‘Base­ball Tonight’ throws pre­sea­son pitches on ESPN

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - On Tv - BY GE­ORGE DICKIE

By the time you read this, ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian will be well into his tour of MLB spring train­ing fa­cil­i­ties, tak­ing the pulse of each of the 30 teams as it read­ies for the 2019 sea­son.

And while he has no fa­vorites in terms of ball­parks or cities, the vet­eran “Base­ball Tonight” re­porter will ad­mit to a pref­er­ence of state.

“There’s no doubt Ari­zona is bet­ter than Florida,” he ex­plains, “be­cause if you get a ho­tel, which I of­ten do, in Scotts­dale, you can get to ba­si­cally ev­ery team in 45 min­utes or less, and a lot of places you can get to in about 15 min­utes . ... As op­posed to Florida, where I spend an aw­ful lot of time on the road driv­ing my car three, some­times three-and-a-half hours from one site to an­other . ... I rou­tinely take a 10-day trip to Florida and stay in eight dif­fer­ent ho­tels.

“Now that’s not ex­actly dif­fi­cult,” he con­tin­ues. “Frankly, it’s all good but it’s just a lot eas­ier to cover spring train­ing in Ari­zona than Florida.”

This week, base­ball re­turns to ESPN with a pair of pre­sea­son games from JetBlue Park at Fen­way South in Fort My­ers, Fla., start­ing Wed­nes­day, March 6, when Mookie Betts and the de­fend­ing world cham­pion Bos­ton Red Sox host Gre­gory Polanco and the Pitts­burgh Pirates. The Red Sox are also the home team the fol­low­ing night when they play Ed­die Rosario and the Min­nesota Twins, their Fort My­ers spring neigh­bors.

For fans and re­porters, spring train­ing is a great at­mos­phere. The weather is good, the play­ers, coaches and team ex­ec­u­tives are re­laxed from the off­sea­son and every­one is op­ti­mistic about their chances. But most im­por­tantly for Kurkjian, it means the op­por­tu­nity to col­lect a haul of in­ter­views and in­for­ma­tion that he’ll use the rest of the year.

Mookie Betts

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