The network's president and chief executive officer, Tony Petitti, announced Wednesday that four respected broadcasters have been added to the team for the network, which will launch Jan. 1, 2009, in approximately 50 million homes as the largest network debut in cable history.
Baseball veterans Harold Reynolds and Al Leiter are joining the network as studio analysts and Hazel Mae and Trenni Kusnierek will be taking over the positions of reporters. All four will work alongside Matt Vasgersian, who last week was named studio host and anchor of "MLB Tonight," the live, nightly studio show that will be the signature program of the network, and "Hot Stove," a live, nightly offseason studio show.
This quintet of on-air talent will be mainstays of the new network, with all of the personalities appearing on both shows as well as other programming across the network.
"I'm honored to be a part of this whole thing," said Reynolds, the former Major League All-Star second baseman and veteran of ESPN who has most recently been a baseball commentator for MLB.com since 2007 and in 2008 also did studio work for SportsNet New York and TBS as a game analyst for its Sunday baseball telecasts as well as the 2008 MLB postseason.
"It's incredible with the opportunity, the reach, to be a part of the network. You're a baseball fan first, and this is about serving the fan. There's no other vehicle in sports right now that's going to be able to do what we're doing in servicing the fan. I'm excited. It's time for a baseball 24-hour network, and if you're a baseball fan, you'll love it."
Leiter, who pitched for four Major League teams in a 19-year career, spent the past three years as a color commentator for New York Yankees broadcasts on the YES Network. Prior to YES, Leiter worked as a postseason game analyst for FOX Sports, and also did work for ESPN.
"To be part of a ground-floor operation ... the possibilities potentially could be endless," Leiter said.
Kusnierek joined FSN Wisconsin in 2008 as a member of the Brewers broadcast team. She spent 2003 to 2007 with FSN Pittsburgh as a sports anchor and reporter. A native of Milwaukee, Kusnierek's sports broadcasting experience has included covering the Super Bowl, two BCS National Championship Games, two MLB All-Star Games and two U.S. Golf Opens. Prior to joining FSN Pittsburgh, Kusnierek spent two years at WDJT-TV 58 in Milwaukee and nine months in the sports department at WQOW-TV in Eau Claire, Wisc.
"When you get into this business, you dream to work at the highest level," Kusnierek said. "I've never been more excited. I look forward to being part of the beginning of what I believe will be a great and successful network"
Those sentiments were echoed by Mae, who served as the lead anchor for SportsDesk on the New England Sports Network (NESN) from 2004-08. While at NESN, Mae also served as host of the Red Sox week-in-review program, The Ultimate Red Sox Show, and the Boston Bruins top-10 in-season show, The Buzz. Prior to NESN, Mae anchored the morning edition of Sportsnetnews on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. In addition to her duties on Sportsnetnews, Mae was the host of JZone, a weekly Toronto Blue Jays magazine show. Mae began her tenure at Rogers Sportsnet, providing sports updates to Rogers Sportsnet radio affiliates throughout Ontario.
"I am over the moon to be part of the inaugural on-air team at MLB Network," Mae said. "I knew it would take a special opportunity to leave New England, where they live, eat and breathe baseball. I'm beyond humbled."
MLB Tonight will air live beginning at 6 p.m. ET until the final MLB game of the night ends between Monday and Saturday, and will be based out of MLB Network's headquarters in Secaucus, N.J. The program will feature live look-ins of games in progress, updates, highlights, reporting and analysis.
Hot Stove will air during the offseason at 7 p.m. ET on Monday through Friday and feature news, reports, and analysis of the moves clubs are making and planning in preparation for the upcoming season.
The network also has countless other programming options in development. It is planning to air 16 World Baseball Classic games in March plus a "30 teams in 30 days" feature throughout Spring Training, live Spring Training coverage, 26 regular-season game telecasts and live look-ins to MLB games. The network also has the opportunity to work in concert with MLB Productions and create all types of historical programming from MLB's extensive archives.
"The idea is to be able to give fans a taste of everything," Petitti said. "And baseball's archives are pretty robust to say the least. Whether we're showing classic games or going back and creating new programming out of those archives, we will be able to use that content."
Petitti said one program already in development was tentatively titled "Baseball's Greatest Seasons" and would take a look back at a great year in baseball history not only from an on-the-field perspective but also by commenting on what was going on in the world at the time.
After the 2009 season, the network will consider other forms of live baseball programming including the Arizona Fall League, the Latin winter leagues and Caribbean Series, and more.
"We're exploring all of it," Petitti said. "It will obviously grow and change in years two and three and beyond. International play is definitely something we're interested in."