Every pitch live?
It was just a pitch of lies.
The promised national television broadcast of a sporting event from Blair County, even if it was only supposed to be live look-ins at the half innings when Steven Strasburg pitched, never happened as expected Sunday.
When mighty ESPN promises every pitch live on ESPNews, that's not an unrealistic expectation. Instead, ESPNews picked up live audio and video from the Altoona Curve for just one inning.
Subsequent innings were aired on tape - even though ESPNews host Ryan Burr repeatedly said the action was live. Apparently ESPNews has no need for credibility or ethics.
Baseball fans got live action for just 11 minutes, from 2:11 p.m. to 2:22 p.m. After that, it was tape time - and it was not a shining moment for ESPN, which continually pitched the action as live.
Before the game started, ESPNews worked to hype the look-ins, using baseball expert Tim Kurkjian to discuss Strasburg's potential with Burr during a six-minute segment that started at 1:43 p.m.
At that time, things were shaping up nicely for a timely Altoona travelogue and a focus on Strasburg. But time constraints intervened, as did coverage of The Masters and the same-day debut of another heavily hyped minor league pitcher, Aroldis Chapman.
ESPNews tried to balance all that and failed.
While all the Strasburg action eventually showed up on TV, anyone who knows baseball and even casual fans had to know the action was canned, just because the time between innings was so long.
ESPNews failed to deliver what it promised because it knowingly and repeatedly fibbed about the timeline as it provided updates from The Masters and provided look-ins at Chapman's debut vs. the Toledo Mud Hens.
Fans frustrated by the lack of live action featuring the Altoona Curve and Harrisburg Senators either found Strasburg coverage live online at ESPN3.com or waited through the afternoon to see what made TV when ESPNews had time to squeeze in the taped action.
Still, the time-shifting approach was the fault of ESPNews and not the hometown host Curve - who handled their duties during the day fairly well.
Play-by-plan man Dan Zangrilli was good, capably dropping in info about team history and the region without sounding like a shill. He covered nuts-and-bolts action and hit high notes when appropriate - raising his voice for "A top-shelf defensive gem!" by Curve second baseman Jose De Los Santos, for example.
Plus, the Curve was prepared. Their consistent on-screen graphics from the center-field camera view promoted "Curve, Pa." and partner Atlantic Broadband. Likewise, Zangrilli put Altoona on the map early by providing anyone listening or watching with information that Altoona sits about 90 miles east of Pittsburgh and 35 miles southwest of State College.
Additionally, the team had prepared on-screen graphics that showed a usual runs-hits-and-errors scoreboard and included notes about former players now in the major leagues and the city as the home of Sheetz. Curve video guru John Foreman directed a team that got all the necessary shots, and the cuts between them were appropriate and big league.
All that was missing - and they were surprising omissions - were some type of on-screen pitch speed indicator and references to Strasburg's pitch count. Zangrilli continually needed to note the pitch speed when Strasburg was on the mound, and that happened only after the ballpark's speed screen endured a first-inning hiccup and then started working.
Not having Strasburg's pitch count maximum and his progress toward that number mentioned was simply frustrating. After all, those two numbers (pitch speed and pitch count) were arguably the most important of the afternoon, and they were somehow overlooked. Doubly frustrating, analyst Stan Belinda was no help.
Strasburg's final total, 82 pitches, was eventually noted. That came, live, as part of the online coverage, at 3:51 p.m.
Still, from Burr's mention of the roller coaster beyond the outfield fence before the coverage began to Zangrilli's down-time discussion and information about the history of the Horseshoe Curve and the team itself, the exposure for the franchise and the region was positive. From the team's perspective, it was well done, too.
Steve Sampsell, covers the broadcast side of sports for the Mirror, and his general TV/radio comments may be found at www.talkingtvsports.blogspot.com online.