York Mets fan, you’re wondering, well, is Francisco Lindor, should he be on, or should he not? You have the biggest debate right now is if Paul Skenes is going to be named the starter or not. It’s going to be interesting because Chris Sale, who was scheduled to throw today, should be scheduled to throw on Sunday, because of collective bargaining agreements and all that, we’ll have a pitcher added.

Eventually when these are all made, maybe even Major League Baseball understands that point of it, but right now you could say it’s a couple relievers around the league that probably could — should be there or not.

I think the right guys are where they’re supposed to be. I know that Correa was hoping that he’s on this one, so we’ll see what happens moving forward.

KARL RAVECH: I don’t get too caught up in it because I do think it’s amazing. It feels like 40 percent of the Major Leaguers that should be there, they all end up there anyway. That’s how this thing ends; wait a minute, I didn’t even know he was on this roster, and then he shows up.

I did think it was interesting on Sunday when we had Duran on, the impact of not necessarily being voted in by the fans, but by your peers and the managers, et cetera, and how important and impactful that is for the player. To some degree, the guys that get voted in, it’s a popularity contest.

Look, the fans nail it. They may be the most popular players. There’s a reason they’re popular, and that’s largely because of their performance, but there is a significant part of a player being named to the team by those that he plays with and those that he plays in front of who are in uniform.

I look at that list as equally as I do, probably more so than the ones than I do that the fans vote in.

Just quickly back to John. There’s no doubt there’s something to what Eduardo touched on. A, it is a unique event. There’s not a ton of competition that night. But I also think that what it does is allows these generations that are watching this to talk about other things than even what’s going on on the screen.

I can’t imagine — and I know it happens all the time, whether the conversation is around Babe Ruth or Ted Williams or Aaron Judge or Sammy Sosa or Mark McGwire, a Home Run Derby, while you’re watching this event and you’re actively engaged in it, it is one of those things where in the end you want to see what the number was that this guy posted, but during that, there are so many trips down memory lane about Johnny Bench and what he was able to do, Carlton Fisk’s home run in the post.

It just leads to that type of dialogue, and I think that’s what makes it so appealing to people who are watching. It’s not just the event. There’s so much that goes on within the confines of a living room or a watch party that leads to these greater conversations and connections between a granddaughter and a grandfather or a dad and his father. That’s another part of this that I think make it so appealing.

It’s the derby. It’s like the Masters. It’s like the Indy 500. The Home Run Derby has an amazing appeal to it.

Alex Feuz

Based in Bristol, CT, Alex Feuz is a Sr. Publicist working on the MLB, Little League and ESPN Audio properties.
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