Blue Jays listeners were thrown into a curveball over the weekend when an alarm beep interrupted a remote broadcast of Toronto’s road game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
It was not immediately clear if the unexpected audio, which could be clearly heard in the background for more than 10 minutes during Saturday’s game, came from rights owner Sportsnet’s Toronto studio or from an outside source.
Blue Jays radio announcer Ben Wagner, who announces the action off television screens when the team is on the road, paused 15 seconds when the beep began before resuming his call.
The Cardinals announcers, who broadcast the game from Busch Stadium on KMOX Radio, did not experience any audio issues. St. Louis won the game 4-1.
Sportsnet has its TV crew on site at all Blue Jays games, but has elected to return to pandemic-style remote coverage of radio broadcasts for road games this season.
Of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams, the Blue Jays and Los Angeles Angels are the only clubs that do not have radio broadcast equipment on site for road games.
Interview requests and messages left with Sportsnet’s media relations staff on Sunday were not immediately returned.
COVID-19 concerns and travel restrictions made remote streaming a reality for many radio and television crews when sports returned in the early days of the pandemic. The difference used to be noticeable, but viewers and listeners had to accept it given the unusual circumstances.
Like most team broadcasters, the Blue Jays radio team resumed regular travel last season. Wagner began the year with remote call-ins for road games before traveling again for most of the second half.
However, when Sportsnet announced its broadcast plans for 2023 in February, it confirmed that remote radio calling for away games would return.
The network did not provide an explanation for the decision. Requests to speak to Wagner and Sportsnet executives Rob Corte and Greg Sansone were denied.
Former Blue Jays radio host Jerry Howarth, who called games in person, home and away, for more than three decades in the booth until retiring in 2018, criticized the move.
He said it was simply “essential” to be on site when a team is on the road.
“I am very disappointed in the network for making that decision,” Howarth told The Canadian Press in February.
Technical difficulties can occur on any broadcast, but in-person staff would have eliminated the possibility of audio issues from a remote coverage setup.
Wagner has called Blue Jays games since 2018.
Broadcasts are heard nationwide on 14 Sportsnet Radio Network affiliates, including all-sports flagship station Fan590.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 2, 2023.
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