MLB Network hits City of Angels for 2022 MLB Draft at LA Live
The second on-site draft will take place on an outdoor stage in Xbox Plaza
Known as the city where dreamers come to fulfill their wildest aspirations, Hollywood is an ideal city to welcome those lucky enough to hear their name called during the 2022 MLB Draft. MLB Network (MLBN) Airs Its Day 1 Coverage on Sunday, July 17 in style: a large stage in front of LA Live in downtown Los Angeles.
“We’ve been in great hands working alongside the LA Live team, and this show was well thought out and planned,” says Susan Stone, Senior Vice President, Operations and Engineering, MLB Network. “A lot has gone into the success of this production.”
First days of planning: several visits and production meetings begin the process
Although it is a one-day show, the work that has been done on this show dates back to the early months of 2022. Before the start of the regular season, the network’s production team begins to think to potential ideas. As the first game of the year approaches, Coordinating Producer Marc Weiner and the rest of the department kicks into high gear. The team focuses on other tasks during the year, such as daily programming emanating from their studios in Secaucus, NJ, but as Major League Baseball tipsters and pundits write their draft projections or bring modifications to previous simulation projects, production is always changing to meet these new scenarios.
“Whenever new rankings are released, I update our spreadsheet and send it to our team,” Weiner explains. “We are ready to discuss over 500 players, so I can’t say enough about the preparation of our research, graphics and editing teams. [for this show].”
Operationally, Stone, Vice President, Remote Operations Tom Guide, Production Managers Emma Roberts and David Beun, and the crew began laying out their plan in Los Angeles in March. After a total of three site visits, the team had a general idea of how much real estate they were getting and how they could tailor their footprint to those parameters. Taking advantage of year-round sunny weather, MLB Network chose to bring this show outside of LA Live to Xbox Plaza. After taking the MLB Draft Combine from the US Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, NC in 2021 to Petco Park in San Diego last month, the network wanted to partner with the league to elevate the importance of the First Player Draft of This year. Work closely with MLB Vice President, Events Jeremiah Yolkut To design a beautiful, covered structure, the Draft will be hosted on the largest stage yet. The covered section includes a large-scale scoreboard to help attendees track first-round picks in the, a track for players to drop down and shake hands with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and the Los Angeles iconography, including palm trees, hills, rocks and a billboard project in the spirit of the Hollywood sign.
“The league operations and events team helped us take this event to the next level,” says Marc Caiafa, Senior Vice President, Production, MLB Network. “It was a collective effort between the two of us.”
Downtown: Mobile units park two blocks from the Crypto.com Arena
Game Creek Video’s Gridiron A and B units will lead on-site responsibilities, but because Los Angeles is an extremely congested metropolitan city, the team cannot park their mobile units right next to the draft stage. Using the surrounding area around this entertainment district, trucks will be parked at the Crypto.com Arena, a three-minute walk from the stage. Responsible for hosting the home games of four professional franchises – the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers of the NBA, the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL and the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA – the site is more than capable of providing reliable connectivity.
“LA Live has been accommodating with all the fiber we have from here to the arena,” says Zaac Christopher, remote technical manager, MLB Network. “We are able to have the trucks two blocks away and still have flawless production.”
MLB Network is preparing layoffs for every possible need in the broadcast complex. Alongside the Game Creek truck, the network’s Saunders Electric UPS system will be powered by house current and will switch to a generator in the event of an emergency.
On-site equipment: additional camera, Cover the Picks studio set
Within the confines of LA Live, MLBN will flood the area with high-quality material. The broadcast will be centralized around the main fixed camera focused on the Commissioner’s podium. Additional fixed cameras will cover two oblique positions of the main stage. Two jibs will cover both angles of the draft setup: one facing the main studio and another on the opposite side that covers the crowd, family seating area and stage. Two RF handhelds, provided by CP Communications, will move around the environment along with another handheld camera dedicated to the reporter’s position near the stairs leading to the stage. Other cameras also include a robotic camera, provided by Fletcher, atop Crypto.com Arena to establish beauty shots of Sunday’s atmosphere. Similar to previous drafts, MLBN will provide streams to ESPN for their first-round draft broadcast.
