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Hartford Tops Our Rankings Of The Best MiLB.tv Broadcasts



If you are a fan of the minor leagues and prospects, the arrival of MiLB.tv has been a wonderful development. Streaming video has given parents, grandparents and friends around the country (and around the world) a chance to watch their favorite minor leaguer each and every night. It gives prospect watchers around the country a chance to flip from a Luis Robert at-bat in Charlotte to a Nate Pearson pitch in New Hampshire.

Like many of my co-workers, I watch a lot of MiLB.tv at Baseball America. And if you watch a lot of MiLB.tv, you quickly discover that there are team broadcasts that you want to watch and others you’re better off skipping.

Understandably, there is a much higher variance between the best MiLB broadcasts and the worst. Flip from a Tampa Bay Rays game to a Boston Red Sox broadcast and you might notice some subtle differences. Flip from a top-notch MiLB broadcast to the subpar one and you’ll go from an MLB quality production to one that lacks graphics and has one solo camera behind home plate.

Eventually I decided to create a chart to log what were the best and worst attributes of the 99 different team feeds from the 2019 MiLB season. That led to grading the feeds on a 20-to-80 scouting scale.

And eventually it led to honoring what we see as the top MiLB broadcast of 2019. The first time you click on a Hartford Yard Goats broadcast, you get the feel that you’re watching an MLB game. 

The camera angles, especially the center field camera, are better than the ones some MLB teams use. The graphics are top notch and the production quality and direction–the secret sauce that takes a broadcast from clunky to exceptional–are all well done.

There’s a reason that the Yard Goats have an MLB quality production. Director Walter McEntire, an instructor at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, worked on Kansas City Royals broadcasts in the 1980s. A few of Hartford’s camera operators do other professional work. And the team works hard every year to make the broadcast better than the year before.

One of the key steps forward for Hartford in 2019 was something that from the outside may seem like a step back. In 2018 the Yard Goats had a five camera setup with four manned cameras plus a robotic camera beyond the outfield wall. For 2019, they decided to move one of the other four cameras to the center field position. While it took the broadcast from five cameras to four, the improved picture quality and flexibility of the camera that is used the most during the broadcast made the switch pay off handsomely.

“What that gained outweighed losing a camera,” Hartford’s Game Production Manager Mike Delgado said. “It really improved our broadcast . . . Having that fifth camera was nice, but it was a luxury. Having all four cameras be top-notch quality really outweighed any options for a fifth camera . . . We also improved our broadcast audio as well with new headsets and new mixers. We were really happy with the quality.”

With an excellent 2019 season in the books, Delgado and the rest of the Yard Goats staff are working to figure out what can be improved for the upcoming season.

“I think our broadcast is really good, but there are definitely things we can do to improve ourselves even further. I’m excited for 2020,” Delgado said.

The Yard Goats broadcast staff includes: 

Mike Delgado: Game Production Manager

Walter McEntire: Director 

Rob Pendell: Replay

Karishma Pinto: Graphics 

Jeff Dooley: Play-by-Play Announcer 

Dan Lovallo: Color Analyst 

Kevin Norton: 3rd Base Camera 

Joe Tarantino: High Home Camera

Tom Brady: High Home Camera

Scott Allo: 1st Base Camera

Jack Petrucci: 1st Base Camera

Jim Dunnells: Multiple Cameras

John Supowitz: CF Camera

Steve Bishop: Camera, replay, and scoring console (feeds the score bug)

While the Yard Goats had the best broadcast in the minors in 2019 in our opinion, we graded three different broadcasts as being at the absolute top of the scale–an 80 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale.

We do grade on a sliding scale. The expectation for a Triple-A club is higher than the expectations for a short-season club. Also, clubs in the Florida State League and California League get a little bump because simply having broadcasts in those leagues helps a team stand out – Bradenton is the only FSL club that had broadcasts in 2019.

No one on this list gets a bottom of the scale 20 grade. Simply having a single camera and a piped-in radio broadcast puts a club far above those that don’t have TV broadcasts.

 

The Other 80s

Mahoning Valley (short-season New York-Penn)

While we grade on a sliding scale, Mahoning Valley’s broadcasts would be impressive even if they were in Double-A or Triple-A. Most short-season broadcasts have bare-boned graphics (if they have them). The Scrappers have top-notch graphics and were one of only two teams who had velocity readings for pitchers. The camera angles are also excellent.

Bradenton (high Class A Florida State)

No other Florida State League team even attempts to broadcast its games. The FSL and the California League (which has improved in its coverage) are the deserts of minor league baseball broadcasts. So if Bradenton stuck a fixed camera behind home plate and piped in the radio broadcast, it would be far beyond the efforts of the rest of the FSL.

The Marauders have gone far beyond a minimal effort. The camera angles are excellent, the shots are sharp (although the center field camera does not match the picture quality of some of the other cameras) and the graphics are top notch. These games are a joy to watch, especially when you consider they are the only chance to watch FSL players in action.

