Jason Kendall had the best seat in the house on Sept. 28, 2008, when the Milwaukee Brewers snapped a 26-year playoff drought with a 3-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs at what was then known as Miller Park.
With a raucous, capacity crowd of 45,299 losing its collective mind behind him, the veteran catcher was behind the plate for each and every one of the 122 pitches thrown by CC Sabathia, who allowed just a run while striking out seven to cap off an otherworldly run with his seventh complete game as the Brewers clinched the National League Wild Card berth.
The image of Kendall running out to embrace the hulking southpaw after the game-ending double-play is one that’s emblazoned in the memory of Brewers fans and now, 13 years after that magical afternoon in Milwaukee, the Kendall-Sabathia battery will reunite for another Brewers-Cubs clash.
This time, though, the duo won’t have to worry about navigating their way through a lineup of sluggers like Derek Lee or Aramis Ramirez. Instead, they’ll help describe the action of the field to viewers across the county as part of MLB Network’s third “Clubhouse Edition” broadcast of the season.
“What a great idea from CC,” Kendall said of the broadcast. “I got a call from MLB (Network) and I said absolutely, I’d like to do that. At the end of the say, baseball players are baseball fans like you. They’re watching it because it’s their job but the guys enjoy the games and are fans just like everyone at home.”
The broadcast, which will also feature former Brewers TV announcer and current MLB Network host Matt Vasgersian, stems from an idea Sabathia had while watching Nickelodeon’s alternate broadcast of an NFL game last season.
“I was like, man, I want to just call a game, but I want to be like sitting on my couch and hanging out with my boys watching the game,” Sabathia said in an interview with The Athletic earlier this year. “I think fans would like that. Telling stories. And not like: “Here’s the 2-1 pitch.” You get tired of the same traditional … broadcast. Let’s mix this up and have some fun.
“If baseball did that, and got into different graphics and had younger players and guys talking, I think it’d be a lot of fun. And MLB Network was all for it. The first two we did were really good. They’ve been a lot of fun, and we’ve got our next one coming up on August 10th. Hopefully we just keep going.”
During the broadcast, the blockbuster trade that brought Sabathia to Milwaukee in July 2008 will be discussed, as will the ridiculous numbers he put up after that trade, when he went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA in 17 starts.
And it’s almost certain that Kendall and Sabathia will discuss the infamous Aug. 31 game at Pittsburgh, when Sabathia was robbed of a no-hitter by a controversial ruling by the Pirates’ official scorer.
“No doubt, it was a no-hitter,” Kendall said.
The free-wheeling nature of the broadcasts is entertaining for viewers but also keeps the production staff on its toes because the conversation tends to drive the presentation.
“There are three things I’m always trying to do,” MLB Network Senior Coordinating Producer of Live Events Chris Pfeiffer said. “I’m always trying to document, entertain and inform.
“The Clubhouse Edition also tries to incorporate those three things, we just present them in a different way.”
The “Clubhouse Edition” broadcast is the latest in a series of non-traditional broadcasts produced by MLB Network which began airing Statcast-focused broadcasts in 2015 to highlight the analytics of the game and combined a game broadcast with it’s stalwart MLB Tonight program during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Like those series, the “Clubhouse Edition” is a way to present a different perspective of a game, incorporating the increasing popularity of social media while also providing an opportunity to attract new viewers who otherwise might not tune into a weeknight broadcast featuring teams outside of their home market.
“I don’t think we’ll ever shy away from the traditional broadcast,” said Marc Caiafa, MLB Network’s Senior Vice President of Production. “We’ve already taken a leap with the YouTube games we do now and the Facebook Live games we did before that.
“We’re open to anything that keeps the newer audience involved but at the same time, you still want to be cognizant of your older fans. I just think we have a very open mindset.
“We’re just open to things that will keep viewers engaged.”