ESPN’s Little League World Series Coverage All About Access

Most of us won’t be playing centerfield for the Yankees anytime soon. Little League, on the other hand, we know. Whether star player or dandelion picker, Little League is a shared national experience, a memory of childhood that ESPN taps into each year with its Little League World Series coverage.

Little League World Series - August 10, 2012“This is an event that everybody’s really proud to work on,” says Coordinating Producer Tom McNeely. “It’s like this slice of Americana. Our announcers all want to be on it; all of our production people take a lot of pride in it and really enjoy it.”

ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2 will combine to present all 32 games of the 2013 Little League World Series at Lamade Stadium and Volunteer Stadium in Williamsport, PA. The series began yesterday and culminates next weekend with the International Championship and United States Championship (Saturday Aug. 24 at 12:30 p.m. ET and 3:30 p.m., respectively) and the Little League World Series Championship (Sunday Aug. 25 at 3 p.m.).

Full, in-game access to the players, coaches, managers, and umpires continues to be a mainstay of ESPN’s Little League World Series coverage. In each game, ESPN will mike at least one manager and coach for each team, as well as the umpire, adding unique insight to the broadcast.

“We always take pride in the fact that we can mike up the managers, coaches, and umpires and listen in with our ‘Wired’ content,” says McNeely. “The example I [like to] give is in one of the regional semifinal games. Michigan was losing 4-2 in the final inning. Manager came up to the mound and told the kids, who were pretty upset, ‘Hey, guys, it’s only two runs in the last half of the inning. We can come back and score two runs.’ They won on a walk-off hit.”

McNeely takes strides to ensure that no one is embarrassed on the air. The microphones worn by managers and coaches are aired live only when that manager or coach is on the field speaking with his players; managers, coaches, and players are all made aware of this. And ESPN will never play a live feed of a discussion between umpires or between an umpire and a manager. However, audio can be recorded and played back if applicable and appropriate.

Two Dome Productions trucks are on the ground in Williamsport, one to cover Lamade Stadium and one at Volunteer Stadium, with an array of B units and support trailers. ESPN’s features unit will also be out in full force.

“One of the stories that developed is, a team arrived here without its equipment,” says McNeely. “The equipment was left behind, and the kids from Australia [appearing in their first Little League World Series] gave the other team gloves, bats, [and] equipment. [It was] the ultimate show of sportsmanship, so that’s something that we’re working on for a feature.”

The bulk of ESPN’s complement of cameras will be focused on Lamade Stadium, where the International Championship, United States Championship, and Little League World Series Championship — three of five games broadcast on ABC — will be played. Two super-slow-motion cameras will be deployed to Lamade and one to Volunteer; robotic cameras will be stationed behind home plate, high roof, and broadcast booth; a jib camera will cover Lamade from the outfield; and a roving RF will capture fan reaction. In total, nearly 20 cameras will cover each of the 32 games.

Baseball Tonight’s Karl Ravech and Nomar Garciaparra join Sunday Night Baseball analyst Orel Hershiser and reporter Jaymee Sire for all five ABC games. Ravech and Dave Flemming will rotate play-by-play duties throughout the Little League World Series with Hershiser, Garciaparra, and Kyle Peterson serving as lead analysts. SportsCenter’s Chris McKendry and Jay Crawford will each call a game from the booth.

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