“Besides their three cameras for their set, a handheld and a reporter’s station, we share a lot of resources with ESPN,” adds Stone. “It continued to be a great partnership.”
To further its coverage of the event, MLB Network will have two separate studios on Xbox Plaza. The main office, located near the ESPN setup, was built by Filmwerks and will be the center for the analysis of drafts and predictions for Day 1. A full cast of talent will be seated at the table, including hosts Greg Amsinger and Scott Braun, Dan O’Dowd analysts and Harold Reynoldsand Tennessee head coach Tony Vitelloas journalist Lauren Gardner conducts interviews with players. Atop a balcony across the street, another small-scale set will feature hard-hitting information on how draft picks are unfolding. MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, Carlos Collazo of Baseball America, and UCLA head coach John Savage will occupy this position. Hall of fame Trevor Hoffman and Greg Maddux, Mike Scioscia, 2002 World Series winning coach, Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall, Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell, TCU head coach Kirk Saarloos also recorded player breakdowns, which MLB Network will incorporate into its day one coverage. Day 2 Rounds 3-10 and Rounds 11-20 will be split in a studio located in the JW Marriott lobby next to the original draft stage footprint.
In addition to on-site technology, fans in the crowd will add another layer to the broadcast. First experienced at the 2021 MLB Draft at the Bellco Theater at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, fans can react in real time to their favorite organization’s picks and bring more authenticity to the event.
“Having our fans [in person] definitely added a new vibe,” Weiner says. “There was a natural energy in the building [in Denver last year]that’s what you want in productions like these.
Celebrate from Home: Remote Workflows Integrate Offsite Prospects and Club Staff
Playing a vital role in the last two MLB drafts, remote workflows will once again take center stage. In a relationship that began with the 2020 NHL Draft at Secaucus, BitFire will leverage the majority of remote streams seen during Sunday’s broadcast. These will include prospects enjoying the day with their respective families at home and 29 clubs allowing access to their draft rooms. To coordinate this ride, two control rooms will be playing back at the head office: one will monitor incoming streams and the other will run the show live. The biggest hurdle to overcome is the reliability issues that come with a standard home internet connection.
“There are so many moving parts [to this show],” said Jacob Soto, Vice President, Engineering and IT, MLB Network. “Players who get picked want to tell everyone on social media at the same time that we’re going to their home setup, so sometimes we lose their stream because their bandwidth is going down. The control room knows that’s a possibility, so they switch to a camera that has a generic graphic.
Much of that experience has been gained over the past two incarnations of the draft. This process is twofold. The first aspect concerns the players and their families. During times of increased social distancing measures and other safety regulations, the MLBN production team had to trust that these people would properly install equipment and present a broadcastable plan.
“We had to send cameras to all these families without being able to fly a technician to their homes,” explains Caiafa. “Jacob and his team were sending out manuals, but that set the stage for how we do it now.”
The other side of the process allowed the technical team to master their skills.
“We’ve been training a lot over the past few years,” Soto continues. “We have a very good team that has developed a scenario to work with these families. This includes how to set up their cameras, how to prepare for their shoot, let them know when to be ready, let them know when they’re on air, and talk to them throughout the process.
As the proceedings move into Days 2 and 3, Secaucus will be the main hub as the network’s efforts transition to full remote production on Monday July 18 and Tuesday July 19.
An Evolving Show: MLB Network Steps Up Production Efforts For Stunning On-Site Show
From humble beginnings in their first televised MLB draft at Secaucus in 2009 to the heavyweight featuring a second straight MLB draft at MLB All-Star, MLB Network has continued to push the envelope. While technologies have changed over the past 13 years, every draft has one thing in common: the ability to lure the next wave of league stars into their setup. In the city of hopes and dreams, MLB Network is banking on another year of success.
“We had people like Mike Trout, Tim Anderson, Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa in our televised drafts,” Caiafa concludes. “I’m pretty proud of that fact.”
Rounds 1 and 2 of the 2022 MLB Draft on MLB Network begin Sunday, July 17 at 7 p.m. ET. MLB. com takes over with rounds 3-10 on Monday, July 18 at 2 p.m. ET and rounds 11-20 on Tuesday, July 19 at 2 p.m. ET.