September 18, 2010
After leaving the truck and talking for a bit outside, we followed Geoff and Kevin back in to the stadium and headed for the media's dining room to talk to Pat Parris and Jim Hayes before they went to do the pre-game show. I didn't know there was such a room in the stadium, but it turned out it was a familiar sight.
For those of you in the FSMW viewing area, you probably recognize this as where Tony La Russa does his post-game press conferences. Geoff said that the post-game presser actually came about when Edward Jones wanted to sponsor a segment. FSMW cut a deal with the Cardinals where they'd have this permanent background made up if the Cardinals would provide TLR on a regular basis. It gave a sponsor of the Cardinals good exposure while giving the TV guys access to La Russa. In the old stadium, they rolled the background into the hallway, but when they moved into Busch III they made it a more permanent feature, leaving it up in the media dining room.
Most of the dining room was made up of small tables and chairs around the area. The back wall had a buffet of food laid out with a variety of options. Jim and Pat were both having chicken and green beans, but it looks as if there was a lunchmeat and cheese tray out as well as a couple of things on burners. During our interview, I saw at least one of the chefs (judging by the traditional big white hat) come out and check on things as well. Both of the guys indicated that, to be tactful, there were better places around the league to eat, but visually it looked appealing.
Instead of asking us to come back or using their meal as an excuse, they asked if they could keep eating while they talked to us and then proceeded to give us some great insight into what they do and how they do it.
Not surprisingly, both from their different jobs and their different personalities, they approach their preparation a bit differently. Pat, like he does on TV, came across as a more serious, quiet, analytical guy with a bit of dry humor mixed in. Since he is the studio host for both the pregame and postgame shows, he is in charge of moving things along, setting up questions for the players that they have as analysts, stuff like that.
Pat had one of the spiral-bound Bob Carpenter scorebooks with him. I don't know if he started using those while Carpenter was with the Cardinals or not, but it was an impressive thing to see. Pat keeps score in it, of course, but every game also has notes and preparation written on it. For example, for that game he already had a list of things that would be on the "B-roll" for the pregame show along with topics that they'd be talking about that evening.
That notebook was completely filled up, as it had notes in it from every game this season. I didn't ask him if he occasionally referred back to past year's scorebooks, but I would be very surprised if he didn't have them on hand somewhere so he could if necessary.
With three different ex-Cardinals, former pitchers Rick Horton and Cal Eldred and first baseman Jack Clark, I asked Pat if he found himself talking about the pitching of the team more with Rick and Cal and hitting when he was paired up with Jack.
Pat said that all the players have done a great job of being more "well-rounded". The pitchers still come at it as pitchers, but they can talk about what the hitter was looking for in this situation or other parts of the offense. Jack has done something similar, taking his hitter's perspective and applying it to the pitching side of things, getting into what they threw and what they should have thrown. Though Pat drily said, "Jack thinks every batter should crush every pitcher."
Jim, on the other hand, was more focused on the player side of things. Since he doesn't have as many fixed responsibilities, he will do a lot of talking with the players, getting tidbits and insights not only for news, but also to bring some lighter or more unique things to his third-inning spot with Dan McLaughlin and Al Hrabosky.
I asked Jim what his relationship was with those guys, since to me at times at home there seems to be a bit of an edge coming from Al toward him. Jim said that his relationship with the Mad Hungarian is similar to his relationship with Tony La Russa. Usually, everything is fine and smooth, but occasionally Tony or Al will flare up. We've seen TLR do that on the post-game interviews, so I think we know where he was coming from. However, he said with both of those guys, a minute later everything is fine. It gets out there, but it doesn't linger. Of course, Jim quipped that he lets Al get his way because "I respect senior citizens. I was brought up that way."
It was interesting to hear Jim talk about Al and Tony as similar personalities, because knowing that context when we talked to Al later on brought some depth to some of Al's comments. (Ha, a tease! You'll have to come back for that post later!)
One of the things Jim will do is an entertaining segment once in a while, often a "man on the street" type of thing. For example, when the team was in Toronto, the cameras showed Jim trying to find protesters for the G20 summit that was going on at the same time.
I asked him if he came up with those ideas or if the producers did. One thing you quickly learned about Jim is that very few questions came with a serious answer first time out. With a straight face, he said, "The producers write all my lines and ad-libs, I just go and memorize them." After getting that out of his system, though, he said that sometimes the producer will call him and say, "Feel like doing something funny today?" and they kick around ideas.
In the case of the Toronto spot, that was pretty much Jim's idea. He felt that, since it was impacting the players with their travel arrangements and how they got to the park, it would be something worth talking about. And, in his words, "I wanted to find an anarchist!" Unfortunately, he wasn't able to fulfill that wish.
Pat and Jim both agreed that FSMW isn't necessarily in the business of "breaking news". They will do that, but that's not their focus. The focus is putting on a great show, for the most part, and as we saw during the tour, that takes up a lot of time to be prepared for that. So they aren't necessarily a rival to the print media, though again they will be on the forefront of breaking news at times.
When we talked about this with Pat and Jim, we brought up the most recent example, that of Jaime Garcia being shut down and that news hitting the fan base before Garcia knew about it. What I didn't know was the role FSMW had in that.
Apparently Jim was in La Russa's office when Tony announced that. He immediately went down to the player clubhouse and turned out Garcia was down there. With no one around, Jim thought this might be the time to talk to him, since he might not really want to do it in a big group. So he approached him, requested some of his time, and asked his thoughts on the decision.
"What decision?" said Garcia.
"They are shutting you down." said Jim.
Jim told us, "His eyes got huge and I realized, 'He didn't know.'"
Pat said that then, after FSMW had Tweeted it and everything, BJ Rains caught La Russa (after Jim's talk with Jaime) and asked if Garcia knew. When La Russa didn't seem to know, BJ said, "He does now and he was informed by a member of the media." Tony immediately said, "That's bad," and owned up to making a mistake by not making sure that he and Garcia were on the same page to begin with.
Pat and Jim both said that one of the biggest assets they have is player trust. They are with these guys all year long and they have to keep those relationships strong. There are times they know things but they don't run with them, because it's not necessary and it could damage the relationship down the line. On the flip side of that, the players know they can talk to the FSMW guys and feel like they are going to get a fair break when it hits the air.
We would have loved to talk to these guys all day, but their meal was over and they did have a show to go do, plus we still had a lot of things in front of us. As with everyone we encountered, they were more than accommodating with their time and their information, talking to us like a real conversation rather than something that had to be endured as part of their job, which made it even more incredible for us.
Next up on the agenda, a trip to talk to the guys in the booth, the broadcast team of Dan and Al.
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