New York Mets

It’s raining. It’s pouring. But Rain Delay Theater is never boring

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PiratesRain0101.jpeg

“Cecil in Brookeville, you’re on Rain Delay Theater.”

No answer.

“Cecil, are you there?” repeats the radio host.

With countless people listening in on terrestrial and satellite radios and online, the dead air is only interrupted by intermittent heavy breathing.

Finally, after a few more heaves, a voice cracks through.

“I’m sorry, guys.”

“Why are you out of breath?” the host politely questions.

Cecil is a longtime Pirates fan. On this rainy night at the ballpark, he takes the opportunity to call the show from his farm about 100 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, to chat with “Rain Delay Theater” host Dan Zangrilli and his co-host Kevin Orie as they wait for the weather to clear.

The reason for Cecil’s belabored breathing and delayed response?

“While Cecil was waiting on hold to talk to us about whatever it is with the Pirates, he had a little calf get lose and crawl underneath the fence,” Zangrilli says, laughing as he tells the story. “He’s running through the fields of Brookeville, trying to flag down a calf. And meanwhile, to his credit, he’s been able to keep the phone to his ear.”

It all happened on live radio.

“That’s why we call it ‘Rain Delay Theater,’ because sometimes it’s kind of a sideshow,” Zangrilli says.

 

Weather, particularly in the spring and early summer, has a tendency to wreak havoc on the Major League Baseball schedule. A spate of rain here or a crash of thunder there can delay a game long enough for a 10-minute trip to the concession stand or to suspend the game altogether, depending on Mother Nature’s mood. That’s when broadcasters like Zangrilli spring to the mic, filling airtime with off-the-cuff banter while waiting out the clouds or the grounds crew’s efforts to clean up the mess on the field.

When Zangrilli and I spoke over the phone this past summer, he and his cohorts had endured a pair of rain delays the previous night, and thus were called upon to pull “Rain Delay Theater” double duty.

It was a long night. For everyone. A downpour stopped the game for 28 minutes in the bottom of the fourth and then again — this time for an hour and 45 minutes — as the eighth inning began. To make matters worse for Zangrilli, the Pirates, and their fans, the hometown team eventually lost 2–0 to the Milwaukee Brewers.

At that point in the season, the Pirates stood in second place in the National League Central with a 31–25 record, and had yet to look like the 98-win force they’d eventually become. As such, Bucs fans had plenty to talk about. In a sense, maybe they needed these long delays — two call-in shows worth — to get some still-lingering questions off their chests. You’ve heard sports-radio shows before. Every caller, it so often seems, is a general manager in waiting.

During the first delay, one caller naively asks, “What would it take for us to get Johnny Cueto?”

Classic.

“Everyone has a solution,” says a chuckling Zangrilli, who admits he genuinely enjoys interacting with callers. “There are varying levels of baseball acumen across the spectrum.”

PiratesTarp

Pete McCarthy echoes those thoughts. He anchors Mets pre-pregame and post-postgame shows on the team’s flagship station, WOR, hosting his own version of Rain Delay Theater when weather deigns to shuffle the players back into the clubhouse.

There are always four or five guys, McCarthy said back in June, that Mets fans always bring up.

“They’ll be callers who talk about a player and say, ‘We absolutely have to have this guy,’ and minutes later someone will call and say ‘no, he’s too expensive or he gets injured too often,” McCarthy quips. “There’s always something to be hashed out during a rain delay.”

In Pittsburgh, the show isn’t always about offering free advice to general manager Neal Huntington. Sometimes callers simply want to shoot the ish like they would with any other friend.

“We typically talk about the game or whatever news is going on that day,” Zangrilli says. “It’s more of a freestyle, free-standing type of format, because you have a lot of calls and you don’t know where the calls are going to go and what’s on the minds of the listeners. And you sort of let that dictate which direction the show is going to go.”

According to Jerry Schemmel, one half of the Colorado Rockies’ rain delay radio crew, the length of the hiatus will typically determine the show’s content. This season, the Rockies withstood more than 22 hours of weather delays at Coors Field.

“There was one weekend where we had four games, including a doubleheader on Saturday, and we had a rain delay in all four games,” Schemmel recalls. “The doubleheader had a total of four and half hours of rain delays. That was one very long weekend.”

