Major League Baseball trusted the two early 20-somethings behind one of baseball’s biggest (and weirdest) Twitter accounts to live stream a watch party of Game 3 of the World Series last year. Three hours, they thought, should be just enough time for Jake Mintz and Jordan Shusterman of “Cespedes Family BBQ” to get in a few millennial zingers while watching the Red Sox and Dodgers.
And then the game went 18 innings. Mintz and Shusterman kept on plugging with no breaks. The performance landed the Washington-area natives an audition to host the weekend edition of streaming service DAZN’s new highlight whip-around show. The show will air from 10 p.m. to midnight Saturdays and Sundays during the MLB season. Former ESPN anchor Adnan Virk will man the desk of “ChangeUp” on weeknights.
We caught up with Mintz and Shusterman as Opening Day draws ever nearer and their rehearsal schedule heats up to learn more about the show and what they’re looking forward to this season. Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.
You’re hosting a TV show! How’d that happen?
Mintz: DAZN has really invested in the baseball space, which is frickin’ awesome. We came and auditioned the week after the Super Bowl and I guess we did well enough because now we’re doing the show. We just went to MLB Network studios and we did two hours of talking about baseball and apparently they liked it well enough.
We had done some video before, but it was basically anything that we wanted to do on our own social platforms. If we just felt like doing something we would just break open a phone and shoot it. There was no grand strategy. Like, I’m interested in what Jordan thinks about White Sox pitcher Alex Colome, so I’m going to record him doing that.
Shusterman: I think also that’s why we were so excited about this opportunity, to turn those random conversations at our desks in the afternoon into more full-blown things to talk about and go in a bunch of different directions you wouldn’t necessarily go. And a show where you can do a live look-ins, it presents so many natural opportunities to do that.
What do you want “ChangeUp” to look like?
Mintz: The No. 1 thing that I want to do is celebrate and amplify the things about baseball that bring Jordan and I joy already. And that comes from being able to do live look-ins. Like, “Manny Machado’s up to bat in San Diego; let’s watch him.” Or, “Raisel Iglesias is coming in for a save in Cincinnati. Let’s go in and watch that.” And being able to talk over those moments and try to amplify them and celebrate them is something that we’re totally psyched to be doing. My favorite thing we’ve gotten to do so far in rehearsals is to go double-box on two games. So if something happens on one, we’ll go deep on it. If something happens on the other, we’ll go back.
Shusterman: From our perspective when we’re watching games at night, obviously most of our audience is on Twitter so if you see something, you capture that and you tweet it. Maybe it’s a screenshot or a GIF or something. But the cool part about this show is there’s so much more room to just go with it and to talk about those moments.
You started Cespedes Family BBQ as a blog for fun when you were in high school. Now you’re MLB experts. Does this show feel like you’ve reached some sort of new achievement?
Mintz: That’s a really good question. I think the first instinct that we have any time we get to do something cool is holy crap. The wonder of it, the shock of the idea that people wanted us to do this and how cool that was, that was the immediate first response that I had.
Shusterman: I agree with that and also the watch party and other really cool opportunities we got to do with Cut4 and at MLB, those give me peace of mind that there is a reason I’m doing this. It’s not like I got picked out of a crowd.
Mintz: I think it hits us every time we explain the name, “Cespedes Family BBQ.”
Shusterman: Yeah, because we didn’t think we’d have to explain the name to anybody.
Well, now you have to explain the name.
Mintz: Yoenis Cespedes, His Highness our dear beloved Yoenis. When he came over from Cuba, he put together a workout tape to send around to teams. Most of those workout tapes are usually like two minutes long and it’s just guys hitting and running and throwing. Yoenis’s was 20 minutes long. It was mostly him just lifting weights and, like, catching baseballs behind his back. And then at the end there was like a minute and a half long clip of him roasting a pig over an open spit at a barbecue, which we actually later found out was his birthday party.
Shusterman: Let me just explain why that was the name of a site, and not just an inside joke. He represented this crazy thing about baseball that we love. We became friends because we were the only ones at our school who knew who Yoenis Cespedes was. Like, for me even, I think back to my time in middle school. I liked baseball, but it wasn’t my No. 1 sport, but by the end of middle school baseball was my favorite sport and I was all in. It felt like everyone else was all football and basketball, and Jake and I just connected.
Mintz: Over Facebook.
Shusterman: Literally it was just a lot of Facebook messages about baseball players other people weren’t talking about. Non-Nationals players. We were talking about other big leaguers and the minor leagues and stuff. And that led to us making these jokes and comments about baseball and thought, “Let’s put that somewhere so we can look back at them.” Even when we got on Twitter, it was that same idea but on a different platform. It was never us trying to make it blow up or turn it into something.
Mintz: There was a level of vanity in it, I think. There has to be in anyone who is a writer, just even in a shred of it where you have to believe that what you’re saying is worthy of other people looking at it. And I think we had like 2 percent of that, because when we were in high school we just wanted to write these things.
Shusterman: And then as we started to spend more time together, we developed to a point where we realized we could present this information and it can be something more. But it still took us a long time to get that serious.
Let’s get some quick thoughts on the season. What’s the story line you’re most intrigued by?
Mintz: I am really intrigued by the Phillies, which is kind of a generic answer and I understand that. But here’s why: No matter what happens, it’s going to be a story. If the Phillies are a juggernaut and they’re just crushing people, it’s going to be the biggest story in baseball because Bryce Harper is on the team. If the Phillies are super disappointing, it’s going to be the biggest story in baseball because of all the things they did in the offseason. If they’re fine and they win the second wild card spot, that’s going to be the biggest story in baseball because they’ll probably be facing off against another really good team, like the Cubs or the Cardinals.
Shusterman: I agree with that, and I’d say the NL East, I can’t remember a time when four teams all made this many additions at the same time. Mathematically, one of them is going to have to end up disappointing. And that’s also really good because I think last year going into the season there was so much talk about super teams, and you could argue those still exist —
Mintz: In the AL.
Shusterman: Yes, in the AL, but I’m excited that there are a lot of teams, especially in the NL where you could see them figuring it out or flaming out.
Mintz: And then on the player side of things, all these young players that we saw just come up, Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna Jr., Juan Soto, Gleyber Torres, all these guys have been so good at this young age that we’ve never really seen before. And I’m really excited to see them take a step forward and become the next group to be the faces of the game.
Shusterman: We already have this next wave of guys we’re excited about with Vlad Guerrero Jr., and Eloy Jiménez. We’re going to have another wave of great young players, but I also don’t want to forget that Juan Soto is going to be 20 for the whole season. It’s incredible how much baseball is completely stacked with dudes at this age and they’re succeeding immediately.
Last one: Best offseason move? Be careful. This is a Washington-based paper.
Mintz: The Reds getting Puig.
Mintz: They immediately make themselves extraordinarily relevant.
Mintz: And watchable.
Mintz: I will be watching way more of the Reds now and because of that I’ll be getting to watch all the fun players they already have, like Joey Votto and Jesse Winker and Raisel Iglesias and Scooter Gennett.
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