Anatomy of a broadcaster’s briefcase
Fans may be surprised to learn that a baseball broadcaster doesn’t show up 15 minutes before a game to go on-air. “That’s not the way it works,” said my husband Ken Singleton, who devotes hours to his “homework” before picking up a YES Network microphone.
Like the average American, a workday for him is 8-hours-plus, except his is not 9-to-5 but the “second shift” — he leaves for the ballpark at 3 p.m. and returns to the hotel around 11:30 (barring extra innings or rain delays).
Let’s peek into Ken’s 15-pound briefcase (actually he uses a small black suitcase on wheels) to examine the tools that help him prepare for each game:
1. Laptop – Ken visits specific websites daily to check game scores around the leagues and to find out who did what. He learns of players’ injuries, special streaks and to see what’s happening beyond Yankee Stadium. His preferred sites include:
2. Press Guides – Ken carries specific ones needed for a particular road trip and keeps a press guide in his home office for every American and National League team. He researches historical notes and a plethora of stats. “Press guides tell me everything I want to know about a particular player or team,” he said, “even a player’s birthday.” (Certainly, Ken always carries the Yankees press guide.)
3. Scorebook – Designed by his former Montreal Expos broadcast partner, Dave Van Horne (42-year veteran broadcaster and current lead play-by-play radio announcer for the Florida Marlins), Ken’s scorebook includes room to write notes and track pitchers, game times, team records and next-game pitchers. Ken orders these specially designed scorebooks from a local printer, made thick enough to record an entire season of games.
4. Elias Notes – Produced each game by Elias Sports Bureau Inc., a major informational source for all sports, these notes are waiting in the YES booth — a copy for each broadcaster and one for the statistician. “These are very important,” says Ken. “They give good information about that particular game.”
Things he looks for: players on hitting streaks and reaching special milestones; injured players and who’s back in the lineup after an injury; what currently makes a team good; why a club is playing better now than at the beginning of the season (or vice versa). “I look for interesting items I think fans may want to know,” said Ken. “What would someone at home ask about this player or team?”
5. Calculator to figure batting averages
6. Legal pads to take notes
7. Hall’s honey lemon cough drops for after L-O-N-G games
The first day of a series, or rejoining the Yankees after he’s been off a week, will include the most preparation for Ken. Not every note he collects is used in one game. In a three-game series, for example, he may use some the following day.
“It’s better to be over-prepared,” said Ken, “because you never know when a game is going to go for 15 innings.”
Also, for every game he prepares a Scouting Report on the starting pitchers — one for each team. “I write three interesting notes about each pitcher and email it to a graphics guy at YES.”
For instance, as I questioned Ken for this story, he had made a note for tonight’s Sept. 7 game about CC Sabathia going for his 20th game win.
After Ken pours over all the information he has collected, “I’m basically ready to do the game,” he says.
After settling into the press box, he visits the clubhouse to obtain the starting lineup and chat with players on both teams. Sometimes he peeks into Joe Girardi’s press conference before the game (held near the clubhouse in a conference room) or if he doesn’t have time, he listens to it in the booth. For additional homework, Ken speaks with the visiting team broadcasters, many his friends.
“They see the teams every day,” said Ken. “I don’t. Although I think I know a lot about a team, they have a better insight to help me with my game.”
And if he didn’t spend time preparing?
“I would run out of things to talk about! I’d be reacting to the game itself but wouldn’t be able to fill in the blanks. There’s a lot of time in between pitchers and hitters. I have to fill it with interesting information for the fans.”
A baseball birthday surprise
Meet Bron Locke … it’s his 45th birthday!
Bron, an avid Yankees fan who lives in Clearlake Oaks, Calif., has been a fan since 1976. He was 12 years old when Mickey Mantle shook his hand and autographed a photo for him at an Apple Blossom Festival.
Before that he was a Baltimore Orioles fan when he lived nearby, and Ken was one of his favorite players, said his daughter Tasha in an e-mail to Mrs. Singy.
“He never misses a Yankees game and watches most of them on the YES Network,” wrote Tasha, a Virginia resident.