That’s a lot of talking. So, what do Schemmel and broadcast partner Jack Corrigan talk about to make time fly by a bit faster?

“We seem to cover all kinds of different topics during rain delays,” Schemmel said. “It all depends on how the team is playing or what the situation weather-wise might be, as to what we talk about. Many times we will talk about the state of the team for a while and then go to pre-recorded shows. It all depends on the situation.”

RockiesUmbrellas.jpg
Photo: Denver Post

No matter the length of the stoppage, these hosts rarely worry about receiving enough calls to fill the air time. There are many, and they ring in from all over. In the case of Zangrilli, Pirates games are on 35 to 40 terrestrial radio stations through its flagship station, 93.7 The Fan.

“Once we’re on the Pirates network, we’re getting calls from West Virginia, Ohio, New York, Maryland and North Carolina,” he said.

And, with the advent of satellite radio and the popular MLB At Bat app, Bucs fans from all over the world can call to put their two cents in.

“When we talk into that microphone, people could be listening to us in outer space for all I know,” Zangrilli jokes. “We’ve gotten calls from a number of states and from people in other countries. It’s always fun to see where people are calling from, and the rain delay theater show is their opportunity.”

And a fading one at that. Indeed, radio baseball doesn’t curry near the cultural clout it once did, before the days when games became readily available in moving pictures and — later — on computers and phones. But for many, there remains a raw appeal to listening to the hometown announcers weave the play-by-play action, with colorful tales woven throughout the three-hour narrative as the crowd soothingly hums in the background.

Rain delay shows exist, primarily, to keep the audience tuned in. Still, show producers and broadcasters must provide their audiences a good reason to stick around when a storm rolls through. And for who knows how long. That can be quite the challenge — particularly in the summer, when there are so many entertainment options available.

In its own, off-the-wall ways, “Rain Delay Theater” answers the challenge by bridging the gap in the action and giving fans a chance, through simply listening or calling in, to feel more connected to the teams and players they love. While there’s never a shortage of callers or topics to keep the broadcast moving along, eventually — often hours later — everyone just wants to get on with the game already. The impatience becomes so palpable, in fact, that keeping on eye on the weather radar becomes part of the pastime.

“I like to play amateur meteorologist,” McCarthy says, just a few hours before a game in which there’s a 20 percent chance of rain. “I’m going to look at the Doppler, and I’m going to figure it out. I’m going to see which direction those things (storms) are moving, and I’m going to make my guess. But ultimately it doesn’t matter because … when I go on, I go on, and when I go off, I go off. It’s not my decision, but I do try to forecast it.”

Tracking radar normally gives the radio guys a good idea about when storms will move out, but there’s still work to be done — on the field and in the broadcast booth. It’s what Zangrilli calls the “second layer” of play stoppage: the field preparation.

“You don’t know how bad the field is and how much maintenance needs to be done to get the mound playable, to get the baselines and batter’s box in proper order,” he says. “After it rains, you could be looking at 15 to 45 minutes of prep to get the field ready again for guys to resume play, depending on how bad the storm was.”

With even more time to kill, thank goodness there are armchair GMs and dedicated fans willing to hold on through minor inconveniences, such as livestock barn breaks.

“Hello? Cecil? Are you with us?”

It’s raining. It’s pouring. But Rain Delay Theater is never boring

Posted on Updated on

pnc-park001

“Cecil in Brookeville, you’re on Rain Delay Theater.”

No answer.

“Cecil, are you there?” repeats the radio host.

With countless people listening in on terrestrial and satellite radios and online, the dead air is only interrupted by intermittent heavy breathing.

Finally, after a few more heaves, a voice cracks through.

“I’m sorry, guys.”

“Why are you out of breath?” the host politely questions.

Cecil is a longtime Pirates fan. On this rainy night at the ballpark, he takes the opportunity to call the show from his farm about 100 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, to chat with “Rain Delay Theater” host Dan Zangrilli and his co-host Kevin Orie as they wait for the weather to clear.

The reason for Cecil’s belabored breathing and delayed response?

“While Cecil was waiting on hold to talk to us about whatever it is with the Pirates, he had a little calf get lose and crawl underneath the fence,” Zangrilli says, laughing as he tells the story. “He’s running through the fields of Brookeville, trying to flag down a calf. And meanwhile, to his credit, he’s been able to keep the phone to his ear.”

