Blue Jays radio listeners were thrown a curveball over the weekend when an alarm-type beeping sound interrupted a remote broadcast of Toronto’s road game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the unexpected audio — which could be clearly heard in the background for over 10 minutes during Saturday’s game — came from the Toronto studio of rights-holder Sportsnet or an external source.
Blue Jays radio broadcaster Ben Wagner, who calls the action off TV screens when the team is on the road, paused for 15 seconds when the beeping started before resuming his call.
The Cardinals’ broadcasters — who called the game from Busch Stadium on KMOX Radio — did not experience any audio issues. St. Louis won the game 4-1.
Sportsnet has its television crew on site at all Blue Jays games but elected to return to pandemic-style remote coverage of radio broadcasts for road games this season.
Of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball, the Blue Jays and Los Angeles Angels are the only clubs without on-site radio broadcast crews at road games.
Interview requests and messages left with Sportsnet’s media relations staff on Sunday were not immediately returned.
COVID-19 concerns and travel restrictions meant remote broadcasting was the reality for many TV and radio crews when sports returned in the early days of the pandemic. The difference was usually noticeable but viewers and listeners had to accept it given the unusual circumstances.
Like most team broadcasters, the Blue Jays’ radio crew resumed regular travel last season. Wagner started the year with remote calls for road games before travelling again for most of the second half.
However, when Sportsnet announced its 2023 broadcast plans in February it confirmed that remote radio calls for road games would return.
The network did not provide an explanation for the decision. Requests to speak with Wagner and Sportsnet executives Rob Corte and Greg Sansone were declined.
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Former Blue Jays radio voice Jerry Howarth, who called games in person — home and away — over three-plus decades in the booth until retiring in 2018, was critical of the move.
He said it was simply “essential” to be on site when a team is on the road.
“I’m very disappointed in the network for making that decision,” Howarth told The Canadian Press in February.
Technical difficulties can happen on any broadcast, but in-person staffing would have eliminated the chance of audio issues stemming from a remote coverage setup.
Wagner has called Blue Jays games since 2018.
Broadcasts are heard across the country on 14 Sportsnet Radio Network affiliates, including the flagship Fan590 all-sports station.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2023.
Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.
© 2023 The Canadian Press
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