This volunteer broadcast duo does a major service for Majors fans

·4 min read
Dylan Baker, left, and Noah Smith handle play-by-play duties for the London Majors games. Smith is a recent graduate of Fanshawe College's radio broadcasting program and Baker is a 15-year-old high-school student.  (Andrew Lupton/CBC - image credit)
Dylan Baker, left, and Noah Smith handle play-by-play duties for the London Majors games. Smith is a recent graduate of Fanshawe College's radio broadcasting program and Baker is a 15-year-old high-school student. (Andrew Lupton/CBC - image credit)

It was a pivotal moment in Tuesday's London Majors playoff game and like many great sports moments, it arrived unexpectedly and the broadcast team had to be on their toes to capture it.

The Majors were up 6-2 in the top of the seventh inning against their rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs. The best-of-five series was tied a game each and whichever team lost would fall to the bottom of a deep hole in their bid to win the title.

Leafs batter Sean Reilly stepped in against Majors pitcher Eduardo Perez with a runner on base and drove the ball toward the left-field wall. Tracking what looked like a sure home run off the bat, London outfielder Humberto Ruiz lept into the air and made what many might consider a game-saving catch. A home run could have swung the momentum in the visitors' favour.as it would have brought Toronto to within two runs of London.

Here's how Dylan Baker called the play for the Majors from the broadcast booth. You can listen to the call by clicking here.

"Breaking ball, Rieily drives it to left field and deep. Back goes Ruiz. Warning track. Leaping up. Did he catch it? He did! Humberto Ruiz with the catch of the year."

Here Baker pauses a few seconds to allow the crowd's cheers to be heard. Then he comes back.

"What a play to end the seventh inning! Oh my."

A second later, also perfectly timed, comes commentary from Baker's broadcast partner Noah Smith.

"You have got to be kidding," he says. "That ball was on its way out of here. And Ruiz brings it back!"

Baker comes back on the microphone, explaining to the audience what made the catch a contender for defensive play of the year.

"What a play by Humberto Ruiz. Scaling the wall, timing his jump ... to perfection."

It's top-level sports broadcasting made more impressive when you consider that Baker is 15-years-old and covers the evening games after attending high school at École secondaire Gabriel-Dumont. He started doing the broadcast at 13.

Smith is a 24-year-old graduate of the radio broadcasting program at Fanshawe College. A "sports loving guy" who, like his broadcast booth partner, is a volunteer.

This dynamic duo, along with a team of less than a half-dozen other volunteers, put together the Majors broadcast which streams the team's home games on YouTube, though Rogers also picks up a few games a season using Baker and Smith as the on-air talent.

"It takes a bit of an army to do it but we love doing it," said Smith. "We love being at the ballpark and we love giving the fans something to watch when they can't make it out to games."

The broadcasts use four live cameras, which Baker and Smith control remotely themselves. They also include scoreboard graphics and a pre-game setup that combine to create a polished broadcast experience fans have become accustomed to, particularly as the Majors chase their first Intercounty Baseball League title in 46 years.

Andrew Lupton/CBC
Andrew Lupton/CBC

On Friday technical difficulties interrupted the broadcast for a few innings. A few viewers vented their frustration online. It's evidence, Smith says, that the broadcast is valued by fans.

"We missed three innings but then we got it back. I think fans appreciate that."

Both Smith and Baker plan to pursue careers in sports broadcasting and working Majors games helps them sharpen their already considerable broadcast chops.

"This is tremendous experience," said Baker. "It's the experience behind the scenes and on the air that really helps me. I think I've grown so much as a broadcaster working with Noah. I've learned so much from him and this time with the Majors has been fantastic."

The London Majors went on to win Tuesday and are now up two games to one in their best-of-five championship series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. A win tonight in Toronto will give the Majors their first title in 46 years. Should the Majors lose, they will have a second chance to capture the title in a winner-takes-all Game 5 at Labatt Memorial Park on Friday evening.

If you can't make it to the ballpark, Baker and Smith will have the call on for Friday's game on the London Majors YouTube page. Thursday's game will be broadcast, by their broadcast team, on the Maple Leafs YouTube page.

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