Live From MLB All-Star 2021: MLB Network Brings MLB Draft to Denver With Onsite Operations, Remote Support in Secaucus

BitFire Networks is providing feeds of at-home draftees, team executives

Since debuting in 2009, MLB Network’s broadcast center in Secaucus, NJ, has served as the home of the MLB Draft. After a trying year that saw the league’s inaugural virtual Draft, MLB Network is celebrating the first-ever production of this event during All-Star festivities within a packed onsite production truck, remote workflows from multiple control rooms at headquarters, and remote video feeds from individuals who are enjoying this noteworthy achievement away from Denver’s Bellco Theatre.

“We’ve been going on surveys every year for the past six to seven years in anticipation of one day doing this onsite,” says Susan Stone, SVP, operations and engineering, MLB Network. “We’re really thrilled that we can finally see the fruits of everybody’s labor. We think it’s a great opportunity to further showcase this event.”

Away From Secaucus: Shift in Venue Calls for Thorough Planning, Game Creek Video Truck

MLB Network production team: (from left) SVP, Production, Marc Caiafa; VP, Remote Operations, Tom Guidice; Coordinating Producer Marc Weiner; Director, Remote Operations, Brooke Berger; Remote Technical Manager Zaac Christopher; SVP, Operations and Engineering, Susan Stone.

From the onset, this event was originally slated to be held in Atlanta, but, when the league decided to move away from Atlanta in favor of Colorado’s biggest city, the team began finalizing plans for the move. Onsite surveys were conducted in Denver as recent as May and June of this year to understand the current layout. Located about a mile from Coors Field inside the Colorado Convention Center, the Bellco Theatre will house the introduction of the next great wave of professional baseball talent to fans around the nation.

Outside the Colorado Convention Center, MLB Network’s onsite crew will be working out of the A and B units of Game Creek Video’s Glory production truck. This team will control the 10-camera show (two hard cameras, two jibs, two RF handhelds, and a quartet of Marshall POVs). For Days 2 and 3, when the Draft moves to the nearby Rally Hotel, Game Creek Video’s Nitro will play a vital part.

Lumen Vyvx is the trusted transmission services provider for this year’s Draft at the Bellco Theatre, The company will also provide the transmission of Monday’s Home Run Derby and Tuesday’s All-Star Game.

On the East Coast: Secaucus Handles Replay, Graphics, Remote Feeds

Although a lot of headlines will focus on the efforts of Stone and company in Denver, the crews working in New Jersey will be more than busy, facilitating a handful of resources for the linear broadcast. From a logistical standpoint, some of these video assets would be an extremely heavy lift to reconstruct onsite in Colorado.

“We’ll be going back to New Jersey for remote player cams, graphics packages, player rollouts, and other elements like that,” says Jason Hedgcock, senior director, remote technical operations, MLB Network. “All of those things is a firepower that’s hard to replicate [onsite], so it’ll help our show quite a bit.”

The main stage for the 2021 MLB Draft

The most familiar aspect coming from New Jersey will be the remote feeds deployed during the completely remote show last year. BitFire Networks will once again provide 45 camera feeds, including 15 prospects from their respective locations and general managers and other executives in the war rooms of all 30 clubs. These remote feeds and video from six of MLB Network’s cameras will also be given to ESPN’s onsite production of the Draft.

“We worked with them last year for the virtual Draft and had a really good experience,” adds Stone. “It was great because it led into the season during the pandemic, where we had to partner more closely with all of the other broadcasters.”

In addition to the Nitro truck, the crew in Secaucus will be the main cog in the effort for Days 2 and 3.

“Day 2 and 3 will be a direct REMI: we’ll send back cameras with individual mic sources,” Hedgcock explains. “[The offsite team] will use one of the overdrive rooms in New Jersey to composite that show.”

Physical Elements: Bellco Theatre Features Impressive Stage, Full Studio Setup

For the MLB Draft, MLB Network will have a studio set inside the Bellco Theatre.

With a bigger footprint inside Bellco Theatre, MLB Network and the league constructed an attractive physical stage, allowing the draftees in attendance to experience this unforgettable moment with Commissioner Rob Manfred. Similar to last year, this interactive screen will update the most recent selection and bring in reactions of the prospects watching from home.

Also featured inside the space is a complete studio desk, which will host a number of voices reacting and analyzing each pick. The desk — with Greg Amsinger, Dan O’Dowd, Harold Reynolds, and Vanderbilt head baseball coach Tim Corbin — will be located just off the stage’s exit on an elevated platform. The talent will host live interviews with the newly minted pro athletes right after their selection. Lauren Gardner,  Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo, and MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo will break down the night’s action from other locations in the Colorado Convention Center.

Tentpole Event: MLB Network Showcases Technical Expertise With First Onsite Draft

One of the biggest lessons learned from last year’s MLB Draft was that MLB Network was able to produce a stellar show remotely from Secaucus. The team is now gravitating toward a more traditional setup, with individuals again in the compound, but this is one of its first shows embracing a true hybrid model. Like other broadcasters seeking a footing in a post-COVID workplace, this will be the network’s grandest attempt at merging these approaches to showcase the athletes’ first steps in Major League Baseball.

“It’s an emotional feeling to have a sense of normalcy,” says Stone. “Seeing friends in the compound and reconnecting with people lifts you up after the past year and a half.”

Coverage of the 2021 MLB Draft will begin tonight at 6 p.m. ET with a one-hour pregame show prior to the first overall selection at 7 p.m. on MLB Network.

For more coverage from the 20201 MLB All-Star Game in Denver, click HERE.

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