It all happened on live radio.

“That’s why we call it ‘Rain Delay Theater,’ because sometimes it’s kind of a sideshow,” Zangrilli says.

 

Weather, particularly in the spring and early summer, has a tendency to wreak havoc on the Major League Baseball schedule. A spate of rain here or a crash of thunder there can delay a game long enough for a 10-minute trip to the concession stand or to suspend the game altogether, depending on Mother Nature’s mood. That’s when broadcasters like Zangrilli spring to the mic, filling airtime with off-the-cuff banter while waiting out the clouds or the grounds crew’s efforts to clean up the mess on the field.

When Zangrilli and I spoke over the phone this past summer, he and his cohorts had endured a pair of rain delays the previous night, and thus were called upon to pull “Rain Delay Theater” double duty.

It was a long night. For everyone. A downpour stopped the game for 28 minutes in the bottom of the fourth and then again — this time for an hour and 45 minutes — as the eighth inning began. To make matters worse for Zangrilli, the Pirates, and their fans, the hometown team eventually lost 2–0 to the Milwaukee Brewers.

At that point in the season, the Pirates stood in second place in the National League Central with a 31–25 record, and had yet to look like the 98-win force they’d eventually become. As such, Bucs fans had plenty to talk about. In a sense, maybe they needed these long delays — two call-in shows worth — to get some still-lingering questions off their chests. You’ve heard sports-radio shows before. Every caller, it so often seems, is a general manager in waiting.

During the first delay, one caller naively asks, “What would it take for us to get Johnny Cueto?”

Classic.

“Everyone has a solution,” says a chuckling Zangrilli, who admits he genuinely enjoys interacting with callers. “There are varying levels of baseball acumen across the spectrum.”

Pete McCarthy echoes those thoughts. He anchors Mets pre-pregame and post-postgame shows on the team’s flagship station, WOR, hosting his own version of Rain Delay Theater when weather deigns to shuffle the players back into the clubhouse.

There are always four or five guys, McCarthy said back in June, that Mets fans always bring up.

“They’ll be callers who talk about a player and say, ‘We absolutely have to have this guy,’ and minutes later someone will call and say ‘no, he’s too expensive or he gets injured too often,” McCarthy quips. “There’s always something to be hashed out during a rain delay.”

In Pittsburgh, the show isn’t always about offering free advice to general manager Neal Huntington. Sometimes callers simply want to shoot the ish like they would with any other friend.

“We typically talk about the game or whatever news is going on that day,” Zangrilli says. “It’s more of a freestyle, free-standing type of format, because you have a lot of calls and you don’t know where the calls are going to go and what’s on the minds of the listeners. And you sort of let that dictate which direction the show is going to go.”

According to Jerry Schemmel, one half of the Colorado Rockies’ rain delay radio crew, the length of the hiatus will typically determine the show’s content. This season, the Rockies withstood more than 22 hours of weather delays at Coors Field.

“There was one weekend where we had four games, including a doubleheader on Saturday, and we had a rain delay in all four games,” Schemmel recalls. “The doubleheader had a total of four and half hours of rain delays. That was one very long weekend.”

That’s a lot of talking. So, what do Schemmel and broadcast partner Jack Corrigan talk about to make time fly by a bit faster?

“We seem to cover all kinds of different topics during rain delays,” Schemmel said. “It all depends on how the team is playing or what the situation weather-wise might be, as to what we talk about. Many times we will talk about the state of the team for a while and then go to pre-recorded shows. It all depends on the situation.”

No matter the length of the stoppage, these hosts rarely worry about receiving enough calls to fill the air time. There are many, and they ring in from all over. In the case of Zangrilli, Pirates games are on 35 to 40 terrestrial radio stations through its flagship station, 93.7 The Fan.

“Once we’re on the Pirates network, we’re getting calls from West Virginia, Ohio, New York, Maryland and North Carolina,” he said.

And, with the advent of satellite radio and the popular MLB At Bat app, Bucs fans from all over the world can call to put their two cents in.

“When we talk into that microphone, people could be listening to us in outer space for all I know,” Zangrilli jokes. “We’ve gotten calls from a number of states and from people in other countries. It’s always fun to see where people are calling from, and the rain delay theater show is their opportunity.”

