ESPN’s ‘KayRod Cast’ seeks to mix conversation with acting

Seven months after Peyton and Eli Manning provided a blueprint for how alternative shows could succeed, Alex Rodriguez and Michael Kay think they can improve on it.

The “KayRod Cast” with Rodriguez and Kay debuts Sunday night on ESPN2 when the Boston Red Sox take on the New York Yankees. It will be the first of eight this season that will take place while “Sunday Night Baseball” airs on ESPN.

“Well, we’re in the legal process right now to get two people to adopt us so we can actually be brothers, which will give us more of a ‘Manningcast’ feel,” Kay joked on a conference call. earlier this week. . “I thought the ‘Manningcast’ was great. I think we’re going to pay a little more attention to the game.”

Alternative shows can go off the rails because the game becomes secondary to interviews and personalities, but baseball might be the only sport that can mix the two together due to the pace of play.

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Although Rodriguez and Kay are not related like the Mannings, they are longtime friends. Kay has broadcast Yankees games since 1992, while Rodriguez has spent 12 of his 22 major league seasons in pinstripes.

Rodriguez made it through to broadcasting despite some controversy on and off the pitch. While committed while working in the studio for Fox, he struggled as an analyst during his four seasons as an analyst in the “Sunday Night Baseball” booth.

But Rodriguez believes he did some of his best analyst work during a short stint in the “YES Network” booth with Kay and David Cone during a 2019 game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“I think those were the best four runs I’ve ever done on TV because I was in the middle of two very close friends, and it went back and forth,” Rodriguez said. “Michael knows exactly how to set me up because he knows me so well, so I think this format will suit me perfectly.

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Rodriguez also believes his suspension for taking performance-enhancing drugs — and the criticism he received from many, including Kay — helped him prepare for his new opportunity.

“That’s what’s really going to make this show, I think, a good thing is because you’re going to get some candor from him and me,” he said. “Honestly, before the suspension, I think the show wouldn’t have been as good because I wasn’t as comfortable. I think I’m just more comfortable in my own skin today, and we’ll let it go.

Mark Gross, ESPN’s senior vice president for remote production and events, said guests on the show would likely lean more toward players who played well on Sunday afternoon or during the weekend. last week. It will also include batting and fielding demonstrations by Rodriguez.

Sunday’s show will reunite Kay and Rodriguez at ESPN’s Seaport District Studios in New York. Some subsequent broadcasts may take place remotely, depending on their schedules. Rodriguez spends most of his time in Minnesota as a member of the NBA’s Timberwolves ownership group.

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When it comes to ratings, comparing “KayRod Cast” to “Manningcast” would be unfair. The “Manningcast” averaged 1.58 million viewers per game last season. By comparison, “Sunday Night Baseball” grew 18% in 2021 according to Nielsen, and averaged 1.46 million.

A better metric might be viewership percentage. Last season, 12% of the total “Monday Night Football” audience watched the Mannings compared to the main show.

Ratings aside, Kay said her main goal was to get Rodriguez to project his natural personality.

“I want Alex Rodriguez to be the Alex Rodriguez I was talking to in front of a locker where there was no confinement of it’s gotta be done for TV, gotta watch here, gotta break here, ’cause I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who knows baseball better than Alex,” he said.

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