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ESPN’s ‘KayRod Cast’ appears to be blending conversation with the game

Alex Rodriguez, part owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves of the NBA, targets basketball before the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Saturday, March 12, 2022, in Miami.  (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

Alex Rodriguez, part owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves of the NBA, targets basketball before the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Saturday, March 12, 2022, in Miami. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

AP

Seven months after Peyton and Eli Manning modeled how alternative broadcasts might work, Alex Rodriguez and Michael Kay think they can improve it.

“KayRod Cast” begins with Rodriguez and Kay on Sunday night on ESPN2 when the Boston Red Sox face the New York Yankees. It will be the first of eight this season to take place while “Sunday Night Baseball” is broadcast on ESPN.

Kai joked during a conference call earlier this week. “I thought ‘Manningcast’ was cool. I think we’ll give more attention to the game.”

Alternate broadcasts can go off the rails as the game becomes secondary to interviews and characters, but baseball may be the only sport that can blend the two due to the pace of play.

While Rodriguez and Kai aren’t as connected as Mannings, they are old friends. Kay has been broadcasting Yankees games since 1992 while Rodriguez has spent 12 of 22 Major League seasons in broken streaks.

Rodriguez has managed to make the transition to broadcasting despite some controversy on and off the field. While he was involved while working in the studio for Fox, he struggled as an analyst during his four seasons as an analyst at the “Sunday Night Baseball” booth.

But Rodriguez believes he did some of his best analyst work during a brief stay at the “YES Network” booth with Kay and David Cone during the 2019 game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“I think it was the best four I’ve ever had on TV because I was in the middle of two very close friends, and it was rocking back and forth,” Rodriguez said. He knows me well, so I think this format will work for me.”

Rodriguez also believes that his suspension from taking performance-enhancing drugs – and the criticism he received from many, including Kay – helped prepare him for his new opportunity.

“That’s what would really make this show, I think, good, because you’d get the candor from him and me,” he said. “Honestly, prior to commenting, I think the show wasn’t good because I wasn’t comfortable. I think I feel more comfortable in my own skin today, and we’re going to let it rip.”

Mark Gross, ESPN’s vice president of production and remote events, said guests during the broadcast are likely to lean more toward players who have played well on a Sunday afternoon or over the past week. It will also include batting and demos by Rodriguez.

Sunday’s show will feature Kay and Rodriguez together at ESPN’s Seaport District Studios in New York. Some subsequent broadcasts can take place remotely, depending on their schedules. Rodriguez spends most of his time in Minnesota as part of the Timberwolves ownership group in the NBA.

When it comes to ratings, comparing “KayRod Cast” to “Manningcast” would be unfair. “Manningcast” averaged 1.58 million viewers per game last season. By comparison, “Sunday Night Baseball” rose 18% in 2021 according to Nielsen, averaging 1.46 million.

A better metric may be audience ratio. Last season, 12% of total viewers of “Monday Night Football” watched Mannings compared to the main broadcast.

Regardless of the ratings, Kai said his main goal is to convince Rodriguez to bring out his natural personality.

“I want to make Alex Rodriguez the Alex Rodriguez I used to talk to in front of a closet where there was no limit for this to be done for TV, you have to look here, you have to break here, because I don’t think I’ve met anyone who knows baseball better than Alex, “He said.

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