And a fading one at that. Indeed, radio baseball doesn’t curry near the cultural clout it once did, before the days when games became readily available in moving pictures and — later — on computers and phones. But for many, there remains a raw appeal to listening to the hometown announcers weave the play-by-play action, with colorful tales woven throughout the three-hour narrative as the crowd soothingly hums in the background.

Rain delay shows exist, primarily, to keep the audience tuned in. Still, show producers and broadcasters must provide their audiences a good reason to stick around when a storm rolls through. And for who knows how long. That can be quite the challenge — particularly in the summer, when there are so many entertainment options available.

In its own, off-the-wall ways, “Rain Delay Theater” answers the challenge by bridging the gap in the action and giving fans a chance, through simply listening or calling in, to feel more connected to the teams and players they love. While there’s never a shortage of callers or topics to keep the broadcast moving along, eventually — often hours later — everyone just wants to get on with the game already. The impatience becomes so palpable, in fact, that keeping on eye on the weather radar becomes part of the pastime.

“I like to play amateur meteorologist,” McCarthy says, just a few hours before a game in which there’s a 20 percent chance of rain. “I’m going to look at the Doppler, and I’m going to figure it out. I’m going to see which direction those things (storms) are moving, and I’m going to make my guess. But ultimately it doesn’t matter because … when I go on, I go on, and when I go off, I go off. It’s not my decision, but I do try to forecast it.”

Tracking radar normally gives the radio guys a good idea about when storms will move out, but there’s still work to be done — on the field and in the broadcast booth. It’s what Zangrilli calls the “second layer” of play stoppage: the field preparation.

“You don’t know how bad the field is and how much maintenance needs to be done to get the mound playable, to get the baselines and batter’s box in proper order,” he says. “After it rains, you could be looking at 15 to 45 minutes of prep to get the field ready again for guys to resume play, depending on how bad the storm was.”

With even more time to kill, thank goodness there are armchair GMs and dedicated fans willing to hold on through minor inconveniences, such as livestock barn breaks.

“Hello? Cecil? Are you with us?”

Football + Rain = Good

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PanthersRainA flood watch has been insured for the Charlotte, North Carolina area and up to 3 inches of precipitation could fall there today.

Rain is expected throughout the night, too, when the city’s undefeated football team, the Carolina Panthers, host the less-than-impressive Indianapolis Colts – they’re 3-4 – on Monday Night Football.

The forecast, according to Accuweather.com, is calling for heaving rain throughout the day and a 100 percent chance throughout the game, which kicks off at 8 p.m. local time. Temperatures are expected to be in the low 60s.

Bring your umbrella if you’re going to the … no wait, umbrellas aren’t allowed in Bank of America Stadium.

So, which team will benefit most from the wet playing conditions? Heck if I know.

I have to admit, I’m still on a World Series hangover – it ended way too soon, didn’t it? – and I’ve hardly paid attention, yet, to football this season. But, I’m sure I’ll catch up quickly.

That being said, you have to believe the team with the better running game would have an advantage. The homestanding Panthers lead the NFL in team rushing with 144.7 yards per game, and the Colts fall near the bottom of the rankings, 27th to be exact, at 93.6 yards.

That’s just some quick, lazy analysis that doesn’t mean much.

By the way, Opening Day of the 2016 baseball season is 153 days away.

Against the wind

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CitiField01

The wind at Citi Field Friday night did more than make women swoon from the sight of Noah Syndergaard’s long blond locks blowing from underneath his blue Mets cap. (I read a lot about that on Twitter.)

Wind, on a single swing, may have preserved the game for the Mets, who held 5-3 lead over the Royals in the top of the sixth inning in Game 3 of the World Series.

Alex Rios stood at the plate with a 3-2 count and drove the 100th pitch of the night from Syndergaard down the left field line. They Royals had runners on first and second as the ball glided toward left field.

Wind pushed and pushed on the ball until gravity brought it down a few feet to the foul side of the white base line.

“You see the effect of the wind right there. That ball took off,” Fox analyst Harold Reynolds said. “That ball started to be fair, and I thought it was going to be an easy out for (Mets’ left fielder Michael) Conforto. It (the ball) just continued to run to the corner.”

