There’s more to being an MLB broadcaster than simply having a voice for television and knowing the sport.
For Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler, the play-by-play and colour commentators for Toronto Blue Jays baseball on Sportsnet, even seven o’clock games often require an early morning start.
Tabler walked the Toronto Observer through one of those days, a routine he finds himself repeating throughout a 162-game season, regardless of whether Toronto will be playing against the storied New York Yankees or the ailing Minnesota Twins.
“I usually get up around some time in the early morning, go eat, then go back to my room and then I get on the internet and start preparing for the game,” said Tabler, from his perch above home plate at the Rogers Centre one afternoon before a game.
“Start looking about game stories and game notes and get an idea of who’s pitching tonight. Go back and read some newspaper articles about the team we’re playing, about our team, the starting pitcher’s last start. Then I start making copies of stuff.
“We get lots of stats and lots of information. All told that usually takes around two to three hours of prep work to get ready and get everything set.”
For Martinez, his mornings are largely identical, except for one key difference.
“I have a different role than Pat does because I’m a play-by-play guy,” said Martinez. “I might be more tuned to statistics and numbers and everything else as opposed to Pat, who might want to know more about why a guy is doing something.
“But basically it’s the same, lots of articles, lots of information.
“In this day and age, there are so many outlets for information to just explore stories; you can do it all day long. You can literally do it all day long and that’s what we do we just get ready for the game.”
Despite the hours of solid research behind them from home, their jobs are still far from done.
Five hours before first pitch, Tabler and Martinez would be at the ball park, reading and researching their subject matters in the peace and quiet of a booth facing an empty stadium ahead of a production meeting in the broadcast truck with the producers of the live show.
“We have our production meeting at 3:30PM with the producer down in the truck,” said Tabler. “We’ll all get together and brainstorm about what we want to do that night for the opening of the show and some of the game story-lines for the game that day.”
Once the meeting with the television producers are over, that is when both are out on the field taking in team batting practices. For them, this is their chance to go straight to the source on any questions and issues they may have concerning the team or a player.
“We meet with the manager and all the coaches,” said Tabler. “Talk to some of the players, talk to some of the people around the batting cage and gather information there.”
Throughout this process, communication between the two is a key part of their relationship, both on-air and off.
“That [communication] is why we’re here at three o’clock,” said Martinez. “We talk about the game, we go down on the field and we talk and then we come back up here [the broadcast booth] and we exchange information.
“Pat would talk to a certain group of people; I would talk to a different group of people. And it’s not that we’re going to sit down and say, ‘okay I talked to this guy, I want to talk about this in the game.’
But if something in the game comes up related to the information that you found, you’re golden.”
It is seven o’clock. Martinez and Tabler are in their broadcast booth perched high above home plate, looking down as the players prepare for the first pitch of the game.
Already it has been a long day for them. But in just as many ways, it has only just begun. They have spent the entire time preparing for this moment, for the opportunity to call another baseball game to Canadians across this country on Sportsnet.
And in doing so, they hope to educate their viewers on something they likely did not know going in.
As the ball leaves the hand of the day’s starting pitcher, Martinez says, “And here’s the first pitch…”