Thursday, May 28, 2009

Amanda Scarborough Lives Her Dream As ESPN Analyst

We caught up recently with former Aggie softball All-American Amanda Scarborough, who worked with ESPN last weekend for its ESPNU broadcast of the UCLA-Missouri Super Regional in Los Angeles. Scarborough teamed with play-by-play announcer Justin Kutcher to provide color commentary for the three-game series. The games turned out to be perhaps the most hotly contested of the Super Regional round, as underdog Mizzou stunned No. 2-seed UCLA in three games to advance to the College World Series.

Q: Had you thought much about trying to get into broadcasting?
Scarborough: It’s always been a dream of mine to work for ESPN, whether it be on air or behind-the-scenes type stuff. I like sports and I like the media, so I felt like it made perfect sense for me.

Q: How did you land the opportunity to broadcast?
Scarborough: Last year before I was hurt, I was in contact with one of the main producers at ESPN Regional and talked to her about possible internships and working with them over the summer. Then I got hurt and couldn’t really do anything from March through June. So, about a whole year passed and in the middle of this April she contacted me and asked if I’d consider being an analyst for postseason. I was all over it.

Q: So what did you have to do to prepare for your debut broadcast?
Scarborough: I went to North Carolina, which is where ESPN Regional Television is headquartered. I met with the producers, and we went over some old games. I was able to talk to a lot of different people who had done softball games in order to figure out what I’m doing. It was good to talk to them so I could get a feel for what I needed to do.

Q: What kinds of advice did they give you to help you prepare?
They told me to have my personality and don’t try and be just like (current TV analysts) Michele Smith or Jessica Mendoza. They also talked a lot about confidence, because if I say something and I’m not very sure about it, it’s not going to give me much credibility with people watching at home. We talked a lot about me being myself and having a lot of confidence.

Q: I’m sure you were familiar with the Big 12 team, Missouri, but what kinds of things did you do to get ready to broadcast about both teams, players and coaches?
Scarborough: I had both of their media guides and also game notes, which are like 20 pages long with all their stats. The game was on Saturday, so we had Friday to watch the teams practice, and we were able to interview both coaches and three or four players from each team.

Q: Was it interesting being on the other side of the microphone for once?
Scarborough: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I was pretty familiar with Missouri, and that made the broadcast a little easier. But, I didn’t know a whole lot about UCLA, but they are one of the most well-known programs in the history of the game. That made it a little better, as well.

Q: Were you nervous when you first put on the headset and the red light was about to come on?
Scarborough: I felt like I was about to go and play in the game. As a player you love that feeling and you thrive on it. It’s what gets you excited, and I finally settled down around the third or fourth inning.

Q: Were there any surprising elements to the job?
Scarborough: It was a little overwhelming in the first few innings of the first game, because you’re trying to watch the game, figure out what’s going on, pay attention to the pitcher and answer questions from the play-by-play guy all at once. And then you have the producer in your headset talking to you about replays, because that’s one of your main jobs as an analyst. All this stuff was going on, and it was hard for me to go in one direction while five different (aspects of the job) are pulling you in different ways. After the first game, I was a lot more comfortable with it.

Q: So, does the producer talking to you throughout the broadcast?
Scarborough: Yes, even when I was in the middle of saying something, he would be saying what we needed to talk about next. There is constantly stuff being said. As a viewer, you really have no idea how much is going on. It’s mainly stuff being said to the play-by-play guy, but I hear everything in my headset too, so even if I were talking, there would be someone kind of talking over me. My heart was beating so fast in the first couple of innings. Sometimes I would be in the middle of saying something and the producer would start to talk, and I’d pause for a second before I realized I needed to keep talking because everyone (watching on TV) is listening to me.

Q: Now that you’ve had some time to reflect what kind of grade would you give yourself?
Scarborough: For my first time, I thought I had some good reviews from my friends and family. The producers said I did a pretty good job, and I felt like it got better as the weekend went on. By the third game, I was a lot more comfortable with everything.

Q: Is broadcasting something you would like to do again?
Scarborough: Definitely. I’d really like to. For this year, all that’s left is the World Series, and ESPN obviously has their A-team who has done it for the last few years. I really hope they’d like to have me back at some point in the future because it was a lot of fun.

Q: Now that the World Series field is set, from your experienced analyst point of view, what team might win the national title?
Scarborough: They asked me that during the broadcast, too, and there’s not one team where you can say, ‘Oh yeah, they’re definitely going to win it.’ All the teams are really even. Just because Florida is ranked No. 1, that doesn’t mean they will go in there and make a clean sweep. Once you get to the World Series, all bets are off.

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