ESPN Sunday Night Baseball play-by-play broadcaster Dan Shulman spoke to Redbird Rants in a phone interview this past Friday in advance of tonight’s game airing on ESPN between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs.
Daniel Solzman: Thanks for joining Redbird Rants today. How are things treating you?
Dan Shulman: Everything’s going great, thank you.
Daniel Solzman: You’re calling the Cardinals-Cubs game on Sunday night from the bleachers in Wrigley Field. How do you expect that experience to compare to being courtside while calling basketball games?
Dan Shulman: Well, it’s completely different. I’ve never called a game from the bleachers before. I don’t know that I would compare it to courtside at basketball games but it’s going to be different to being up in the booth at a baseball game. I haven’t seen the set-up so I don’t know how close everybody is to us but it will feel different. I guess, you know, I’m used to it, as you said, I’m kind of used to people being close at basketball games but there’s something about being in the bleachers at Wrigley that makes this feel very unique.
Daniel Solzman: There’s a lot of downtime in baseball compared to football and basketball. Do you have a game plan ahead of time with regards to how you will fill the air time?
Dan Shulman: No, not really. I like to have just conversations about baseball with John Kruk or whoever I’m working with so we go into the games saying these are some of the ideas we want to explore. These are some of the themes and stories want to develop. But really, you just have to follow the flow of the game. You can’t pre-plan or pre-script things very well at a live event so I just go wherever the game takes me.
Daniel Solzman: What do you make of the Cardinals offense in April, or lack thereof?
Dan Shulman: Yeah, very surprising to be honest with you. They were such a good offensive team last year. I think we had to know that they weren’t going to hit .330 with runners in scoring position again like they did last year but they’re down around .220 this year. I certainly never would have expected that but they will be better but that’s one reason why they’re not scoring a lot of runs.
Wong didn’t hit. Bourjos didn’t hit. Craig got off to a slow start. It’s a number of different guys. I think there’s enough of a track record for just about all all these hitters for things to get better but I’m not sure it’s going to get to the level of things last year.
Daniel Solzman: Adam Wainwright finished the month of April with a 5-1 record with a 1.20 ERA while Dodgers pitcher and reigning Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw was unable to pitch in the majors. Is this the year that Wainwright finally breaks through and wins his first Cy Young Award?
Dan Shulman: I think it’s very possible. I think Adam Wainwright actually is underrated. I don’t think he gets enough attention for being as good of a pitcher as he is. I was listening to a radio station the other day and they were debating whether he’s an ace or whether he’s a true number one because there aren’t that many true aces in baseball. I was incredulous. Adam Wainwright is as good a pitcher as there is in baseball and he’s a horse. He threw 276 innings last year when you combine the regular season and playoffs. He’s a leader and everything you want in a number one pitcher. With Kershaw missing the month, there are truly a lot of good candidates out there. Wainwright certainly is having a dand and it would be great to see because that’s the only thing he hasn’t accomplished in his career.
Daniel Solzman: The first Sunday Night game in May features the Cardinals and Cubs. The last Sunday Night game in May, which I will be at, features the Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds. Which rivalry is more exciting right now?
Dan Shulman: I think you have to say Cardinals and Reds to be honest with you because the Cubs are just down right now. Historically, it’s Cardinals and Cubs. At the moment, I think its Cardinals and Reds because their battles have been more relevant in recent years in the standings. And really, they’ve had battles as well. They’ve had nasty brawls that have occurred over the last few years as well. Right now, I have to say Cardinals and Reds.
Daniel Solzman: You were in the ESPN Radio booth during the 2011 World Series between the Cardinals and Texas Rangers. What was going through your mind as David Freese hit a walk-off home run?
Dan Shulman: Well, I’ll go back to the triple in the ninth inning because that was the scariest moment I’ve had as a broadcaster. If Nelson Cruz catches the ball, the World Series is over and Texas wins. If the ball gets over his head, the game is tied and goes into extra innings.
That ball was hit a long way, about 380 feet away from me, and I needed to make sure I got it right. I had to know instantly: Did he catch it or was it over his head? And the ball can get obscured sometimes in the billboards and all the ads that they have on the outfield fence and there was some white out there so I lost the ball for just a fraction of a second.
The triple was just exciting and scary. The home run was just exciting. I had a pretty good idea off the bat that it was going out. I just couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to be at a game where this had happened: where a guy ties it in the ninth when they’re a strike away from losing and wins it in the eleventh. It was the most exciting game I have ever been at and I can’t imagine going to one that has more than that.
Daniel Solzman: What is the typical Sunday like for you when it comes to getting ready for the game?
Dan Shulman: We have a production meeting from about 9 to 10:30 AM in the morning where Krukkie, Buster Olney, and I will all just throw out our topics for the day. The things that we need to talk about during the game, the important stories. We have some research people who are there, who do the same. Our producer goes over all the graphics that they’ve built to show them to us so that we know what is going to be on the air so that we know if we have any video packages or highlights, other things that we want to get on.
It’s basically not a dress rehearsal but it’s kind of just a content meeting where we go over everything that we think might be have a chance to get on the air. Of course, once the game starts, we go in a direction and in that direction, it’s good to get together Sunday morning and just be on the same page for all the big stories we want to cover.
Daniel Solzman: Thank you again for your time.
Dan Shulman: Alright, bye.