Reynolds, being at the ballpark, had a better view than I did from my spot on the man cave sofa. However, it looked to me that if the ball had landed fair, Conforto, unless he made a Web Gems-worth diving catch, would not have caught up to the ball.

A fair ball would have meant at least one run for the Royals, and maybe two to tie.

How much would that have affected the game? It’s hard to say. And, of course, there were countless other moments in the game that could have been affected by the wind. But at the time, this play seemed like a potential turning point.

It doesn’t mean anything now. The Mets added four runs in the bottom half of the inning and went on to win 9-3, but it was a perfect example how wind – it was 14 mph with gusts up to 25 mph – can influence a baseball game by an inch here and an inch there.

Let’s all root for helicopters

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mlb_g_kauffmants_576As I’m writing this, it’s sunny in Kansas City.

I’m not there, but I’m relying on Accuweather.com

Accuweather also tells me there’s a darn good chance sun will give way to rain throughout the day Tuesday, and there’s about a 70 percent chance of more rain that night just as the first pitch is about to be tossed for Game 1 of the World Series between the homestanding Royals and New York Mets.

As of now – you know how weather forecasts can change within minutes – there’s a 60 percent chance of rain falling on Kauffman Stadium the next couple of hours after the game begins. Chances of rain decrease of the night turns into morning.

If Game 1 is postponed, it will be played Wednesday night – that’s weather permitting, of course. Game 2 will be Thursday and MLB will ditch the travel day off and play the third game Friday night in New York.

If there’s a lot of rain tomorrow, but there’s a chance to play, I’m rooting for one of those scenarios in which helicopters are brought in to hover of Kauffman Stadium in an attempt to dry the field.

Does that really work?

Phil Collins is the opposite of the fat lady

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New York Post
Photo: New York Post

I hate to say it…

To my 9-year-old son who’s just learning about the ebbs and flows of following a professional baseball team.

To all of you fans of Chicago’s lovable losers.

But here goes…

It’s over, Cubs fans. It’s over.

I know it. You know it. Marty McFly knows it.

Despite winning 97 games this season – who’d a thunk it? Despite Jake Arrieta’s masterful mound performances. Despite the six home-runs to bury your more successful nemesis from St. Louis in the NLDS game at Wrigley. Despite the good feeling you had – we all had – about your team, 2015 is not the year you break the Curse of the billy goat and – good golly this is ridiculous – forgive Steve Bartman.

Tonight the Cubbies face elimination from the NLDS and this magical season. The Mets –  yep, the Mighty Mets of Gotham with the Dark Knight and Thor and whatever super hero nickname you want to assign to Jacob deGrom and Daniel Murphy – are poised to take the series in only four games. And they’re making it look easy.

The situation is dire for the Cubs.

In trying to grasp some hope, you can think back to 2004 when the Boston Red Sox, who in a similar situation of trailing three games to zero to the Yankees in the ALCS – roared back to win the next four games and ultimately the World Series, breaking their 86-year curse supposedly put on by Babe Ruth.

(With the Babe, I’m guessing there was a woman who gave him the idea. George always had a woman involved, and I don’t think he could have thought of cursing the Sox on his own. Am I right?)

Just win the next one, we’ve heard Cubs Manager Joe Maddon say after each defeat. “We need to put together several one-game winning streaks,” Maddon repeated after Monday night’s Game 3 loss.

Now, the Cubs have to win the next one, which is tonight in Wrigley, or there is no next one. Not until spring training in March. And then, who cares?

I want the Cubs to win tonight to, if nothing else, keep the dream alive for excitable Cubs fans, like my son, and the series going for one more day. Heck, if the Mets win and the Royals are victorious in the Junior Circuit championship today, we’ll have to go five days without a game until baseball resumes with the World Series next Tuesday.

And, of course, there’s one more way the series can extend to another day: Yep, a rainout.

It looks like there’s a small chance of delaying game 4 until Thursday. The forecast is calling for a 50 percent chance of showers in Chicago when the first pitch is thrown tonight and a 35 percent chance through midnight.

Midnight could be interesting for Cubs fans tonight. When it strikes, will their team have survived to play another day or will their Cinderella season turn into a giant pumpkin?

Or, will the game be called because of rain?

Either way, as the great Phil Collins used to sing: “Give me just one more night.”