Just moments after winning the Outstanding Sports Personality- Sports Reporter award at Tuesday’s Sports Emmys– beating out Allie LaForce, Ken Rosenthal, Lisa Salters and Michelle Tafoya for the honors– Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, MLB Network, and Fox took a few minutes to talk to Awful Announcing about his win, whether he still considers himself a print or TV reporter, and what it’s like doing live television on baseball’s biggest stage.
You beat out a lot of talented people for this award. Allie LaForce, Ken Rosenthal…
Yeah. I gotta tell you, it’s super humbling. Just look at those names, people who have been very good at what they’re doing for a very long time. Just super humbling.
When did this transition to TV kind of crystalize for you, or do you still consider yourself a print reporter who does TV? Or now are you a TV reporter who also does print?
[Laughs] I try to avoid labels, but you know it’s the world now. I began in a business that was just you either did print or you did electronic. And I wanted to do print. That’s all I ever wanted to do. And as the world began to change and I was looking for more challenges, I wanted to do more television. The more I did, the more I wanted to do some more and get better at it. So it’s been really rewarding. I love the challenge of doing something on live TV. For someone who takes a lot of pride in his writing, there’s no second draft on TV. There’s no delete key. There’s no letting it sit overnight to go back to. You have to nail it every time on the spot. And that’s been a challenge. And I enjoy a challenge.
What do you find more challenging, studio analysis or being the dugout reporter on a game broadcast?
Wow. I think more challenging is to be the dugout reporter at game broadcasts, especially if you’re talking about the World Series, where we’re talking about upwards of 20 million people watching. And when you’re doing your hit in game or right before the first pitch, and everybody’s screaming, and the producer is in your ear and it’s live with 20 million people watching, you just have to not think about all of that and just concentrate on what you do. So it’s a very different dynamic than, forget writing, just being in the studio, where it’s a more controlled environment.
Over the first month of the MLB season, where do you think trends are heading? Are there new trends already that you have to bone up on?
There’s always new trends. I tell people, this is my 37th year covering Major League Baseball. And the game has changed more in the last five years than the previous 32 for me. The game changed extraordinarily fast.
If you’re talking about trends this early in the season, I think it’s a trend that’s actually been going on for a long time now, but to an extreme now: strikeouts in the game. The fact that the ball is not in play very much. It’s a very efficient way for someone to build a team, but it’s not a very fan-friendly way to play baseball, when the ball isn’t in play enough. I’m a little bit concerned about that for somebody who just loves the game of baseball.
Do you get nervous when you know your name is being called out among the other nominees?
It’s funny you said that. I didn’t have time to be nervous, because I was backstage with Harold Reynolds and Al Leiter waiting for us to make our presentation. And kind of off to the side, I heard my name announced with the [other] nominees and I thought, oh I better pay attention to this. So I had no idea it was coming during the program at that point, and it really did blindside me.
I’m sure there are new challenges that you want to face. What do you think those are in the broadcasting realm?
For me personally, or in general?
Me personally, it’s always about getting better. I think what I try to do is bring information that nobody else has in a very digestible way. And not just the hardcore baseball fans, but the casual baseball fans. I want you when you’re listening to something that I say, turn to and tell somebody, ‘Hey, that’s interesting. Did you hear that?’ And maybe even repeat what I just said. That’s a very hard thing to do. It’s sort of hard to be exclusive with content and at the same time be both informative and entertaining. So believe me, it’s a constant challenge and I don’t feel like I’ve licked it in any way. It’s always trying to work on A, great material, and B, presenting it well.
Last question: Next time you see Ken Rosenthal, are you gonna hold this award of him?
Well he didn’t [hold it] over me, because I think he won this last year. [The late Craig Sager won last year, but Rosenthal won in 2016.]
Yeah, but that was last year.
No, believe me. He’s one of my best friends and one of the most admired talents in this industry. Quick story: We were actually interns together at the same time during a summer at Newsday in New York, and here we are as nominees in the same category and both love the sport. It’s pretty amazing.