The Red Sox begin their 2011 season on Friday, meaning it's time to make room for a few familiar faces in your life. Of course, we mean NESN's Don Orsillo, Jerry Remy and Heidi Watney.
The 2010 season was a disappointing one in many aspects for the Boston Red Sox. They failed to make the postseason for only the second time since 2003, and interest in the team appeared to wane as reflected in low TV ratings for NESN.
Enter Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Boston's two big offseason acquisitions restored the buzz to the Red Sox in a hurry. It is a buzz that NESN and the other television broadcast partners of Major League Baseball hope to capitalize on as the Red Sox begin their season Friday afternoon in Texas.
Team-owned NESN begins its 28th season of Red Sox broadcasts today, with the 11-year pairing of Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy in the booth. Heidi Watney begins her fourth year as the broadcast reporter.
In the studio, Tom Caron is back for his eighth year as host of the Red Sox pre and post game coverage. Once again, the pregame show will be an hour long, but now divided into two shows, (so as to add another sponsor), with Red Sox First Pitch driven by Your New England Acura Dealers starting an hour before each game, followed by Red Sox GameDay LIVE presented by Uno starting a half-hour later. Caron will again be joined by a rotation of studio analysts -- Dennis Eckersley (ninth year), Jim Rice (ninth year) and Peter Gammons (second year).
There is also an hour of postgame coverage, again divided into two segments -- WB Mason Extra Innings LIVE and Red Sox Final.
Additionally, NESN will have a pair of weekly shows devoted to the Red Sox, with The Ultimate Red Sox Show with Heidi Watney presented by Arbella Insurance airing Sundays at noon, beginning April 10; and Red Sox Report presented by CVS Pharmacy, which examines off-field matters regarding the team.
On the radio side, WEEI announced on Thursday that they have signed voice Dave O'Brien to a multi-year extension. O'Brien, who begins his fifth season on the Red Sox radio network, said, "To be a Red Sox voice is a special honor for me, as a local guy. To know I'll be calling the Sox for years to come, with a great partner, makes it even sweeter. I'm delighted." Red Sox fans should be as well.
Along with the venerable Joe Castiglione and O'Brien in the booth, the team will have veteran radio voice Dale Arnold as part of the team. With O'Brien still working national games for ESPN, Arnold will fill in on those games, as well as filling in during any unexpected absences that may come up. Arnold was recently reassigned from his weekday show on WEEI, and as part of his new duties will be taking on a larger role with the Red Sox and Celtics radio broadcasts.
On the national front, the Red Sox will as usual, be featured plenty of times to national audiences on ESPN, FOX and TBS. In the first two months of the season alone, the Red Sox are scheduled to make 10 appearances on those three networks. ESPN will carry Friday afternoon's opener (NESN locally) and TBS will have Sunday's game (also on NESN locally). Next week, when the Yankees come in for the Red Sox' home opener, FOX will carry the Saturday game on April 9, and the Red Sox and Yankees will be ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball featured game the next night, April 10.
ESPN has a few names familiar to Red Sox fans on their broadcast team. In addition to Dave O'Brien, who will again broadcast Wednesday night games for the network, former TV38 Red Sox play-by-play man Sean McDonough is the new voice of Monday Night Baseball where he is teamed up with Rick Sutcliffe and Aaron (bleeping) Boone. O'Brien will be joined in the booth by Sutcliffe and, for select games, former Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra ... Former WEEI afternoon personality Pete Sheppard begins a daily show on internet radio station HurricaneRadio.net today. His show will air 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET weekdays.