MINNEAPOLIS — Longtime Twins television broadcaster Dick Bremer will settle into his familiar seat at Target Field on Friday, July 24 with color commentator Justin Morneau by his side. One booth over, radio broadcasters Cory Provus and Dan Gladden will occupy the visiting TV area.
The four will sit at an empty Target Field and call the first game of the Twins’ shortened season — a game taking place more than 400 miles away in Chicago. Bremer, entering his 37th season calling Twins games, can’t even remember the last time he didn’t attend the team’s Opening Day game.
“I’ve only done it one way, actually seeing the game I’m asked to call,” Bremer said. “It’s not normal and it’s not ideal, but what about calendar year 2020 is normal or ideal? It’s just the way it is. I’m delighted that the games are going to be on, and I know how hungry fans are to be able to watch the games.”
While players and coaches have to adapt to a host of new health and safety protocols, announcers, too, have to adapt to new conditions of their own, including calling games from Target Field and watching the action on a TV monitor when the team is on the road.
Not that they’re complaining.
“I am happy to do whatever I’m asked to do. I’m thrilled that there’s baseball to work,” Provus said. “I have so many friends who do not have that same luxury who are out of work, so I’ll take whatever I can get and I won’t complain one bit. I think we will adjust.”
The broadcasters, like the team, will get one exhibition game — at 6 p.m. Wednesday against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field — to test out calling games from afar before they’re live on air on Friday night calling the season opener against the White Sox.
Provus, who has broadcasted some of the intrasquad games, said he would have liked five trial runs, but one will have to do. He worries about missing some details on the TV feed — like which pitcher is warming up in the bullpen, for example — while his head is down in his computer or scorebook for five seconds. So to make this work, he said, it will truly be a team effort between the eight people the radio crew has stationed around the park.
“I just hope people are patient,” Provus said. “The broadcasts are not going to be as smooth or as clean as we envision that they normally are or can be. We’ll get there, but there’s going to be some bumps along the way.”
Announcers also will have to adapt to not having the same access to team personnel that they’re used to, forcing them to find other creative ways to fill time on the air. Provus typically chats with Twins manager Rocco Baldelli before Baldelli’s daily afternoon session with reporters. That will continue, he said, though will likely be shorter and certainly not face-to-face.
“That’s where I’m putting a lot of thought in trying to be ahead, think ahead and so that we can still provide something new and something informative without having that same access that we have grown accustomed to, which to me is vital because we have to fill time,” Provus said. “We just can’t be monotonous, redundant play-by-play,” Provus said.
Play-by-play in and of itself will become difficult because they’ll be relying on certain broadcast angles and won’t be able to see the full field on their own. Provus anticipates home runs might be harder to call because “every fly ball is going to look like a home run” from certain angles and they’ll have to wait a few extra seconds to be certain.
“It’ll be a challenge for the director, it’ll be a challenge for us to try to convey to the viewer something that’s really important, the positioning of the fielders, for instance, without in person being able to see the shifting,” Bremer said. “But again, we’re all going to do the very best we can. We all understand the reasoning behind it and we’ll just do the very best we can.”
That, and with them being reliant on camera angles from the road team, Bremer might be talking about Baldelli during the broadcast just as the opposing team’s cameramen zooms in on someone entirely different.
For home games, not being able to feed off the energy and excitement of the crowd will provide another element for announcers to get used to. Bremer anticipates walk-offs at Target Field — the ultimate thrill at a ballpark, he said — looking and feeling quite different with players unable to mob each other on the field and fans not cheering along.
And though things won’t be quite the same, Twins announcers will play an extra important role this season bringing fans closer to the team during a historic season that fans won’t be able to get up close to see themselves.
“It’s going to sound and look different than anything we’ve ever seen or done before,” Bremer said. “But the bottom line is the main thing is the games are going to be played and people are going to be able to watch them.”