Williamsport is center of ESPN’s look into
By Nick Williams
the Phillies in and out of first place in the NL
wild card, the T.O. saga ongoing in training
camp of the defending NFC champion Eagles and
the legendary Joe Paterno kicking off summer
sessions at Penn State, ESPN had plenty of sites
to choose from for a place to host
Pennsylvania’s turn in SportsCenter’s “50 States
in 50 Days” series.
But, they chose not to go pro, and instead
selected the site of the biggest youth sporting
event in the world: South Williamsport.
“We don’t want to shortchange, [Penn State
football coach] Joe Paterno, the Eagles,
Steelers, Phillies, Pirates, or any of the other
teams,” said producer Stu Mitchell. “But, it
certainly is something different since it’s not
a professional sport. We get a chance to go to a
town and go to an area and show something that
SportsCenter really doesn’t cover.’
So, on the top hill overlooking Lamade Stadium
on Tuesday, a 3:00 p.m. taping is taking place.
On the hill, groups of children slide down the
worn-down grassy slope using broken-up cardboard
boxes, only stopping to look at a suspended
camera that’s hanging out on the end of a metal
beam scanning the area for signs and screamers.
Anchor Chris McKendry addresses the camera while
sitting behind a makeshift SportsCenter desk in
front of a screen and, a bit lower, a plastic
fence that separates her from the throngs of
kids looking to get on television.
This taping aired on the 6:00 p.m., 11:00 p.m.,
1:00 a.m. and next-morning SportsCenters as part
of Day 38 in SportsCenter’s summer-long series
that looks inside the sports face of a
particular state, one state at a time.
“This is my fourth one,” said director Jim Ryan,
whose previous stops include Massachusetts,
Nevada, and Georgia. “This is cool. It’s
probably been the most fun stop.”
It’s been quite an enjoyable stop for McKendry,
too, who hails from Philadelphia, but has never
before been to the Little League World Series.
“I usually work in the studio [in Bristol,
Connecticut], but when I heard that 50 and 50
was coming here, I asked ‘Can I go home?’”
So far, she’s having a blast.
“I love the games,” she said. “The games are the
highlight of coming here. Just the atmosphere,
it’s part competitive baseball and part county
Ryan agrees, he thinks it’s a perfect balance
between competitiveness and sportsmanship.
“I love seeing these kids having a good time,”
Ryan said. “This is all about sportsmanship and
having fun and good competition, too. It’s
Ryan’s job for the broadcast is to direct and
coordinate the on-air proceedings, making sure
everything goes smoothly. Mitchell’s job, as
producer, is to provide Ryan with the content,
working with other ESPN producers back in
Bristol to decide which aspects of Pennsylvania
sports should be highlighted.
“[Mitchell] provides the content and I try and
take the idea of his content and make it look
and sound as good as I can,” Ryan said.
The content Mitchell has to choose from ranges
from the Little League World Series, the
Steelers, the Eagles, the Phillies, the Pirates
and the Flyers, just to name a few.
“Pennsylvania has so much good sports, [the
50/50 segment] will take up a lot a lot of the
show, about 14 minutes of an hour show,”
“Although we’re here at Little League, we don’t
just cover this,” he adds. “The focus is on the
state, not just the event we’re at.”
Even so, ESPN chose the Little League World
Series for a reason—its popularity.
“I think everybody follows it,” McKendry said.
“It seems to be on everywhere. Not just because
it’s on ESPN, but because people really love
Plus, unlike the Terrell Owens saga in Philly,
the Hines Ward holdout in Pittsburg and the
Flyers coming back from an NHL lockout, the
Little League World Series brings something
wholesome to the broadcast.
“We’re used to over-hyped and overdone
professional sporting events,” McKendry said.
“We were all saying what a refreshing week it’s
been for all of us.”
The ESPN production crew got here Sunday. It is
just one of five crews that travel the nation,
with the idea being that each crew will cover 10
states. They usually spend about four days at
one site and do shows every six days because of
Because she’s usually not on the crew, McKendry
didn’t arrive in Williamsport until a day later,
bringing along her two-year-old son.
“He’s having a great time,” McKendry said. “He
wanted a cardboard box of his own. He’s loving
The rest of the crew is loving it, too. It seems
that Little League has the power to bring the
inner child out of everyone.
“I was happy when they told me I was going
here,” Ryan added. “Like most kids, I also
played Little League. My teams were never good
enough to make it here. Look at these kids now,
there’s no way I was as good as these kids are.”
© 2005, Little League Baseball
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