When the PGA Championship came to Harding Park last August, broadcasters were let in but fans weren't, which put Dave Flemming in a tricky spot during one of the rounds.
Flemming was stationed in a tower above the 17th hole, but much of the action he was calling was elsewhere. As Brandt Snedeker finished up on the green the broadcast came back to Flemming, who quietly called a shot on another hole by looking at his monitor. Snedeker finished up and walked up to the tower, visibly upset that he could hear Flemming talking as he putted.
"I'm being quiet here [but] there's no other noise," Flemming said on this week's "Giants Talk" Podcast. "In an ordinary golf tournament with fans, there's no way he would hear me, because there would just be shuffling around and ambient noise that sort of blends into white noise ... I was like, 'Brandt, you've got to cut me a little slack here.' "
Calling games last year could sometimes get awkward for broadcasters, but Flemming and the rest of the team -- Duane Kuiper, Mike Krukow and Jon Miller -- will be back among the fans this season. The Giants are planning to have at least 8,000 at Oracle Park, making for a much more normal environment for broadcasters who spent all of last season staring at the backs of cardboard cutouts in quiet ballparks.
It will still be a while, though, before all is back to normal. Flemming, who does the games on KNBR with Miller, said the road games will still be called from Oracle Park for now. That's the plan for the TV broadcast, too. Even as things open up, MLB is still using a tier system that separates just about everyone from players, coaches and clubhouse staff.
"I think they're going to keep this tier system the whole year -- that's my guess," Flemming said. "If that's the case, we're in Tier 3 and we're not allowed anywhere close to the players, so forget about the team plane, or team hotel, or buses or anything. Even the idea of travel -- it's not like we can't do that, but the logistical hurdles to coordinate all that travel on our own when we do have a setup that works at home, we have to balance that.
"I could see late in the year, division games, especially big games, the Giants are in the race -- yeah, let's go, let's get on an airplane and rent a car and figure out how to do it. Before then, it's probably likely that we're a ways away from that."
The four broadcasters were in four separate booths all of last season at Oracle Park to be as spread out as possible, with an extra booth between Kuiper and Miller so their calls wouldn't be heard on the other feed during games. There were some early hiccups -- Flemming recalled doing an entire game against the Los Angeles Dodgers off the wrong video feed which wasn't following the action when a ball was put in play -- but things were figured out for the most part, with KNBR engineer Darren Chan doing a lot of the heavy lifting on the radio side.
Flemming said he often runs into fans who tell him they couldn't tell that the broadcasters weren't at the road games, which is a compliment, but also one he doesn't always want to hear.
"Part of me is like, 'Don't say that, because then we're never going to go anywhere anymore!' " Flemming said.
In addition to the Giants, Flemming calls national baseball games and college sports for ESPN, as well as golf. He has been stationed at home with a mobile studio kit for the last year, but normalcy is slowly coming back. Flemming has a special trip coming up in April, when he'll call the Masters from Augusta National in Georgia.
He's hopeful that he's soon able to get back to calling every Giants game in person, putting the pre-game Zoom interviews in the rearview mirror.
"With baseball, my hope is that long term we're back to normal," he said. "Local baseball announcers, part of the charm of listening to your own announcers is they're close to the team, they're close to the players, they can give you that insight. And we would lose some of that over time."