Image from ESPN Front Row

We’ll probably find out this week if there will be a 2020 Major League Baseball season. On Sunday, the players’ union made a counter-proposal to team owners’ latest offer, which includes alternatives to the schedule (a 114-game season instead of 82 games), salaries (prorated, rather than reduced pay), and safety concerns (high-risk players can opt out).

In the meantime, fans seeking a baseball fix have been able to get an early-morning (or late-night on the West Coast) taste of the game with ESPN’s broadcast of KBO (Korean Baseball Organization) play since early May. Telecasts have featured announcers and guests broadcasting remotely from home.

Play-by-play announcers have included Karl Ravech, Jon “Boog” Sciambi, and Jason Benetti, with Eduardo Perez, Kyle Peterson, and Jessica Mendoza providing analysts. Among the guests joining the telecasts have been Eric Thames (who played in KBO from 2014 through 2016), ESPN writers Jeff Passan, Buster Olney and Joon Lee, and the Wall Street Journal‘s Jared Diamond.

“This is our baseball window, is the way I’m looking at it, and we’re trying to sort it out,” Sciambi told FanGraphs’ Jon Tayler. “We’re trying to get as much information as we possibly can and put it out there and get good stories and talk baseball and have some fun, man. Smile and have some fun.”

The format of the telecasts along with viewer unfamiliarity with KBO teams and players have indeed allowed ESPN’s talent to have a little more fun and show some more personality than they otherwise might during a traditional MLB broadcast.

Sciambi further explained to FanGraphs that he and his ESPN colleagues had to take a crash course in KBO with less than two weeks to prepare for calling games. The study included watching games and breaking down plate appearances, talking to MLB players and coaches with experience in Korean baseball, and consulting experts such as Sung Lee Kim, who went from writing for FanGraphs to working for the Lotte Giants.

Tayler’s piece has plenty more from Sciambi and Perez about their experience calling KBO games, the challenges in broadcasting remotely as opposed to being at the ballpark, the set-up required to work on those telecasts from home, and taking the opportunity to talk about MLB during its absence from the regular sports calendar.

Unfortunately, the interview with Sciambi and subsequent FanGraphs piece were likely done before KT Wiz released a cheer song dedicated to Karl Ravech.

Actually, Ravech doesn’t have just one cheer song. KT Wiz produced two for the veteran play-by-play man and anchor.

Will Sciambi soon get his own cheer song? He probably deserves one, doesn’t he? For many early-rising (or night owl) baseball fans in the States, Boog is currently the voice of KBO baseball. Get the dancers and mascots to show him some love!

According to Tayler, ESPN plans to carry the entire KBO season and playoffs regardless of whether or not MLB plays its 2020 campaign. ESPN is ramping up its KBO coverage beginning this week with Tuesday’s Lotte Giants-KIA Tigers match-up, moving game telecasts from ESPN2 to the main network and pushing its regular morning schedule of Get Up and First Take back half an hour to accommodate the early-morning baseball.

KBO broadcasts will continue at 5:30 a.m. ET Tuesday through Friday, with Saturday games starting at 4 a.m. and Sunday contests at 1 a.m.


About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.