Some of ESPN’s main baseball analysts — Tim Kurkjian, David Ross, Kyle Peterson — join him in the booth that hangs down from the rafters at Lamade. Other guests during games have included MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, Cubs Manager Joe Maddon, Pirates slugger Josh Bell and one of the many Williamsport natives who’s mastered the art of shaving off the back legs of lawn chairs to make proper hill seating.
“There is so much more going on here than a baseball game,” he said. “ … It’s not just the game or the fields, because nowhere else in the world are you seeing kids sliding down a hill during a baseball game. It’s like part ride at Disney World around a baseball field where a game that actually kind of matters is being played. That’s the bizarre part. And to see the Cubs go up there and Joe Maddon slide down and Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, they all went up there. That’s tremendous. My gosh, it is so much better in person than on TV.”
We caught up with Ravech in the broadcast booth between games to get his take on calling the biggest show in youth sports. Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.
I hear on every broadcast that this is the dream, to do these games. Why do you love it so much?
There are just certain events that cut through, that you remember every year, that you grew up watching. When you get into the industry if you have a chance to be a part of it, this was one of those things that you’d like to put your name with. So when you get here, it exceeds expectations, and every year it seems to get bigger and bigger and better and better. The decisions Little League makes make it really special. I just knew if I could be a part of it, I was going to do it.
Do you have a favorite memory here?
It’s really hard not to have Mo’ne Davis as your favorite memory. That was such a unique, way bigger than baseball event. When “Good Morning America” is showing up and the national news programs are using that, you realize you are part of something special. I think the Mo’ne Davis experience was so unique, but every year you come, and even today watching what’s happening, you realize, my gosh, it just works. With all due respect to the popularity of the NFL and NBA, baseball is doing something like this where everyday fans are that close, sliding down hills with major league players in the middle of the season, when there’s a regular season game that night, nowhere else does that happen.
I have two. Two boys and my wife and I now have five boys.
When you watch the kids play on this stage, what does that mean for you as a dad?
I think what makes the broadcast work, and I know the broadcast works, is because we have fun with it. Whether it’s Julie Foudy, who’s a parent, whether it’s David Ross, who’s a parent, whether it’s Kyle Peterson, who’s a parent, every one of the people involved with the broadcast all have children. So you have the ability to understand that kids speak a language all their own. And when we try to interact with them on their level, they look at us sometimes like we’re goofy.
We’re not really with them and yet we’ve all been through it. We know what it’s like to have a 12-year-old. I think that makes it far more genuine, that we understand that we can’t relate to them on the level that they relate to each other, and yet we’re trying to translate that home for the fans. That’s really what makes it work, and we don’t take it too seriously.
It’s Little League baseball. I wish we could see this at the college level and the major league level. I leave here every year saying “Why can’t we do that at a major league game?” I kind of understand some of the reasons, but, boy, it’s baseball. It’s supposed to be fun.
How is calling this game different from calling a Major League game?
I’d like to blur the lines. I wish it wasn’t very different but obviously when you’re getting into teams with records and standings in playoffs and all that, as much as this is a Little League World Series, you understand when you get here, you’ve won at every level. You’re a winner. There are no real losers at this level, whether you leave here with this trophy or not. But obviously at the major league level, when you have fans and you have other entities involved, it means, or at least we’re led to believe, it means more than a Little League game.
And I’ll tell you, you’re struck by how when you look back on your memory bank, and players today from the Cubs and Pirates will tell you, they specifically remember incidents when they were 12 playing baseball that they don’t remember from 2016, 2017, 2018. Chris Archer just told me a story: “I took so-and-so deep, I remember that part.” Those are what people remember, so in a lot of ways this is more impactful and significant in your life than a major league game.
What about the call itself? These are really clean games, but they’re not Major League Baseball games. How do you approach an error or a mistake?
I embrace it. I know having seen it through my own children that half the fun of Little League baseball is watching how the minds work, and sometimes the mind and the body aren’t going together. Of course, there are going to be mistakes.
You have to have context on the humanization of the thing, and to me, that’s so easy. Of course there are mistakes. That’s why it’s so successful. The demographics of the people that watch it, you go from age 4 to 44 to 84. You think an 84-year-old cares about a ball going through a kid’s legs? They’re remembering their playing days. It’s beautiful.
How do you prepare to cover teams that don’t play 162 games in a year and don’t have the stuff that’s available for you as a broadcaster?
The support staff that we have with all the information on the kids from Japan and the kids for Curaçao and the kids from all the United States districts, we have more information than we need. And I don’t want it to be about information, per se. There’s no sabermetrics, there’s no analytics. The story is on the field. The story is the kids and the coaches. We’ve told so many stories of tragedy and triumph and sickness and cancer and recovery and bone transplants. It’s the human part of it. The idea that you have coaches from Rhode Island making donations to a family from Kentucky whose son recently died all because literally in the last week they got to know each other, that is what, to me Little League and these relationships at the World Series are all about.