Jeff Halikman is the senior producer of Phillies telecasts for the NBC Sports Philadelphia family of networks.
I sit in my family room on what would have been opening day of the 2020 baseball season. Typically it's panic time for the producer, director and associate producer of the Phillies broadcast. A season of 162 games lies ahead and none more anticipated than the first.
The producer and the highly talented editor (person who makes the producers ideas look much better than what was originally planned) are adding the final touches to the “tease,” which is the first thing that hits the air on a television broadcast and sets the scene for the game ahead with drama and excitement. The opening day tease starts the path for the season-long journey and needs to capture the energy of you, the Phillies fans, and what so many of you have anticipated since the final pitch of the previous campaign.
The director (the person during the broadcast who selects the cameras from a chair that doesn’t say director on it) oversees most of the technical needs for a broadcast. While spring training ends and we ramp up toward opening day, the producer and director are making sure everything in Miami will be ready for when we arrive at 9 a.m. for the 4:10 p.m. ET first pitch.
The television production truck (a 72-foot tractor-trailer that weighs 80,000 pounds and treks all across the nation for sporting events) will be there ready for a crew of 25-plus people to unload every piece of equipment, from cameras to cables and wireless mics. The wireless mic allows everyone to hear Gregg Murphy no matter where he will be roaming in his nomadic ways around Marlins Park and the other ballparks all season long.
Endless emails, texts and calls have been directed to the crewer (the person who organizes a crew of 25-plus freelance workers for each broadcast no matter where the games are being played) to make sure our crews are set for the first two road series in Miami and New York.
The associate producer (third and final member of our traveling production team who during the game handles all graphics and statistical information that you see when viewing at home) has been working on a plethora of graphics/statistics since the end of last season. He does so with the support of a multitude of statistic-based companies in our industry that we partner with to be able to acquire every current trend and historical fact to then provide to you to tell each story throughout the year.
The producer also constantly communicates with the broadcasters. Let’s define “communicates with the broadcasters.” Each day, usually in the morning, the producer sends a rough draft of plans for the game-day ahead. It usually includes simple notes about what time each broadcaster is needed for specific pregame/postgame needs, what will be in the “open” (the first formatted three to four minutes of the broadcast) that consists of the “tease” (highlights and statistical graphics detailing the game ahead or the previous day’s game).
Emails and texts fly back and forth about the topics and other things. The other things are probably the most vital parts of the day. Other things consist of many discussions and decisions. The most difficult decision of the day is what shirt they will all wear on the broadcast. Tom McCarthy (Phillies play-by-play broadcaster and senior clothing administrator) takes the lead and puts a schedule together of what shirts will be worn by his colleagues Ben Davis, John Kruk and Murph. You wouldn’t believe me on how many quarrels I’ve witnessed about what was meant by dark blue on the schedule and not dark blue with a collar. Yep, like a husband and wife’s daily back and forth, “You think this is dark blue?” Add the greatest third baseman in the history of baseball to the rotation on Sundays at home and you a have shirt schedule labyrinth never to be solved. I won’t even get into the days when Sarge and Wheels were in the mix and keeping track of who wore the wrong shirt the most in a season was part of our broadcast statistics. That’s just the shirts.
Then we have deliberations about who is eating dinner with who, what’s for dinner, why someone didn’t wait for the other when they went to dinner and what is charcuterie.
Finally, my favorite part of the day — when one of them says at 6 p.m., “I couldn’t open your email this morning, what are we doing?” But I would never want to be working with any other group. They motivate me, inspire me, challenge me and make coming to work every day from February to October rewarding at a mark of 10 levels above awesome. They bring a wealth of baseball knowledge that elevates our broadcast every night, year after year.
The final days always wind down way too quickly and the season will be upon us, and once baseball starts, it doesn’t stop. Like an ocean, it just keeps moving, wave after wave of games as we move from winter, to spring, summer and finally the Fall Classic. Baseball waits for no one. You are part of the momentum and it just takes you along for the ride once opening day ceremonies conclude and the first pitch is thrown. I can’t wait … (screeching brakes).
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case and baseball isn’t happening just yet. Baseball is on hold, school is on hold, the world is on hold, work is different, life is different, and we all wait. For what, I’m not sure, but I hope we will all get through this the best we can. I know baseball will return, but like everything else, we don’t know when.
Instead of watching spring baseball highlight recaps early in the morning while my kids get ready for school, we discuss what a shortened or adjusted 2020 schedule will be like, which teams will benefit from the changes and which teams are already burdened with injuries. One son, always the optimist, is planning the Phillies’ march to the postseason and is detailing his parade location. The other son, always the skeptic, purses his lips, shakes his head and questions every part of the roster. No matter the breakfast “hot takes,” every discussion ends with, “When can we go to a game?”
I don’t have an answer for that just yet, but I am 100 percent positive the broadcasters will have on the same shirt and we will be ready to deliver to you every pitch possible of your 2020 Phillies.