MLB Free Preview Great Way To Start Season
April 9, 2012

It was a beautiful Easter Sunday in Marysville—a high of 73 degrees and virtually no wind. The only reason I know this is because I took a 2-minute walk down the street to the convenience store to load up on more snacks before the next baseball game started. Baseball 2012 is underway, and thanks to television, for the first week you can watch every game. Every, single, game.

Now I'm not quite that crazy, but I did watch several games from Thursday through Sunday, including all four Dodger games against the San Diego Padres. Major League Baseball has what it calls its 'Extra Innings' package on cable and satellite, where you can see every game, and in order to get people to sign up (for $219.96 or four “easy” payments of $54.99), they are featuring a 10-day free preview through April 15. It's like the drug dealer approach. But since I can't afford the real thing, I am going to sniff up all the free stuff I can get.

Most of the time they show the broadcast of the home team, so since the Dodgers were at San Diego, that meant very little Vin Scully (they did show one Dodger broadcast). However, I may have gotten an even better treat. The Padres television announcer is Dick Enberg, and I don't think I've heard him do baseball in maybe 30 years, back when he broadcast the California Angels.

The 77 year-old is still classic Enberg. Along with a couple of “oh-mys”, there was also his trademark “touch 'em all” on home runs. When San Diego loaded the bases, it was “a Padre on every pillow.” On Sunday, Enberg even got in a couple of tennis references, mentioning an American Davis Cup win, and referring to the Masters as Golf's Wimbledon. It was Enberg, relating a story of how he would watch 60 Minutes every Sunday with his kids and discuss the news of the week, that informed me of Mike Wallace's passing at the age of 93. Enberg has retired from network sports, but San Diegans (Enberg lives in LaJolla) still can listen to one of the greats.

Of course if you get to watch all the games, you get to hear all the broadcasters, including the not-so-good ones. None of those on television really stand out to me yet, but there are many that are just average. However, the games have been enjoyable so far, and for a baseball fan, all the televised games are baseball heaven. The free preview runs out soon, though, and then maybe I'll venture back outside.

TV tidbits: There seem to be a few teams that employ a former player as a third broadcaster, and station him down near the field. I don't know if this is a trend, but the Padres are doing this with Mark Sweeney, and the Twins have Roy Smalley. Each contributes to the conversation about two or three times a game... Twins play-by-play man Dick Bremer (who works with former Twins pitcher Bert Blyleven) sounds a lot like Clippers voice Ralph Lawlor to me...Fox used Daron Sutton (son of Don) and Eric Byrnes on the Giants-Diamondbacks telecast Saturday. Byrnes makes me mad because he is so good. He broadcasts like he plays, with enthusiasm, energy, and creativity. He's crazy, but in a good way... I haven't seen a Royals telecast yet (because they have been on the road), but their new analyst is former Angels broadcaster Rex Hudler. Royals fans are already hammering him on the internet for being annoying (Angel fans who remember him may sympathize).

Masters: I did break away from baseball long enough (after Chase Headley hit a grand slam off Dodgers reliever Scott Elbert) to watch the end of the Masters. I didn't really care whether it was Louis Oosthuizen or Bubba Watson that won, but 17 through the second playoff hole provided great drama. The terrain is kind of hard to read on television (3D TV for Golf?), but those rolls and backspins are incredible. I have no comprehension of how Watson's shot from under the pine trees could make a right turn like that when it hit the fairway.

Gold Sox corner: Anthony Bass made his first Opening Day roster, and now finds himself in the San Diego Padres' starting rotation. Dustin Moseley started Saturday against the Dodgers, but was placed on the Disabled List after the game with a shoulder strain. Bass, who took the loss in that game after allowing an eleventh-inning run, will take Moseley's place in the rotation, and will start Thursday night vs. Arizona... Max Stassi opens the year at Stockton of the Class A California League. Max went 3-for-11 with a double in the team's opening series at Lake Elsinore...The 2012 Gold Sox season begins on May 24, just 45 days from now.

Fantasy hoops: Isaiah Thomas' three-pointer with 41 seconds remaining didn't mean much to his Sacramento Kings, who lost at home to Houston 104-87, but it was a buzzer beater for my fantasy team. Our league is in the first round of the playoffs, and I battled my opponent to a 5-5 tie. The tiebreaker was points scored, and I won that category by two on Thomas' three-ball, advancing to the semifinals.

Program note: Larry Bird and Magic Johnson will be on The Late Show with David Letterman Wednesday.

“Religious” Programming: I'm not very religious, but every year I watch The Ten Commandments—the 1956 Cecille B. DeMille Passover epic with Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Vincent Price, Yvonne DeCarlo, Edward G. Robinson, John Derek, et al. I almost forgot this year, but caught it Saturday night just in time for my favorite scene—the parting of the Red Sea. The special effects are nothing special by today's standards, but you can still tell that they were quite a big deal then... I guess it's somewhat ironic that I watched this on Easter Sunday, but I watched a movie last night called Holy Land Hardball—a documentary about trying to bring professional baseball to Israel. It's definitely worth watching if you are intrigued by the subject. It's less than 90 minutes long, and should be available in the 'Free Movies' section of your on-demand programming.

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