Only six holes in Bucs’ TV schedule

After a cold and seemingly longer-than-usual winter, baseball season brings hope for fans and hope for warmer temperatures.

Opening Day also brings a bit more interest in the Pittsburgh Pirates. Starting with Monday’s opener against the Cubs at PNC Park, nine Pirates games are scheduled for national TV broadcasts this year.

The home opener against the Cubs will air on 1:05 p.m. on ESPN. It’ll also be carried on Root Sports and available on the team’s radio network, which includes affiliates in Altoona (WFBG-AM, 1290), Huntingdon (WHUN-AM, 1150) and State College (ESPN Radio 1450).

The slate of nationally televised games includes one more on ESPN, four on Fox and three on Fox Sports 1.

Those games on Fox (the first comes May 24) and FS1 (the first is April 26) could include a Penn State alumnus as an analyst because Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci was named to Fox’s top broadcast group – a three-man team with play-by-play man Joe Buck and analyst Harold Reynolds – after the retirement of Tim McCarver.

Last year, baseball’s broadcast partners scrambled a bit to add more Pirates games once the team proved it was competitive. Fans and team officials probably hope for the same this year, although when a partner adjusts its schedules the addition always comes at the expense of some team.

So Pirates fans and officials also must hope the team does not plateau or step back this year.

Most fans across the country can find a nightly Pirates game if they really want, and fans here at home get to watch Root Sports for all but six games this year.

The six Pirates games not scheduled for TV this year are all road games.

That’s interesting because regional sports networks and teams traditionally try to carry road games moreso than home games when possible, in part to try to nudge home attendance. Still, that perspective has given way to more access and more games these days.

The six non-TV games are: April 21 and June 19 at Cincinnati, June 25 at Tampa Bay, July 9 at St. Louis, July 30 at San Francisco and Aug. 14 at Detroit. Consider those “throwback” games from a fan’s perspective, and listen on radio. Or go to a sports bar where the opposing team’s broadcast might be available.

Brother bobble

One of the more obvious mistakes by a broadcaster during the NCAA Tournament came when studio host Greg Gumbel of CBS Sports confused coaching brothers (and Pennsylvania natives) Sean Miller of Arizona and Archie Miller of Dayton – while talking to Archie on the air.

It was an interesting and timely topic, one media in Pittsburgh as well as USA Today and other outlets have addressed once Arizona and Dayton both reached the Sweet 16. Because of the timeliness of TV and tournament constraints, CBS was first with the brotherly story nationally.

When Gumbel moved into what was supposed to be a few questions with Archie, he misidentified him as Sean and the segment went uncomfortably to a commercial break, leaving studio analysts confusingly quiet and Archie just confused.

Gumbel dealt with the matter gracefully and when the commercial break ended, though. In the short segment afterward, he said viewers would be going back to the game and he would be going to “study the Miller family directory.”

Such interactions make live TV interesting, and true talents separate themselves with how they handle them.

Tuner tidbits

n Kudos to Steve Jones for accurate and fair criticism of the Penn State basketball team, citing the team’s unenergetic play through the first half of its final game of the season against Siena six days ago. While Jones sounded a bit too defensive and supportive of Penn State coach Patrick Chambers as “the CEO of his program” and the decision to play in the College Basketball Invitational, Jones was on point with his almost-pointed commentary (or at least as pointed as he gets with anything Penn State) about the team’s lackluster play.

n An interview with Penn State football coach James Franklin will air on “BTN Live” at 6 p.m. Tuesday on Big Ten Network. According to BTN, the interview by Gerry DiNardo touches on a variety of topics, including recruiting.

Steve Sampsell may be contacted at