Winter 2018


Pitch Perfect

Game 7 of the world series had all the requisite drama, and director Matt Gangl made sure his team didn't miss a beat


After a controversial gesture directed at the Dodger pitcher earlier in the World Series got him into hot water, Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel tips his hat to Yu Darvish during their first encounter in Game 7. (Photo: Robert Hanashiro/USA Today Sports)

Game Seven of the recent World Series could not have been loaded with more significance: an unprecedented squaring off between two 100-win teams; an organization (the Houston Astros) that had never won the Fall Classic; a storied franchise (the L.A. Dodgers) that had not taken the MLB title in almost 30 years, playing the final game in their own stadium for the first time ever.

Then there was some backstage drama involving an Astro first baseman (Yuli Gurriel) who had made a racially insensitive gesture in reference to a Dodger pitcher (Yu Darvish) earlier in the series that added an extra layer of tension.

Although the game would end up not being as competitive as the ones leading up to it, as the Astros generated an insurmountable lead in the second inning, it did not detract from the drama, particularly that first encounter between the game's designated villain and his maligned adversary.

"You knew the crowd would be booing," says Matt Gangl, who directed the World Series for Fox Sports. "In that first at bat, I didn't want to show a ton of the crowd booing because I wanted it to be more about the moment between the two players and what's going on on the field."

That first face-off lived up to its billing, a protracted battle with more than a dozen pitches thrown. But the showdown contained a prelude— a wordless expression by Gurriel that signaled mutual respect.

"I was hoping there would be some kind of a gesture, a little point out to him, a little nod," says Gangl about Gurriel tipping his hat to Darvish before stepping into the batter's box. "The cap was an appropriate gesture for Gurriel in that moment."

With 40 cameras—30 of them manned—used to capture all phases of the game, Gurriel should have known in Game 3 after his home run against Darvish that even in the dugout there is no escape from prying eyes.

"It was on the MLB International feed, which is the straight-on shot," says Gangl of the infamous moment. "At the same time we were on a shot from a camera down the dugout, looking at his profile, because [when somebody] just hits a big home run, you're going back for reaction in the dugout, [especially] when you're talking about the World Series. When the camera counts have quadrupled, there's going to be eyes on you."

To prep his production team, Gangl calls a camera meeting before the game. "We'll talk through scenarios, situations where people need to be in those spots," explains Gangl.

"I also give those guys some freedom. I'm sitting in a production truck. I can't see what's going on in the stadium. I can anticipate what might be happening but I won't see a shot in the dugout that's going on unless somebody shows me that, so I always tell those guys there, 'You're my eyes. I can't see what's going on in there without your lens.'"

Compared to basketball and soccer, baseball is a relatively drawn-out affair with a lot of stagnant stretches. In the old days, a legendary broadcaster like L.A.'s Vin Scully could fill in the blanks with a raconteur's poetry. But in the age of hightech home entertainment, viewers want spectacle, even when there's seemingly not much going on.

"Those are directing moments," says Gangl, "where I can set up who's on deck, what's going on. Is there somebody up in the bullpen? How many runners on base? Are the fans nail-biting? Is the guy who just struck out in the dugout still sitting there with his head down? What stories can I tell in those situations that are 'dead time'? To me, those are my moments to really provide a bridge between pitches."

Sports Directing
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