Also deserving of note (70)

Altoona (Eastern), Charlotte (Triple-A International), Binghamton (Eastern), Iowa (Pacific Coast), Lehigh Valley (International), Indianapolis (International), Durham (International), Great Lakes (Midwest), Wisconsin (Midwest).

These broadcasts provide excellent production quality, graphics and sharp cameras. For most of the teams here, the only complaint is their center field camera angles are less than ideal. In most cases, the camera angles are still solid, but they don’t provide the same ability to view pitches the way a true center field camera can.

 

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Before we list every team’s grades, an explanation of the criteria by which we graded each feed.

Camera angle.

More cameras is better than fewer, but we’re most focused on what is used for the camera angle for the batter-pitcher matchup–which is what you are watching for the majority of a game. The best minor league TV broadcasts have camera angles that rival MLB team’s feeds. The worst seem like a bad recreation of the first tentative TV broadcasts in the 1950s. Ideally, we’re looking for a center field camera directly lined up with home plate and high enough to get a clear view of the pitch from release to home plate.

There are camera angles from center (or left center) that are simply too low. San Antonio’s broadcasts are fine, but whenever a baserunner reaches second, all of a sudden you’re blocked from seeing the pitch because of the low camera angle.

On the other end of the spectrum, there were 13 teams in 2019 that (at least in our viewings of multiple games per team) relied on cameras behind home plate (or in one case between home and first base) to show the batter-pitcher battle.

Graphics

At their best, some teams produce on-screen graphics nearly on par with MLB broadcasts. There are some that provide an excellent score bug that shows almost everything a fan watching the game could want to know--including pitch velocities taken from a Trackman source.

And there were 12 teams that didn't have any graphics.

The most creative use of graphics we saw in 2019 was the work of the Fort Wayne TinCaps. The TinCaps did not have high definition cameras. But instead of simply broadcasting a low-res version of their games, they used the extra screen space to post additional graphics such as lineups and stats for both the pitcher and hitter.

High-definition

Until late in the 2018 season no MiLB.tv broadcasts were in high definition (720p or 1080p). Even if the original source broadcast was in HD, the MiLB.tv broadcast would be downscaled to 480p (DVD quality) or even 240p (VCR quality).

That problem was largely alleviated in 2019, but not all teams have made the upgrade to HD yet. By our count 20 of the 99 teams producing MiLB.tv broadcasts were still providing standard definition quality. A few others had a HD broadcast, but with either only a HD camera in center field or high def cameras elsewhere and not in center field.

Now not even all high-definition feeds are equal. Grand Junction was one of the ones worthy of praise for the sharpness of its camera feeds and colors.

Others look like they need some maintenance work like this feed:

Or this one:

A good director

This is the toughest aspect to grade and one that we used the least was the quality of the TV production. The reason we use this the least in lining up these rankings is because the quality relies heavily on who is doing the directing. Much more so than MLB teams, the quality of MiLB broadcasts varies dramatically from day to day depending on the staffing–a Monday broadcast may be very different than a Friday broadcast. Because no one can watch 20 games of every team to get a full picture of what is “average” for a team’s broadcast, this is a very minor factor in grading the feeds.

That said, there are several issues that are seen regularly on MiLB.tv feeds. Most notably, there are directors who seem worried that showing the center field camera for every pitch gets repetitive. They will cut to another camera at times as the pitcher goes into his stretch, meaning that instead of seeing the pitch and the batter’s reaction from the view that viewers have long been trained to expect, you get a side view (or a wide view) that is best used for a replay.

With all of that in mind, here are our rankings of 2019 MiLB.tv broadcasts.

