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NESN has spring in its step

Network focuses on Red Sox camp

Josh Beckett puts the fun in Funai, a Japanese electronics firm advertising at City of Palms Park. Josh Beckett puts the fun in Funai, a Japanese electronics firm advertising at City of Palms Park. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
Email|Print| Text size + By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / February 15, 2008

The dissecting of the Patriots' Super Bowl loss will probably never end, but now that spring training has arrived, at least New England sports fans have another team to which they can turn their attention.

The Red Sox are in Fort Myers, Fla., and NESN has some innovative programming, 250 percent more than in 2007, designed to give the Nation its fix. The 36 days of spring coverage began Wednesday and continues this morning with a two-hour broadcast of "Red Sox Spring Break LIVE," hosted by Tom Caron at 10, which will be replayed in full at 3:30 p.m. and in a condensed version at 6:30 and 10:30.

Joel Feld, NESN's vice president of programming and executive producer, thinks showing the workouts will go a long way toward giving fans a preview of what to expect as the Sox defend their world championship.

"It's a great opportunity for us to cover the team as extensively as we can while they're at spring training," said Feld. "The team is on the field in the morning, generally to work out and train, and we thought that would be the best opportunity to capture what is going on down there. I think being live is always preferable."

Feld said the network transported the stage setup that it normally uses for the pregame shows from outside Fenway Park.

"We're going to have cameras covering the different practice fields," he said. "We certainly hope we'll have an assortment of players and coaches and writers and ownership joining us on the show as their time permits."

As much interest as baseball generates in New England, there is still much to be learned about the 2008 Olde Towne Team, and Feld believes NESN can provide that insight.

"Part of the initiative was that the decision to do this was really so the fans who don't get a chance to go down to Fort Myers can experience spring training," he said. "There are a great number of Red Sox fans who travel to Fort Myers to watch the players work out. More and more of them show up every year to watch the team work out, but this is for those who won't get the chance to travel. It's a little window into what really goes on during spring training and how the players get into shape and get ready for the new season."

When asked if Sox fans can get any more voracious, Feld laughed.

"I certainly hope so," he said. "Certainly the team is experiencing a tremendous amount of popularity at this particular moment. It has something to do with the fact the team has won the world championship twice in four years. I certainly hope there are more baseball fans out there, sure. We're always out to capture even the most casual fan and help them experience watching Red Sox baseball. TV is all about telling great stories. Sports give us a great canvas for telling those stories. It's a great easel from which to work."

Caron, coming off the Beanpot Tournament broadcasts, is one of the most versatile TV personalities in Boston and wears many hats seemingly effortlessly.

"Tom's a real pro," said Feld. "He works really, really hard. He really is a consummate broadcaster in the way he comports himself on the air and also his ability to do lots of different things. He can be a field reporter, he can be a studio host, he does play-by-play. It's not easy to be able to be accomplished at all those. He makes it look easy, but it's not."

O'Brien No. 2

Entercom Boston announced its Red Sox radio broadcast team. Joe Castiglione, the veteran play-by-play announcer, is entering his 26th season of calling Red Sox games. Quincy native Dave O'Brien will join him for the second straight year. O'Brien, who is also doing play-by-play for ESPN, is slotted to call a minimum of 135 Red Sox games. Dale Arnold, who hosts the 10 a.m.-2 p.m. show on WEEI with Michael Holley, has been designated to fill in for most of the games O'Brien can't make. Jon Rish, Entercom's studio host for the broadcast, will handle the ones Arnold can't. "When we hired Dave a year ago, I knew that he would make an immediate impact in this marketplace, and he's done that and more," said Jason Wolfe, Entercom Boston's vice president of AM programming. "He drew rave reviews from Red Sox fans during his first year, and with the additions of Dale and Jon, I'm excited to get the baseball season going." . . . The 50th Daytona 500 will be televised on Fox (Channel 25) Sunday at 2 p.m. Prior to the race, the network will air an 80-minute special to celebrate the half-century mark. Ken Squier will serve as special contributor, providing historical perspective . . . On Tuesday, CBS Sports announced a reorganization of its college operations. Beginning next month, CSTV will become the CBS College Sports Network. One objective is to emphasize original programming. One feature will be a twice-nightly news show, "College Sports Tonight," that will examine the news of the day. Not only will the new brand embrace new shows via its broadcast network, the impact will also be seen through its cable, online, and mobile enhancements.

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.

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