For fans that have missed the crack of the bat, two of Major League Baseball’s national cable partners are ready to swing into action with the start of the 2013 season.
ESPN will put its new on-air teams on display as part of a presentation of five ballgames over two days, while MLB Network will unveil a new studio show before commencing its contest coverage.
ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball team -- Dan Shulman, John Kruk (succeeding Terry Francona, now the manager of the Cleveland Indians) and Orel Hershiser with reporter Buster Olney -- will do double duty. They will make their debut on ESPN’s exclusive national telecast of MLB Opening Night, featuring the Texas Rangers visiting the Houston Astros on Sunday, March 31, at 8 p.m. (ET). The worldwide leader will provide multimedia coverage of the Astros’ American League debut and first Sunday Night Baseball appearance since 2007 with ESPN Deportes, ESPN Deportes Radio, ESPN Radio and WatchESPN all in the multimedia game. (Check out ESPN SNB early season schedule below.)
Immediately following the opener, ESPN’s SNB crew will travel to Los Angeles to call their second game in less than 24 hours – as the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants enter Chavez Ravine to take on their rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, on April 1, at 4 p.m.
For their part, ESPN’s new Monday Night Baseball crew -- Dave O'Brien, Rick Sucliffe and Aaron Boone with reporter Tim Kurkijian -- will make their season bow in The Bronx earlier that day, when the New York Yankees play host to the Boston Red Sox in The Bronx at 1 p.m. on ESPN.
After Giants-Dodgers on ESPN, ESPN2 will step to the plate with a pair of contests Monday night: the Philadelphia Phillies at the Atlanta Braves at 7p.m., followed by the nightcap showcasing the St. Louis Cardinals and the Arizona Diamondbacks at 10 p.m. (see schedule below).
Game action aside, ESPN will set the table for the season with a special two-hour edition of Baseball Tonight Presented by Burger King at 6 p.m. leading into Opening Night. Baseball Tonight airs at 12 p.m. on ESPN and again at 1 a.m. on ESPN2 on Opening Day. New Baseball Tonight commentators Alex Cora and Manny Acta, will join Barry Larkin, Curt Schilling, Boone, Doug Glanville, Kurkijian and Karl Ravech throughout the week. On Sunday, SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight will salute the 75th anniversary of Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s on First?” skit featuring Late Night host Jimmy Fallon and several Major League players acting out their own rendition of the classic roster rundown.
On Opening Day, the Mike & Mike in the Morning simulcast on ESPN Radio and ESPN2 will originate from the MLB Fan Cave in New York from 6 a.m.-10 a.m. The morning program will also trek to Omni Dallas on April 5 and the Cubby Bear in Chicago on April 8, as part of ESPN's "MLB Opening Day Tour." First Take with Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless will emanate from the Hard Rock Café in New York City on Opening Day, beginning at 10 a.m. on ESPN2.
For its part, MLB Network, which now counts some 71 million subscribers, will initiate its presentation of the 2013 campaign with 15 hours of studio coverage. Leading off at 10 a.m. is Intentional Talk, hosted by Kevin Millar and Chris Rose. The return of The Rundown with Lauren Shehadi and Matt Yallof follows at 11, while MLB Tonight is in the three hole at 1 p.m. with Greg Amsinger, Larry Bowa, Millar, Dan Plesac, Harold Reynolds, Bill Ripken, Ken Rosenthal, Paul Severino, Matt Vasgersian, Tom Verducci and Mitch Williams all taking cuts at providing insights and commentary.
April 1 will also field a sneak peek of new studio show MLB Now, with Brian Kenny, host of Clubhouse Confidential, and analyst Harold Reynolds at 8 p.m., as well as on Tuesday, April 2 at 6 p.m. Starting Wednesday, April 3, MLB Now, which will turn on Kenny’s analytical acumen versus the views of the 12-year MLB veteran Reynolds about league news, managerial decisions and discussions about players’ short- and long-term contract values, will assume its regular time slot in the 4 p.m. hour. In presenting divergent views around the sport, MLB Now will also conduct live guest interviews via MLBN’s Cisco Ballpark Cam network and live fan polling on social media.
Kristina Akra, who served as a reporter covering the Washington Nationals for MASN in 2012, will appear across MLBN’s studio fare and make her MLBN debut on MLB Now on April 1.
MLBN’s live game schedule begins with the Tampa Bay Rays’ home opener against the Baltimore Orioles on April 2 at 3 p.m. The service’s first MLB Network Showcase production features the World Series champion Giants at the Dodgers, called by Bob Costas, Jim Kaat and Sam Ryan, at 10 p.m. The remainder of MLB Network’s April game schedule, including five Showcase contests in bold, is available here.
2013 ESPN Sunday Night Baseball schedule
Texas Rangers at Houston Astros
Los Angeles Angels at Texas Rangers *
Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees
St. Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves at Detroit Tigers
Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Angels at Chicago White Sox
Detroit Tigers at Texas Rangers
Atlanta Braves at New York Mets
St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs
New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox