Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Announcer experiment gets mixed reviews
By David Dorsey, Special to ESPNBoston.com
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox conducted an experiment with their public-address announcements at JetBlue Park on Tuesday that received mixed reactions.
Announcer Ted Fitzgeorge, a Fort Myers resident, announced pitches as strikes or balls followed by the count after every pitch Tuesday, something that has never been tried by the Red Sox in spring training or the regular season.
Charles Steinberg, an executive vice president of the Red Sox, explained the reason behind the experiment.
“It’s an idea that people have been debating about at Fenway Park for more than a year,” Steinberg said. “We figured, instead of continuing to debate about it in the abstract, let’s use our spring training testing ground to put it into practice. Baseball has long tested ideas at spring training. Back in 1971, 1972, you had what’s called a designated pinch hitter. Well, that became the designated hitter in 1973.”
Steinberg said he wasn’t sure if the announcements would continue this spring training.
“The premise of the idea is the count is so germane to the outcome of the at-bat, and there’s a greater emphasis on that right now by fans than there used to be,” Steinberg said. “The unintended benefit that we saw today is that in our iPhone world, where your eyes are focusing on e-mails and texts, hearing the pitch and the count keep you posted and maybe your eyes go back up to the game when you hear it’s a full count.
“The worry we had going into it was whether an announcer would be intrusive into the ambiance that you like to have," Steinberg said. "You like hearing conversations between fathers and sons and mothers and daughters and every combination. Our announcer today was gentle in his delivery."
Some fans love the idea it; John Lackey hates it.
Said Steinberg: "After the game, I heard the range of, ‘I love it.’ ‘I like it.’ ‘I’m looking for even more energy from the announcer’ to ‘It was unobtrusive,’ to ‘I’m old fashioned, and I like watching the game’ and ‘I don’t like it.' ”
Lackey didn't mince his words. “That’s a bad idea,” he said.
Lackey said the announcements did not bother him but that they might get into the head of a pitcher having a rough night.
Steinberg said the Red Sox would reevaluate announcing the count moving forward.