Level Team Camera Angle Graphics Velocities? HD Grade
SS Mahoning Valley Center Field. Mid. Excellent Yes Yes 80
AA Hartford CF, Mid Excellent Yes Yes 80
HiA Bradenton High CF Excellent Yes Yes 80
AA Altoona CF, High Good No Yes 70
AAA Charlotte LCF. High Excellent Yes Yes 70
AA Binghamton LCF. High. Excellent Yes Yes 70
LoA Great Lakes Left of CF, Low Excellent Yes Yes 70
LoA Wisconsin Left of CF, Low Excellent Yes Yes 70
AAA Durham Left of CF. High Excellent Yes Yes 70
AAA Iowa Left of CF. Mid Excellent Yes Yes 70
AAA Lehigh Valley Left of CF. Mid Excellent Yes Yes 70
AAA Indianapolis LCF, Low Excellent Yes Yes 70
AA Biloxi CF High Good No Yes 60
HiA Myrtle Beach CF, Mid Good No Yes 60
LoA Charleston CF, mid Good No Yes 60
LoA Augusta High CF Fine No Yes 60
LoA Lakewood LCF, Low Good Yes Yes 60
AA Amarillo LCF. High Excellent Yes Yes 60
AAA Nashville Left of 2B. High Good No Yes 60
AAA Las Vegas Left of CF Mid Good No Yes 60
LoA Dayton Left of CF, Low Good Yes Yes 60
AAA Sacramento Left of CF. High Good No Yes 60
AA Springfield Left of CF. Mid Good No Yes 60
AAA Toledo Left of CF. Mid Excellent No Yes 60
R Grand Junction Left of CF. Mid Excellent No Yes 60
SS West Virginia Left of CF. Mid Excellent No Yes 60
AAA Pawtucket SS. High Excellent No Yes 60
AAA Reno SS. High Excellent No Yes 60
AAA Oklahoma City SS. Low Excellent No Yes 60
AAA El Paso SS. Mid Excellent Yes Yes 60
AAA Fresno SS. Mid Good No Yes 60
AAA Memphis SS. Mid Excellent No Yes 60
LoA Lansing Slightly left CF Good Yes Yes 55
AA Frisco LCF. Mid Good No Yes 55
AA Portland Left Field. High Good. No Yes 55
LoA Columbia Left of CF, Mid Excellent No Yes 55
AA Richmond Left of CF. High Good. No Yes 55
AAA Louisville Left of CF. Low Good No Yes 55
AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Left of CF. Mid Good. No Yes 55
AAA Tacoma Left of CF. Mid Fine. No Yes 55
AA Pensacola LF. Low Good No Yes 55
LoA Bowling Green Low LCF Fine Yes Yes 55
AAA Buffalo SS. Mid. Good No Yes 55
AA Mississippi LCF, Low Good No Yes 50
LoA Fort Wayne LCF, Low Excellent Yes No 50
LoA Greenville LCF, Mid Fine No Yes 50
AA Corpus Christi LCF. Mid. Good No No 50
AA Tennessee Left Field. Mid Fine. No Yes 50
AA Midland Left of CF. High Fine No Yes 50
SS Hillsboro Left of CF. High Excellent No Yes 50
AAA Norfolk Left of CF. Low Good No Yes 50
AAA Rochester Left of CF. Low Good No Yes 50
AAA Columbus Left of CF. Mid Fine No Yes 50
AAA Omaha SS. Low Good No Yes 50
SS Eugene SS. Low Good No Yes 50
AAA Syracuse SS. Mid Good No Yes 50
HiA Modesto CF, High Fine No Yes 45
AA Trenton Home Plate Good No Yes 45
SS Hudson Valley Home Plate Good Yes Yes 45
HiA Carolina LCF High Mediocre No Yes 45
AA Harrisburg LCF, High Good No No 45
HiA Salem LCF, High Good No Yes 45
AA Erie LCF, Low Fine No Yes 45
AA Tulsa LCF. Low Fine No Yes 45
AA Akron LCF. Low Fine. No Yes 45
AA NW Arkansas Left Field, Low Fine No Yes 45
HiA San Jose Left of CF, Mid Good No Yes 45
LoA South Bend Left of CF, Mid Mediocre No Yes 45
AA New Hampshire Left of CF. High Fine. No Yes 45
AA Birmingham Left of CF. High Good No Yes 45
AAA New Orleans Left of CF. Mid Good No Yes 45
AAA Albuquerque SS. Low. Fine No Yes 45
AAA Gwinnett SS. Low. Good Yes No 45
LoA Lexington Home Plate Good No Yes 40
SS Aberdeen Home Plate None No Yes 40
SS Staten Island Home Plate Good No Yes 40
R Idaho Falls Home plate. None No Yes 40
R Orem Home plate. Good No Yes 40
HiA Inland Empire LCF, High Fine No Yes 40
AA Montgomery LCF, Low. None No No 40
LoA West Michigan LCF, Low. Mediocre No No 40
AA Jacksonville LCF. Low. Good No Yes 40
AA Reading Left of CF, low None No Yes 40
LoA Cedar Rapids Left of CF, Low Below-average No No 40
R Rocky Mountain Left of CF. High None No No 40
HiA Winston-Salem LF, High Good No No 40
HiA Fayetteville RCF, Mid None No Yes 40
SS State College Right of home plate Good No No 40
AAA Salt Lake SS. Low Fine. No No 40
AAA San Antonio SS. Very Low None No Yes 40
LoA Quad Cities Between home and 1B None No No 30
HiA Lancaster CF, Mid Below-average No No 30
LoA Peoria Home Plate Below-average No No 30
LoA Kane County Home Plate None No No 30
SS Tri-City Home Plate None No No 30
AA Jackson LCF, Mid None No No 30
LoA Rome Left of CF, Mid Mediocre No No 30
AA Arkansas LF, Low None No No 30
AA Bowie Right of home plate Mediocre No No 30




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