|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||30|
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Original network||ESPN, ESPN2 (1990-present)|
|Original release||March 19, 1990 -|
|Related shows||ESPN Major League Baseball|
Sunday Night Baseball
Monday Night Baseball
Wednesday Night Baseball
Major League Baseball on ESPN Radio
Baseball Tonight (stylized as Baseball Tonight presented by Chevrolet for sponsorship reasons) is a program that airs on ESPN. The show, which covers the day's Major League Baseball action, has been on the air since 1990. Its namesake program also airs on ESPN Radio at various times of the day during the baseball season, with Marc Kestecher as host.
In 2017, daily airing of the show, other than its Sunday airing, were replaced by MLB Network's Intentional Talk, which stopped airing on ESPN2 in December 2018 As of December 27, 2019, Baseball Tonight airs on Sundays before Sunday Night Baseball, for major events such as the MLB All-Star Game, College World Series, MLB Postseason, and Winter Meetings, along with SportsCenter segments during the season.
Baseball Tonight appeared nightly on ESPN throughout the baseball season at 10:00 p.m. ET and 12:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2. The 10 PM show aired on ESPN2 in the event of a conflict. Following the cancellation of The Trifecta in late 2006, the 12:00 a.m. run of Baseball Tonight was expanded to a full 40 minutes. The show has permission from Major League Baseball to show in-progress highlights. The show was also seen at 12:30 p.m. ET and 7:00 p.m. ET on Sundays, the latter show leading up to the Sunday Night Baseball telecast. The late-night edition on Sundays was usually just a re-air of the 7:00 show, with a SportsCenter anchor providing highlights of the Sunday night game in place of a game preview segment that airs during the live broadcast. The midnight edition usually re-aired at 12:00 p.m. ET the following day (excluding Saturday, when the show is usually 40 minutes to a full hour). That practice ended Monday August 11, 2008, when SportsCenter went to live editions in the mornings.
Starting in April 2017 the weekday and Saturday editions of Baseball Tonight was replaced by the MLB Network-produced program Intentional Talk. In December 2018, four months before the deal to air Intentional Talk was to end in April 2019, the show stopped airing on ESPN2, with airings on MLB Network being unaffected. For the 2019 season, despite rumors of a return of the show daily, ESPN, just as they did the past two years, kept Baseball Tonight airing sporadically thorough the season Monday-Saturday, along with the weekly Sunday version Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown before Sunday Night Baseball. Also, a segment on SportsCenter known as the Baseball Tonight Report started, which aired all throughout the Major League Baseball season. During the Playoffs, Baseball Tonight goes back to its traditional daily airings on ESPN2.
The show also appeared live at events throughout the year, such as spring training, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game and the World Series sites, at ESPN the Weekend, and occasionally had remote stunts, i.e. a show from the rooftop at Fenway Park and a show from one of the Wrigley Rooftops at Wrigley Field in 2005. It aired live from the field at Fenway Park on April 26, 2009 before the Sunday Night Baseball game between the Yankees–Red Sox game, which featured an interview with Dustin Pedroia. On June 28, 2009, it aired from Citi Field in anticipation of that night's Subway Series game between the Mets and the Yankees. During the 2019 Season, Baseball Tonight went on-location for the defending World Series champions Boston Red Sox Home Opener, along with going to London, England for the New York Yankees vs the Boston Red Sox.
On January 3, 2000, the segment "Web Gems" was coined and created by then-producer Judson Burch. The segment originally featured great defensive plays followed by viewer internet voting on the "web." The phrase "web gem" is now common vernacular in baseball broadcasts and circles to describe outstanding glove-work.
In 2007, a new segment entitled "That's Nasty!" was introduced. The new segment featured top pitching performances of the day, including the best individual pitches. These clips often include extremely high velocity fastballs, 12-6 curveballs, or changeups that completely fool the opposing batters.
In May 2017, as the result of major staff cuts implemented by ESPN (which saw the layoff of several ESPN baseball reporters), the network cancelled the weekday editions of Baseball Tonight, leaving only the editions that are broadcast before Sunday Night Baseball and on special occasions such as the Little League World Series and during the postseason.
In January 2019, the network announced that Baseball Tonight would not return to the network's lineup as a part of its MLB coverage in 2019 as a daily show. The Sunday version, Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown, still airs before every Sunday Night Baseball game.
Baseball Tonight is split into a number of segments, each of which focuses on a particular aspect of baseball. These segments include:
One featured running gag on the show is the spoof segment "Name That Molina", where one of the personalities has to guess which of the three Molina catcher brothers – Bengie, Jose, or Yadier – is being shown. "Name that LaRoche" is another spoof segment featuring the two brothers who play for the Toronto Blue Jays Andy and the Washington Nationals Adam. Another running gag is the Umpire Fantasy League in which "owners" of umpires in this fictitious league are rewarded for their umpires ejecting players or coaches. It is unclear whether this is reference to the real-life Umpire Ejection Fantasy League. Also another gag in session is when an analyst on the show uses the "Stump the host" slogan. This is when the analyst has information on a certain players milestone that has just happened on the telecast. An example is when a player hits a home run, double, steals a base, or strikes someone out and the analyst will say "Stump the Host; Career hr/strikeout/2-B/SB/etc. number __? The host very seldom knows the answer but will take a reasonable, and sometimes ludicrous, guess at what the answer might be. This gag is very seldom used but sometimes is quite comical for the fact that the host has no idea what the answer may be.
ESPN is generally prohibited by Major League Baseball from showing live look-ins of in-progress games, and limited to showing in-progress highlights after they happen. However, an exception is made when there is an extraordinary event taking place, such as a no-hitter or perfect game, and ESPN is allowed to show live look-ins during Baseball Tonight. Other circumstances include an ESPN-scheduled game which suffers a rain delay, or is completely rained out and postponed.
Some have criticized the program because of a perceived bias in favor of certain teams. The most vocal comment was expressed by Heath Bell:
I truly believe ESPN only cares about promoting the Red Sox and Yankees and Mets - and nobody else. That's why I like the MLB Network, because they promote everybody. I'm really turned off by ESPN and 'Baseball Tonight.' When (then-Padre) Jake Peavy threw 8 innings on Saturday, they showed one pitch in the third inning and that was it. It's all about the Red Sox, Yankees, and Mets.
In late 2012, mobile game company SkyZone Entertainment and TheAppsGames released ESPN Going Going Gone, an arcade style home run derby game for both Android and iOS. The game features an intro and voice over by ESPN's Dan Shulman and ESPN trademark.
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