Bron has attended nearly 100 Yankees games at 12 different stadiums. During the recent Yankees-A’s series, Bron was thrilled when Johnny Damon acknowledged his wave with a nod, a smile and a lift of his glove. When Johnny chased a foul ball then flipped it to an A’s attendant, the attendant flipped the ball to Bron. Regrettably, another fan bumped his arm and the ball bounced away for someone else to snatch up. He was heartbroken.
Tasha said it is her dad’s lifetime dream to own a baseball from the Major Leagues. And good daughter that she seems, she wants to ensure her dad has a very happy birthday.
“You have no idea how much my dad’s happiness means to me,” she said.
What a sweet girl. Tell your dad to watch his mailbox, Tasha, for a little baseball birthday surprise from Ken.
Happy Birthday, Bron Locke, Yankees fan extraordinaire!
UPDATE: A week after this entry, Mr. Locke was kind enough to send me a nice e-mail.
Hi Mrs Singleton,
This is Bron Locke, thank you for the great blog entry! It’s a shame I was so clumsy at the game, I should’ve anticipated that someone would be reaching for the ball as well. But, to get an autographed ball from Ken is MUCH more special.
Attached is a collage picture I made for Tasha, with an extra message added to the bottom for you and Ken. I wanted you two to have it so you can know that you made a Ken Singleton fan’s year! I’m building a walnut display case to house the ball and display the card.
Thanks again for your kindness,
Proud in the press box
If I had my way in the bottom of the eighth inning, I’d stay in my seat. The kids, however, drag me upstairs to the press box to see “Dad” in live YES Network TV action.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m always proud of hubby watching him in the booth – he’s happiest around baseball. Yet I feel we are just in the way of everyone doing their jobs, even though the TV crews are extremely accommodating and friendly (they give us free water bottles).
It’s been fun over the years talking my way up to the press level. No one in 18 years has ever asked to see my ID in any ballpark in America or upon driving into any stadium parking lot. Seems they believe a mom with two kids in tow claiming she’s Mrs. Ken Singleton is telling the truth.
Basically though, standing in the booth would be equivalent to you going to your spouse’s job and watching him or her work. It would be like Ken standing over my shoulder right now in my office as I write.
Although the TV experience is a bit more commonplace for me because I’ve been around it so long, when we bring along family members or friends, it’s refreshing to watch them get fired up experiencing live television up close and personal, and meeting other sports celebs who may happen to walk past.
I’m tickled our kids have the chance to see Dad at work, because being that he was retired from the Major Leagues well before they were a glint in his eye, our youngest son and daughter have been attuned only to Ken’s second career. They witness behind the baseball scene, whereas Singleton boys No. 1 and No. 2 as youngsters were closer to the field (at times on the field!), able to see Daddy play the game, hang out in the dugout during batting practice and high-five all the players.
Their experience was different being up close and personal with pros like Cal Ripken Jr., Brooks Robinson, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer and many other Hall of Famers and Major Leaguers.
Wherever Ken has worked – on the field or in the press box – has always made his family proud to stand behind him.
By Mrs. Singy
Thank goodness the Yankees were visiting Baltimore the night before Orioles’ Opening Day because our house alarm sounded at precisely 2:54 a.m., causing Ken and I to jump out of bed faster than two volunteer firefighters.
It doesn’t exactly help our fight-or-flight mode when the robotic voice on our system barks insistently, “INTRUSION! INTRUSION!” followed by a shrill BEEP-BEEP-BEEP, and then repeats the announcement over and over until we disarm it. Scary, because until we know exactly what set off the alarm, we imagine an intruder breaking in, and we feel extremely vulnerable (kind of how the Orioles feel when the Yankees are in town).
The dog begins wailing as the noise pierces his sensitive Rottie ears; the kids dash out of their rooms terrified out of their sleepy wits; and simultaneously, the phone jingles (the security company asks if we want the police dispatched) – all before we have rubbed the sleep from our eyes and can think coherently.
I whistle for the pooch to lead the way into the basement where the alarm system has indicated a point of disturbance, first pushing along Ken. (He’s bigger than me, and hopefully more muscular than the imaginary prowler.)
