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ESPN Anchor Hopes to Knock It Out of the Park - Broadcasting & Cable

ESPN Anchor Hopes to Knock It Out of the Park

'Sunday Night Baseball' play-by-play man Dan Shulman rises to the challenge of replacing a legend
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When news broke last November that ESPN was not bringing back its ‘Sunday Night Baseball’ team of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan—who had been doing the network’s signature broadcast since 1990—it sent shock waves throughout the baseball community. For 21 years, viewers around the country had grown accustomed to hearing the relaxed nature of Miller’s authoritative playby- play alongside Morgan’s assertive commentary.

In December, the network announced that Dan Shulman would get Miller’s coveted seat, joined by former pitcher Orel Hershiser and former manager Bobby Valentine. “I don’t know how many shows there are in television history where the same guys did it for 21 years,” Shulman says.

Describing it as a “huge opportunity,” Shulman also understands that he can’t focus too much on his predecessor. “I think it’s just like an athlete. If you’re filling in to replace somebody who is a Hall of Famer, you’re not gonna make it easier on yourself if you dwell on that too much,” he says. Like any coach, Shulman believes the key to success is preparation and treating every game the same, whether it’s a mid-August contest between the Royals and the Indians or Game 7 of the World Series.

If Shulman—who has been a sports announcer since college—has any butterflies about being part of ESPN’s cornerstone broadcast team, he isn’t showing it, and neither are the analysts. “In the booth with Dan and Orel, I feel so elevated that it makes my job easy,” Valentine says. Hershiser, who calls Shulman “The Voice,” believes his partner will be a Hall of Fame broadcaster when all is said and done. “Whatever he does, he’s absolutely amazing at,” Hershiser says.

As a kid, Shulman attended the first game in Toronto Blue Jays history on April 7, 1977, with his father (for the record: a 9-5 victory over the Chicago White Sox). Now that going to games is his job, the hectic travel schedule doesn’t allow him much time to do the same with his kids. “When I’m not working, I’m home,” he says. However, he gets to coach his youngest son’s baseball team.

Shulman got his degree in actuarial science from the University of Western Ontario, and he also broadcast basketball and football games for the Mustangs on CHRW, the college radio station. “I always kinda dreamed of play-by-play, but how many play-by-play jobs are there in Canada?” he says. Six months after graduating, he decided to go for it.

After spending 18 months at a local station in Barrie, Ontario, he moved to Toronto and took a job with CJCL, which would later become The Fan 590. “I was really lucky, because they were moving in the direction of allsports and they needed people,” he says.

During his five-year tenure, the Toronto sports scene was at a fever pitch. The Blue Jays won consecutive world championships in 1992 and 1993, and the NHL’s Maple Leafs went to the Eastern Conference Finals in 1993 and 1994. Listenership was at an all-time high. In 1995, he moved to TSN—the “Canadian ESPN”—and became the Blue Jays’ playby- play man, a post he held until 2001. He considers that job his big break.

Shulman had joined ESPN part-time in 1995, filling in on college basketball and baseball games, while calling Blue Jays games for TSN. He went full-time with ESPN in 2001, and can still be seen on the sidelines calling some basketball. That kind of split is comparatively easy; in 1993, he began to do some ESPN Radio work; and for a year and a half, he had jobs in two different countries.

Although he grew up a Jays fan, Shulman is nothing if not objective. “I was not a homer, and if I had to say something that wasn’t flattering, I would say something that wasn’t flattering,” he says.

As the face of the new Sunday Night Baseball team, Shulman understands his role. “I consider myself the point guard,” he says. “It’s my job to put everybody else in a good position to succeed.”

E-mail comments to tim.baysinger@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: @tim_bays

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