The 2022 Major League Baseball season is here, and with it comes a new way to watch games on ESPN. Fans who enjoy either a unique approach to primetime outings or the sound of Alex Rodriguez inaccurately analyzing baseball can treat themselves to Sunday Night Baseball With Kay-Rod, a new, complementary broadcast to the regular edition of SNB.
What is Sunday Night Baseball With Kay-Rod, and why should fans care? Here’s our handy guide to ESPN’s newest attempt at replicating the ManningCast’s magic.
What is Sunday Night Baseball With Kay-Rod?
Theoretically speaking, if you enjoyed Eli and Peyton Manning trading barbs on Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli, then you will love what’s to come when Rodriguez and Michael Kay team up on Sunday Night Baseball With Kay-Rod.
At least, that’s what ESPN hopes will happen.
KayRod (not to be confused with former All-Star closer Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez) is an alternate broadcast that will debut on Sunday, April 10, when the New York Yankees host the Boston Red Sox. ESPN announced in March 2022 that eight games, including three in the season’s first five weeks, will earn the KayRod treatment. As with the ManningCast, the KayRod games will air on ESPN2.
Kay and Rodriguez will call that week’s game remotely from a New York studio. Guests will join the two each week to discuss both the game and their own stories. Rodriguez is also expected to perform live demonstrations during games, similar to what MLB Network analysts do during studio shows.
Kay and Rodriguez are also expected to call a showdown between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday, July 21, at 10 p.m. ET.
Is this a spin-off of the ManningCast?
Well, yes and no. Although the ManningCast‘s success likely inspired ESPN to try something similar with Sunday Night Baseball, the Worldwide Leader has done alternate simulcasts — also known as a Megacast — dating back to 2006.
Technically speaking, KayRod probably wouldn’t be considered a spin-off of the ManningCast, but there will likely be enough similarities that such a comparison will feel warranted.
Who is Michael Kay?
Baseball fans definitely know Rodriguez, the three-time American League MVP who hit 696 home runs, won the 2009 World Series, and served a 162-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. In addition to serving as a Sunday Night Baseball commentator in recent years, he also contributes to Fox’s MLB coverage.
Whether or not a St. Louis Cardinals fan in Missouri or a Houston Astros fan in Oregon knows who Kay is, however, is another story.
Kay, who turned 61 in February, has been the Yankees’ full-time television announcer since 2002. He covered the Yankees as a newspaper reporter in the early 1990s before partnering with John Sterling on the team’s broadcasts beginning in 1992. Older baseball fans might also remember Kay for his work in the All-Star Baseball video game series.
Known for his signature “See Ya!” home run call, Kay has lent his voice to many of the Yankees’ signature moments over the last three decades. His voice is attached to images such as Derek Jeter’s 3,000th career hit, Mariano Rivera’s final game, and many of Aaron Judge’s recent home runs.
So, Kay would have called Rodriguez’s Yankees games, right?
That is correct. Kay called the majority of Rodriguez’s regular-season games from the third baseman’s arrival in 2004 to his final game in 2016. In fact, the veteran announcer was on the call for the All-Star’s 600th home run, 660th homer, and 3,000th hit, among other notable moments.
Interestingly, though, Kay didn’t call Rodriguez’s 500th home run. Former Baltimore Orioles outfielder Ken Singleton instead held play-by-play duties when the power-hitting righty smashed a ball over the left-field wall on Aug. 4, 2007.
Who will call the regular version of Sunday Night Baseball?
Those who don’t sit through KayRod will instead enjoy the trio of Karl Ravech, David Cone, and Eduardo Pérez on the regular ESPN broadcast.
Ravech, the longtime host of Baseball Tonight, has called MLB games dating back to 2013. Pérez, who played in parts of 13 MLB seasons with six franchises, has worked at ESPN since 2014. He and Ravech have called everything from the MLB postseason to Korean Baseball Organization games together.
Cone, a five-time World Series champion and five-time All-Star pitcher, is a newcomer to ESPN. However, he’s far from a stranger to broadcasting, and he’s been a popular color commentator on Yankees games since making his YES Network debut in 2008. Cone is well respected in baseball circles for citing advanced statistics in broadcasts and trying to further the conversation rather than sticking to the same tired stories and tropes.
For all intents and purposes, Cone’s broadcasting is akin to a steakhouse, and Rodriguez is a fast-food restaurant. Everything involving Cone is superior, but there will likely be enough people drawn to Rodriguez, given his name and history, that KayRod could do well in the ratings. In the end, isn’t that what ESPN wants?