When the fox crews are all set at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park for the MLB All-Star Game on July 14, it will be something of a roundingthe- bases, full-circle moment for John Entz. The president/production and executive producer for Fox Sports was 7 when he attended his first baseball game, seeing Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” take on the Padres in San Diego.
“Seeing guys live that happened to be the best team in the world at the time was pretty memorable,” he says. “I still have the ticket, I think.”
Entz is bound to see some familiar faces at this week’s game. One of the big All-Star draws will be the revealing of the fan-voted “Franchise Four” squads (the greatest four players in each team’s history), along with the vote winners for the four greatest living veterans. With the game in Cincinnati—and controversial all-time hits champ Pete Rose part of the Fox talent crew—some of that old Machine’s finest should be represented.
“You always try to build in extra pieces [for the All-Star Game] that might draw in the more casual fan,” says Entz of the Franchise idea. “But the game on the field is the most important thing.”
The game has always been the thing for Entz, from when he played baseball growing up in Las Vegas and Arizona to setting the foundation for a stellar career in sports TV as video manager for the University of Arizona’s powerhouse basketball team. The UA coaches had connections at ESPN and helped get an interview for Entz in 1993. He traveled to Bristol…and didn’t make a great showing. “I thought, ‘I can’t believe I flew across the country and blew my chance for the one job I wanted all my life,’” he recalls. But ESPN did like what they saw, and a few months later, the call came. “I had just started training to work in the country’s first P.F. Chang’s, in Scottsdale, Ariz.,” Entz says. “I didn’t make it to the opening.”
Instead, Entz has helped engineer a slew of other prominent openings, as well as logging solid and award-winning time in the sports TV field. At ESPN, he helped produce SportsCenter and won an Emmy. Joining Fox in 1996, he produced the All-Star Game red carpet show and college football Bowl Championship Series pregame specials. Entz also had two experiences that stretched his range—as a producer on Season 2 of American Idol and running point for The Best Damn Sports Show Period.
“Idol was so different from anything I’d done before,” he says of helping judge early-round singers before they got to Simon, Paula and Randy. “It was pretty amazing to see from the inside what a No. 1 show looked like and how it was run.” As for BDSSP, Entz recalls, “The great part was it allowed you to do almost anything you could creatively.”
Entz put all his experience to best use as senior VP production for the then-launching MLB Network in 2008, hiring a staff and overseeing the look and presentation of studio programming and game coverage. That first summer, he conducted job interviews every 20 minutes. “I think I lost my voice saying the same things over and over,” he says. “But it was our goal to get a great group of people that collectively knew it wasn’t going to be easy, creating the systems and processes that would for the most part be in place for the rest of the time the network was on the air.”
He returned to Fox in 2011; Fox Sports president/COO Eric Shanks is happy to have him back. “John has an infectious enthusiasm for telling stories, and a great eye for hiring very good people in front of and behind the camera to tell those stories,” Shanks says of the 2012 B&C Next Wave of Leaders honoree. “And he’s a player-coach—everything he’s in charge of, he’s done at one time or another.”
Now he shares his sports passion with the next generation. Entz and his wife have three daughters, the oldest of whom plays soccer and went with her dad to Vancouver, B.C., to see the USA’s victory in the Women’s World Cup final on July 5. “It’s been a really great time to bond with her,” Entz says.