Sampsell: Walk succeeds just by being himself

Longtime Pirates color commentator Bob Walk generally brings a just-me-being-me, low-key approach to his work.

And two decades into his radio and TV career that approach makes Walk good. In a world of endless sabermetrics, Walk just talks baseball. He’s not worried about the latest statistics or on-paper measurables.

Instead he connects with fans by talking about the game, watching what happens and then drawing on his 13-year playing career and offering some sort of explanation or opinion.

“It seems like all the stadiums these days have stats up on the scoreboard right in front of us,” Walk said. “Or, I might have a computer with the Gamecast. There’s no reason for me to write things down.”

So Walk just talks – and it works.

At 4:40 p.m. June 11, he walked into the PNC Park press box, wearing a shirt and tie and carrying his suit coat. With the first pitch by No. 1 draft pick Gerrit Cole fast approaching, Walk was ready. He’d been talking about Cole most of the day anyway.

“I needed a new faucet handle, went to Home Depot, and the guy there was asking me what I thought about Cole, how he’d do,” Walk said. “I told him we’d wait and see, and even if he did great it was only one game. Or, if it did poorly, it was only one game.”

Walk watches for things fans cannot see or might not know to make broadcasts better. In the case of another Pirates pitcher, Jeff Locke, Walk said body language tells the story. He sees much more confidence in Locke’s demeanor than when he made his debut in 2011.

Walk knows his job as an analyst is not a place for measurables, either. As a result, he’s comfortable talking about what he hears and sees – without concern about what others think of his work.

“It’s not like you can point to a 2.80 ERA and know you’re doing a good job. If you listen to what people have to say and worry about it, it can be paralyzing,” Walk said. “So you just do your job and not worry about it.”

‘Scrap’ sounds

Longtime Penn State assistant football coach Tom “Scrap” Bradley, who led the Nittany Lions on an interim basis for four games after the Sandusky scandal first broke in 2011, visited with hosts Jack Arute and Gino Torretta on “College Football Playbook” earlier this month.

Arute, formerly a longtime sideline reporter for ABC Sports, and Torretta, a Heisman Trophy-winning QB for Miami, made the segment – which focused on on-field issues as opposed to anything related to the scandal – enjoyable and engaging, although the familiarity of all three with each other let it become more of a backslapping yuk-fest than anything productive at times.

Tuner tidbits

n Bradley, who did analysis on Pittsburgh Steelers radio last season, lost a possible TV college football analysis job last year because of the scandal – or at least because of its timing. He was set to work Conference USA games for CBS Sports Network, but media day for the conference fell the day after the NCAA announced its sanctions against Penn State in July 2012, and Bradley then did not attend media days and the job never materialized.

n Nik Wallenda’s walk across the Grand Canyon last week drew more than 10 million viewers to Discovery Channel. For some stick-and-ball purists, it might not be sport, but those type of 1970s-style daredevil things always draw my attention.

n Tennis fans probably like it, but ESPN’s abundant Wimbledon coverage just messes with my morning by bouncing “Mike & Mike” of ESPN2.

Steve Sampsell covers the broadcast side of sports. He’s on Twitter @talkingtvsports, writes at online, and may be contacted at with comments.