After the recent purchase of The Score television by Rogers Media, they announced that they were going to re-brand the channel to Sportsnet 360 which will launch tomorrow on Canada Day. Of course my first question is: what happens to the channel on the other five days of the year?
(Note: theScore, which is the digital media side of the company where one can find the Coors Light-powered Drunk Jays Fans, Getting Blanked, and other goodies, are still an independent company. Also, apparently one can get drunk on Coors Light. For fun you should ask Andrew Stoeten on Twitter whether he's been bought by Rogers.)
Tomorrow, Sportsnet 360 will be broadcasting Blue Jays Central at 12:30 pm followed by the Blue Jays-Tigers game at 1 pm (times Eastern). Don't fret if you don't get that channel, as it will also be broadcast on your local Sportsnet channel.
After the game, when the local Sportsnet stations go to Connected, Sportsnet 360 will be broadcasting the premiere of their new half-hour post-game show Blue Jays Xpress, hosted by Eric Smith along with analysis and opinion from Paul Spoljaric, Greg O'Halloran, and Michael Grange. Smith is well-known to Toronto sports fans as the colour analyst for the Toronto Raptors and the host of their post-game shows. Paul Spoljaric was a Blue Jay in 1994, 1996-1997, and 1999 (he, along with Mike Timlin, was traded for Jose Cruz, Jr.), and Greg O'Halloran played briefly with the Marlins in 1994 after a few years in the Blue Jays organization. If you're a fan of Mike Wilner's Blue Jays Talk on the radio, don't worry because he'll continue to host that show.
I had a chance to ask Eric Smith a few questions and he was kind enough to answer.
I'm always happy to hear more Blue Jays-related content popping up, it just reflects how much interest there is in baseball again in Toronto and across the country. When was Blue Jays Xpress first pitched?
I can tell you though (well, at least I think I can) that this is not something that has simply popped up as a result of the Jays' 11-game winning streak. The show has been in the works for quite some time and the launch-date coinciding with the resurgence of the team is merely a coincidence. Heck, as I'm writing this, the Jays (unfortunately) have now lost 4 of 5!
Can you tell me more about the format of the show? I know that it will be 30 minutes long.
I don't know if it's fair to say that there will be a set-in-stone format for every single show, but you can expect to see some or all of these components on a night-to-night basis: extended highlight packs (beyond the 60-90 seconds you might get on Connected), post-game player interviews, John Gibbons' post-game media scrum (part or full), player scrum(s) from the locker room, fan reaction (following home games) on-the-street outside the King/Blue Jay Way studios, and audience participation / interaction via Twitter--folks will have a chance to see/hear their Tweets address live on the air from analysts Paul Spoljaric and Greg O'Halloran. In addition to all of that, to sort of piggyback on my last point, there will be analysis and opinion (with highlights, clips, stat boards, etc) from former Major Leaguers Spoljaric and O'Halloran as well as Sportsnet's Michael Grange. We will also make time for quick highlights of key AL East games/teams.
How often will fans see Blue Jays Xpress? And will it be on Sportsnet 360 no matter which channel the game was broadcast on?
The show will always be on Sportsnet 360. It will air Monday-Friday, including west coast games. Due to scheduling conflicts with the WWE and some MMA programming, the show will air at 11 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays and 10 pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays (except the west coast games of course). If a game goes beyond any of these scheduled times (i.e. the last out is recorded at 10:07 pm on a Tuesday) we will hit the air as soon as Buck and Pat wrap up.
What does a basketball guy like you know about baseball? Will fans see elements of the Raptors' post-game show in Blue Jays Xpress?
At the risk of sounding like Al Bundy telling war stories of his old high school glory days, I grew up with baseball being a big part of my life. I played the game, like many of you out there, at a lot of different levels from house league to select, rep, and high school ball too for nearly 20 years. During my 4 years of high school baseball I played in front of scouts from the Padres, Rockies, and Marlins (though I'm about 99.9% sure they were there to watch our Grade 9 catching phenom; not me! haha). Kevin Foley, who played with the Intercounty Maple Leafs was a teammate of mine in high school (his brother, Sean, was an acquaintance too--and he's clearly doing big things now as Tiger Woods' swing coach). So I've always been a fan of the game and, simply, a fan of the Blue Jays as well. Growing up in the GTA and seeing the back-to-back World Series Championships solidified my interest and passion in the game as a fan and as a player... for whatever that was worth. Plus, when all is said and done, though I am certainly not just a 'talking head', my job as host is to ask the right questions, keep the show flowing, and let the analysts do their work. O'Halloran and Spoljaric are the stars; they're bringing the meat to the show.
How closely do you follow Blue Jays blogs and fans on social media?
I'd be lying if I said I follow a ton; but that's not due to lack of interest or anything like that. I think, fault or not, I simply tend to read more of the columns and stories via Sportsnet, the Sun, Star, Globe, etc. I do talk about the Jays quite a bit on Twitter though--long before I had a chance to work on this show--so I know that the fanbase of the Jays is rabid in social media circles and in the blogosphere as well. A number of folks at the FAN follow (read) this site on Twitter; that's a fact. And I, and many others, have long be readers of blogs like The Tao of Stieb too.
You can follow Eric Smith on Twitter @Eric__Smith (double underscore!) and Paul Spoljaric @PSpoljaric, although he hasn't started tweeting yet! Remember that Sportsnet 590 the FAN will be simulcasting the Buffalo Bisons game at 7 pm on Canada Day.