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Braves broadcasters spend half inning interviewing bank CEO

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I was watching the Phillies-Braves game yesterday afternoon. Yes, I know the Yankees game was on at the same time and that, as a national baseball writer, I should probably pay more attention to what they do this year than what a couple of rebuilding teams are doing, but it’s been 33 years since I began watching the Braves. I can’t quit ’em.

There are a lot of bad things about watching Braves games. Chief among them is that they haven’t been very good for a few years, but that’ll pass. It always does. Manager Brian Snitker’s somnambulant bullpen management can be rage inducing at times. Yes, that was an exciting comeback yesterday, but they wouldn’t need to come back from so much if Snitker hadn’t insisted on using his two worst relievers when the game was still close, but hey, I’m a fan and I pick nits.

The broadcast booth is another reason Braves games can be a chore. Chip Caray and Joe Simpson are not among the best announcers in the game. I’m used to them by now so it’s not that big a deal, even if they try my patience at times. Yesterday, though, they weren’t the worst thing in the broadcast booth by far. That honor was left to SunTrust Bank Inc.’s Chairman and CEO Bill Rogers.

Yes, the Braves and Fox Sports Southeast subjected us to a half inning of an in-game interview with a bank executive, and it was very clearly a pre-arranged advertisement, complete with pre-arranged speaking prompts from Caray and Simpson. I call them “prompts” instead of “questions,” because you could tell that Caray and Simpson were utterly uninterested in what the CEO had to say and were merely doing their corporate duty. I felt bad for them, actually.

Simpson asked the CEO if his bank’s naming rights deal for the Braves’ new ballpark was everything he thought’d it be (it was). Caray asked how the bank quantifies the benefits of the naming rights deal, and yes, he cast it in those exact terms. My favorite moment came when Simpson asked the CEO, “what does it mean to you and your company to get the season underway.” I’ll admit that I was embarrassed when I heard that, because I realized that I had neglected to do a season preview for SunTrust bank, what with its season getting underway, or whatever.

From there they moved on to a clearly planned shoutout to the bank’s branded financial advising service which I will not name because, unlike the Braves, SunTrust is not paying me to plug their products. Eventually, the CEO made a point to refer to the fact that the bank helped underwrite the pregame National Anthem/giant flag ceremonies. Ooohh say can you see?

This is the sort of content baseball fans really want, you know, especially on Opening Day.

Not that the CEO did not appreciate the importance of Opening Day. Indeed, he was asked specifically how he felt about it. His response:

“Hopefully we have 24 more years of these.”

No, neither the Braves nor baseball in general are going to fold in 24 years. That’s just how many more years SunTrust owns the naming rights at the Braves’ ballpark and, clearly, that’s all that really matters. Note: I hope no one told him that the Braves have a spotty track record of, you know, staying in stadiums for as long as 24 years, but that’s the topic of another article.

After that the inning ended. I don’t remember what happened on the field. It wasn’t really a priority for the broadcast.

Major League Baseball to launch an elite league for high schoolers

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This morning Major League Baseball announced a new elite league for high school baseball players who are likely to be drafted. It’s called the Prospect Development Pipeline League. It’ll start next summer and it’ll invite 80 of the best current high school juniors to play in a league in Florida from June through early July, culminating in an All-Star Game during MLB’s All-Star week.

The idea behind the league: to combat the current system in which a couple of pay-to-play, for-profit showcase leagues dominate the pre-draft season. Major League Baseball, schools and a lot of players’ parents have criticized this system because it favors rich kids who can afford to play in them. Major League Baseball is also likely quite keen on having greater control over the training, health and physical monitoring of prospects.

As Jeff Passan notes in his report about this, there will be a component of the program which involves live data-tracking of players during games and drills. Major League Baseball has become increasingly interested in such things but is limited in how much it can do in this regard due to labor agreements. There is no such impediment with high schoolers. Your mileage will vary when it comes to how you feel about that, I presume.