If the alarm goes off when he’s on the road with the Yankees, unfortunately I have to be the brave adult in the house; yet truthfully, it makes me a basket case to have to investigate. It’s happened – ask our neighbor Tommy who has received my 2 a.m. scaredy-cat call when a tray table mysteriously fell over loudly and tripped the alarm.
Years ago when former Oriole Al Bumbry was our neighbor, he came to Mrs. Singy’s rescue when the house alarm sounded. He found nothing but me shaking in my slippers, and offered to sleep on the couch the remainder of the night.
Ballplayers are so brave.
Announcers, too. So … Ken checks the basement slider, all is intact, and we figure the wind tripped the alarm. We return to slumber, however, mine does not come easily as I imagine all the nights Ken will be sleeping in hotels instead of in our room. Already I have the heebie-jeebies.
Couldn’t the Yankees play in Baltimore more often? After all, the Orioles are used to New York’s intrusions.
I pledge allegiance to my lime green Yankees jacket
By “Mrs. Singy”
Suzanne Molino Singleton
New York Yankees merchandise doesn’t consist of only blue and white pinstripes, as shopping fans know. Some creative genius along the design line had fun with color – maybe to appeal to us ladies – and produced hats, T-shirts, and jackets of all hues.
My hat rack holds NYY caps in lime green … shocking pink … pastel pink … yellow … red … and the traditional dark blue. Ken once gave me for Christmas a big puffy Yankees jacket in bright lime green. In the winter, I wear it to the gym and to power walk the neighborhood, and you can bet the neighbors see me coming … no reflectors needed.
Yet comments about the vivid color aren’t the only ones flung my way. Because I’m a Baltimore girl wearing a NY team logo (and worse, a rivalry of the Orioles), freedom of speech comes into play as friends have their say about my precious Yankees merchandise.
“Take off that jacket while you’re around me,” or “I’d like to burn that T-shirt,” and other smarty-pants remarks are uttered to me and the kids. They say the NYY cap is hurting their eyes or making them gag. Funny them.
My standard reply is, “Hey you, quiet, the Yankees feed my kids and pay tuition” (and buy me shoes, but I leave out that part).
It’s a bit of a quandary, being that I’m a lifelong Baltimorean, once a die-hard Orioles fan. But like baseball players are traded team to team, the kids and I played a little switcharoo in our baseball team allegiance when Ken began to call Yankees games on MSG Network 13 years back, then for the YES Network seven years ago.
Actually we’ve discovered it’s not too tough being Yankees fans – it’s rather fun. We love riding the train from Baltimore to the city, and it’s quite exciting to watch them make it to the World Series so often. We love the enthusiasm in the stands, and Yankees fans are everywhere! (We do spend more money eating stadium junk food but hey, the tickets are comps, so who can whine?) And we can’t wait to feast our eyes on the new stadium, especially now that Oriole Park is old comparatively, as the rest of America builds new ballparks.
At first I thought we could be fans of the Yankees and the Orioles, yet when the O’s hosted the Yankees I was traumatized … which team to root for? Whose T-shirt should I wear? And if the Orioles aren’t going to hawk colorful merchandise like the Yankees, forget them. A few seasons I sat in the stands quietly, wore street clothes, and rooted for neither team. It was torture.
And if you think his wife gets teased, you should hear Baltimoreans comment to Ken about announcing for the Yankees, the poor dear. O’s fans think he should have black and orange running through his veins – and he forever will be an Oriole and extremely proud of his World Series ring. Yet his career now is with the Yankees, which he enjoys immensely.
What many don’t realize is that Ken is from Mount Vernon, New York (always his out in that conversation) so technically he’s allowed to stand so close to the pinstripes. (Useless piece of trivia – the Singletons lived in a house once owned by the family of former Brooklyn Dodger Ralph Branca.)
Let Baltimore fans tease us all they want … we’re wearing our Yankees merchandise and that’s that. And I will continue to pledge allegiance to my lime green Yankees jacket … that is, until Ken comes home with a different color.
Suzanne Molino Singleton is a Baltimore-based writer and columnist, and spouse of YES Network announcer Ken Singleton. She is the creator of a weekly women’s inspirational e-column, www.SNIPPETSinspiration.com, and a columnist on www.smartwomanonline.com.