Bob Costas, the quick-witted face of NBC Sports who is coming out of play-by-play "retirement" to headline MLB Network's coverage of the new Yankee Stadium opener, confesses to feeling a bit rusty. "In some aspects, it's like riding a bike," Costas said on a mid-Monday media conference call with principals of the Thursday telecast. "There might be a little bit of rust. "After three, four games, I might have a slightly better rhythm -- that's possible. We'll see. I'm just hoping it will all come back to me."
For Costas, whose love of baseball always permeated his game broadcasts, returning to the booth doesn't figure to be as challenging as Lance Armstrong's return to the Tour de France. And Costas' participation in the historic telecast from the Bronx will be visible proof of MLB Network's progress in the mere 3 1/2 months since its Jan. 1 launch. "We really look forward to doing the first game at the new Yankee Stadium," said Tony Petitti, the network's president and CEO. "It will be a great way to showcase what we are doing here, and an opportunity to bring Bob back into the booth. "I couldn't think of a better setting." Costas will be joined by Jim Kaat, a broadcasting mainstay at old Yankee Stadium, and Harold Reynolds. "I'm grateful to Tony for the opportunity to get back into the broadcast booth. And doing it with Bob is part of the thrill," Kaat said on the call. "I know what a great baseball fan he is, and we've never before had a chance to broadcast a game together." Reynolds could not join the call because of a previous honorary engagement: He is in Seattle, preparing to throw out the first pitch of the Mariners' home opener on Tuesday against the Angels. Costas will resume his play-by-play career across the street from where he had ended it. The last game he called was the sixth and final game of the 2000 American League Championship Series in old Yankee Stadium, in which New York beat Seattle, 9-7, as the precursor to its third straight World Series title. "There is not anything I missed least about [broadcasting baseball]," Costas said. "But what I missed most was just sitting in the press room, swapping baseball stories. And being around on an ongoing basis." The play-by-play gig will be a departure for Costas, MLB Network's lead studio host. His only other confirmed assignment is the May 7 game between National League East rivals the Phillies and the Mets. Costas, who turned 57 three weeks ago, estimates to have made 12-15 visits to Yankee Stadium since his last workday in Babe Ruth's house. "Cliff Lee versus CC Sabathia," Costas mused about the scheduled pitching matchup for the opener against Cleveland, featuring the AL's last two winners of the Cy Young Award. "You can't ask for more than that." "It will be an exciting day," summed up Kaat. "I'm looking forward to it." The 1:05 p.m. ET broadcast will be the first game of an MLB Network doubleheader. Game 2 will have the Blue Jays in Minnesota, with Victor Rojas and Dan Plesac on the call.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.