So, you want to call a spring training game ...

Rob Bradford
February 22, 2020 - 6:14 pm
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“The ball is hit high over to right field …” - Glenn Ordway.

“Go get it!” - Christian Fauria.

“And a phenomenal catch! A phenomenal catch by Esplin to end the game!” - Ordway.

“Yes!” - Fauria. 

“He found a way to catch in the webbing of his glove and we are now doneski!” - Ordway.

“Yes!” - Fauria.

The passion of spring training baseball! Six-thirty reservations made!

So, Christian Fauria, Glenn Ordway and Lou Merloni wanted to dip their toes in the world of it-doesn’t-really-count baseball broadcasting. Fun. Good times. Oh yeah? 

“I don’t know how you do these spring training games,” Ordway had turned and uttered to Red Sox play-by-play man Will Fleming in the Red Sox Radio Broadcast booth at JetBlue Park just before that last half-inning. And that was before a minor-leaguer named Tyler Esplin managed to end a 20-minute final half-inning with a spectacular diving catch, preventing was would have surely been extra innings.

Did we mention those dinner reservations down in Naples? Secured thanks to old No. 87 in your scorebook. Ordway, Merloni and Fauria, let us introduce you to the Grapefruit League.

I will say this: The unique introduction of our Red Sox spring training broadcasts did, in the words of the immortal Dicky Dunn, catch the spirit of the thing. 

Ordway — who hadn’t done any sort of play-by-play in more than 25 years — knew that you better know who is playing right field in the ninth inning, even if there 28 players would officially be listed as having played in this baby.

Merloni relishes the deep dive into each and every minute of whatever baseball game is in front of him. And when it comes to names and faces on both sides being carted out from all angles during these things, that is a talent that can’t be understated.

And Fauria? He offered what these sort of games should be peppered with — personality. Three previous days in and around of JetBlue Park had immersed the former tight end into this non-football activity just enough so that very real analysis could be introduced. But let’s be honest, it was Fauria’s every-man perspective within the activity that painted the proper picture.

When he started the wave in right field, it was the kind of monotony-breaking moment those fans out there relished. In-game insight from starter Brian Johnson or first-base coach Tom Goodwin? Let’s be real, in spring training broadcasts that should be a staple. And when Fauria says in the ninth baseball should implement 10-minute running time clocks like soccer, he’s saying what everyone else is thinking.

There was also the neon hat, which was nice touch?

“Has Fauria violated any rules?” one Red Sox executive was asked midway through the games while the radio host was making his way through each nook and cranny of JetBlue Park.

“Only fashion violations,” was the response.

Sure, the purity of broadcasting a game on baseball might have taken a subtle hit. (Both Fauria and Ordway prematurely declared that fly balls had left the park ... yearning to dust off their home run calls.) But that isn’t really the priority when it comes to these spring training games, and anybody who believes otherwise is missing where this sport is at.

I have 15 or so of these suckers on my spring training schedule over the next month, having done countless others throughout the last seven or so years. Honestly, they are fun to do because it is different. The kind of different the OMF guys were smacked in the face with Saturday afternoon.

We can talk about how Bradenton concessions inexplicably don’t melt their cheese on their hamburgers. Joe Castiglione can routinely asked me, “How many miles today Rob?” even in years I’m not training for the Boston Marathon. The grandson of somebody named “No Neck Williams” can come into the seventh inning of the game, leading to three straight days of Joe’s memories regarding No Neck Williams. And of course, there will always be some sort of go-to staple, like the one introduced by Josh Lewin last year explaining how Gorkys Hernandez was named after the Russian novelist Maxim Gorky.

There is also actually the opportunity to see players no other members of the media see. Usually how it works is when the starting pitcher is ready to talk the reporters are summoned to the clubhouse. Often times that comes around the fifth or sixth innings, leading to those who are supposed to be chronicling the games not getting the chance to see whoever plays in the final three or so frames. But the broadcasters? They get to see every last pitch and swing executed by each and every player.

So when somebody with No. Something-or-other came on to pitch the ninth inning at Hammond Stadium in an early March tilt two years ago there was nobody to witness (or care about) Ryan Brasier’s debut other than the radio broadcasters. Put it this way, the Red Sox' seventh-round pick in the 2017 draft (Esplin) will always hold a special place in OMF’s collective heart. Who knew that was going to happen when they woke up this morning.

Make no mistake about it, a lopsided and long spring training game can be painful. It’s hard to care about “Big Number 97” coming into the game when the regulars have already boarded Bus No. 1 down I-75 back down toward Fort Myers.

But there is also a lot to like. 

For 2 hours, 58 minutes it allowed these three guys to forget about Tom Brady’s free agency and soak and the weird and wacky world of spring training baseball.

There was just something about hearing Ordway sing out things like, “MASTroboni is back at the plate, left-handed hitter …” or “Your pitcher is Phoenix Sanders … He is from Germany,” that broke up the monotony of our Boston sports news cycle.

Oh, and I almost forgot … Lou made his flight home. Long live the spring training baseball on the radio and the great Tyler Esplin.