Mike Monaco, who began his professional baseball broadcast career with the South Bend (Ind.) Cubs in 2015, is scheduled to be the play-by-plan man for his first ESPN-produced Major League Baseball broadcast. Monaco, a 2015 University of Notre Dame graduate in Film, Television and Theatre with concentration in TV, is to pair up with Doug Glanville and Tim Kurkjian on the San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks game at 9:40 p.m. EST on Thursday, July 1. It will be Monaco’s first game working with veterans Glanville and Kurkjian. “With those guys as accomplished as they are, it will be my job to feed off them,” says Monaco. “They’re the real stars of the show. “I think the world of them as baseball minds and broadcasters.” Working remotely from his Chicago home studio, Monaco will tell the audience what is happening for Giants-Diamondbacks at Chase Field. “It’s very different. That’s for sure,” says Monaco of not being on-site. “It’s a credit to ESPN that they’ve built this model. It’s amazing to see how they’re able to pull this off on such a large scale.” Monaco and his partners will have access to multiple camera angles and a statistician and work with a production crew. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Monaco had experience calling baseball remotely from the Big Ten Network offices in Chicago. “It’s not as much of a culture shock for me,” says Monaco, who has trained himself to watch various monitors to convey the action. The example he likes to cite is a ball hit into the right-center gap with a runner at second base. “The camera might be showing you the ball landing in the outfield,” says Monaco. “You train our eyes to find another camera that might be showing you the runner.” There’s also the judging fly balls off the bat, which is a skill even for in-person broadcasters. “It’s the more reps you do the more familiarized your mind and your eyes get,” says Monaco. While calling baseball or other sports, Monaco reminds himself that he is part of a team of commentators, graphics people etc., and that fans can see what’s happening on their sets and devices. “It’s on us to accentuate, inform and entertain,” says Monaco. “In radio, you have to describe every pitch and every swing. You paint a picture. “In baseball, you have time to break down swings and pitch sequences and tell stories. We make you care about a guy you’ve never heard of before, the stakes of a live competition and why the participants care so much and why the fans at home care so much.” Hired by ESPN in November 2019, Monaco has called college basketball and college baseball the most for the network with some lacrosse, volleyball and football. At the end of 2019, he filled in on New England Sports Network (NESN) for Boston Red Sox TV broadcasts, working with Jerry Remy and Baseball Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley. He is scheduled to be pair with Ellis Burks for road series July 2-4 against the Oakland Athletics and July 5-7 against the Los Angeles Angels. “Growing up a Red Sox fan it’s been special to be a small part of that operation,” says Monaco, who once dressed up for Halloween as Nomar Garciaparra, counts Jason Varitek as his first autograph and graduated from Cohasset (Mass.) High School in 2011. “It’s an honor to fill the chair of (lead play-by-play man) Dave O’Brien.” Having watched and listened to Remy and Eckersley, Monaco came to appreciate their blending of hitting and pitching knowledge. He even knows the language of Eck. “Cheese” is an excellent fastball. “Educated cheese” is a well-located fastball. “Hair” is a fastball with late movement. “Moss” is what grows on a person’s head. “Salad” is stuff thrown by a finesse pitcher. “Going Bridge” is a home run. “Johnson” is an important home run. “I laugh as hard as anyone,” says Monaco of Eckisms. Monaco called Cape Cod Baseball League games in the summer of 2013 and 2014. He is grateful for the opportunity he had with the 2015 South Bend Cubs, where he worked with Chris Hagstrom-Jones. In 2016, he was on the air for the Fort Wayne (Ind.) TinCaps where his regular partner was Mike Maahs and counts Broadcasting & Media Relations Manager John Nolan, Team President Mike Nutter and Vice President of Marketing & Promotions Michael Limmer among friends in baseball. Monaco did play-by play for Western Michigan University men’s and women’s basketball in 2015-16. His first BTN games came in the winter of 2017-18 and he moved to Chicago more than three years ago. He broadcast for the Triple-A Pawtucket (R.I.) Red Sox for three seasons. Monaco’s resume also includes productions for the ACC Network and FOX Sports.
“We go over time period and see how baseball is interwoven,” says Scott. “Some students may have a general knowledge, but don’t know history.
“We see what baseball has brought to the history of the United States.”
Using the Ken Burns’ “Baseball” series — now streaming free online by PBS during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that has schools doing eLearning rather than in-person classes — Scott leads a semester-long project-based elective course.
Right now, his students are on “Inning 4 — A National Heirloom (1920-1930).”
Using MySimpleShow, pupils will create short videos about one of the World Series during the period when the “U.S. was coming out of World War I and getting back on its feet.”
“I’m bummed,” says Scott. “Not being able to play this year kind of breaks my heart.”
With three seniors and nine juniors back from a 2019 team that went 2019, the Gophers were looking to “do some damage” in 2020.
Curtis grew up in Wyoming, but rooted for the New York Yankees since his grandfather — Edwin Curtis — had been offered a chance to play in their system as well as that of the St. Louis Cardinals back in the 1930’s. When the expansion Colorado Rockies came along, Robert Curtis — Shawn’s father — purchased season tickets.
“I’m a huge baseball fan,” says Curtis. “(Baseball) is really the history of America.
“Baseball is the constant theme of things. I will find ways to tie baseball in.”
Curtis, who also used the Ken Burns documentary to frame some of his teaching, says that as cities grew, people needed recreation and baseball parks offered an escape.
“We see how baseball plays into World War II,” says Curtis. “We see how baseball plays into the Spanish Flu (1918 Pandemic).”
Over the years, Curtis has taken students to Anderson, Ind., to meet Carl Erskine, a Brooklyn Dodgers teammate of Jackie Robinson and a baseball ambassador.
Independent of his teaching, Curtis has been working with the Negro League Baseball Museum — where Bob Kendrick is the president — and highlighting the history of black baseball in Indianapolis.
The best ballplayer of all-time?
“It’s definitely (Negro Leaguer) Josh Gibson,” says Curtis, who notes that old Bush Stadium in Indianapolis was site of a Negro League World Series game featuring Baseball Hall of Famer Gibson and the Homestead Grays in 1943.
This summer, the Curtis family is planning a visit to Fenway Park in Boston.
The Curtis family has also spent vacations going to historic baseball sites, including League Park in Cleveland, the former site of the Polo Grounds in New York and the boyhood home of Mickey Mantle in Oklahoma (Mantle is the favorite player of Robert Curtis) and many graves.