The “six-four-three” double play (recorded as “6-4-3” in a scorebook) is one of baseball’s most recognizable events. The shortstop fields a groundball who flips it to the second baseman, forcing out the runner on first. The second baseman then throws to the first baseman, retiring the batter and completing the double play.
Whether it helps a pitcher escape a late-inning jam, the second baseman valiantly heaves the ball to first despite being taken out by the runner, or the first baseman saves the entire sequence with a nifty scoop, a well-executed double play can deliver some of the best drama and excitement baseball has to offer.
The “6-4-3” might be the most common version of a double play, but there are quite a few variations of the “twin killing.” Among them are the 4-6-3, 3-6-3, 3-6-1, home-to-first, and even line drives or flyballs that result in double plays. And of course, there are double plays such as this.
Due to the wide range of double play combinations, it’s very common for baseball broadcasters to verbally incorporate the defensive numerals into their calls (either in the “live” portion of calling the play, or as a means of informing the listener of the official scoring after the play is over).
Because this mechanism is frequently used by broadcasters, I want to bring up a specific type of double play that is often erroneously cited on the air.
In our last post, we stressed the importance of accuracy. Everything that is said needs to be true in order for both the broadcast and the broadcaster to have credibility. Next, we’ll take a deeper look at the mechanics tool, which covers what it is that you’re actually saying.
A baseball broadcaster’s mechanics form the descriptions provided to the listener. The quality and efficiency of your mechanics are heavily dependent on your knowledge and experience of both baseball and sports broadcasting in general. However, this is the most learnable of the five tools, and you can dramatically improve your mechanics over time through commitment, repetition, and immersion.
Mechanics are also the most tangible element of your broadcast, making them the easiest and most likely to be critiqued. If someone is going to listen to you call a three-hour baseball game, by the end of that broadcast, they are going to have a very good idea whether or not they enjoyed your style. Were you able to execute the fundamental elements of baseball play-by-play? Was each line of dialogue an answer to one of the traditional question words (who, what, where, when, why, and how)?
A general manager for an affiliated team, who had served as a broadcaster himself, once summed up the importance of mechanics with his “15-second test.” When sifting through potential candidates for a broadcasting position, he would listen to each demo for 15 seconds. His belief was that 15 seconds was enough time to determine if the candidate possessed the basic skills required to perform the job. Only those tapes that passed the 15-second test were given a second look. Given how many applicants there are when a job in our industry becomes available, it’s an effective tool for a decision-maker. If you have trouble describing what’s happening on the field, your preparation, accuracy, and storytelling won’t matter. Continue reading