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Sunday, March 3, 2024

MLB Network Adding Local Touch To Its Documentary Series

Aug 12, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners hitting coach Edgar Martinez (11) acknowledges the fans following his number retirement ceremony before a game against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
MLB Network Documentary
Photo Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

When it came to promoting its latest documentary on the 1995 Seattle Mariners team, MLB Network went right to the most captive audience – Mariners fans.

The documentary, titled ‘The 1995 Mariners: Saving Baseball in Seattle,’ chronicles the team’s stunning playoff run that also helped spark local support for a stadium vote, which ultimately kept the team in Seattle. It features interviews with key players on the team, like Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez and Mike Blowers. It is the 36th such documentary in the ‘MLB Network Presents’ series.

While the topic alone might have drawn in Mariners fans, MLB Network wanted to take it a step further, hosting a local private screening for season-ticket holders – some of whom had tickets during the 1995 season – that was also attended by Blowers and Martinez, as well as Dan Wilson.

It marks the 12th time that MLB Network has held a local screening for the documentary series, which it launched in 2015. Those screenings have not only helped to add another layer of excitement and interest around the series and the documentary’s debut, but also helped to engage fans in those markets around some of the most memorable moments in their team’s respective histories.

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“At its core, we were trying to create an event to attract more attention from the local media,” said Mary Beck, MLB Network senior vice president of marketing and promotions. “But we all internally came away remarking about the experience of seeing something like this on a big screen rather than on your television, surrounded by a hometown audience that was hanging on every word.”

The idea came to the network when it was set to release a documentary in 2016 on Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, a larger-than-life character who captivated Detroit Tigers fans with his unique personality. Talking to the Tigers about marketing the film, Beck learned that Fidrych’s family was heading to Detroit to celebrate Fidrych’s debut in 1976. The network and the Ilitch Family worked together to show a screening of the documentary to about 400 season-ticket holders, many of who shared their memories of the late pitcher, who had passed away in 2009.

That sort of coming together around these stories has helped the documentaries resonate in other markets, as well as create these special moments that Beck said may have otherwise been impossible to recreate or predict.

That has ranged from Mike Trout attending the screening of ‘Mike Trout: Milville to MVP,’ Hall of Famer Johnny Bench getting emotional after watching ‘Bench,’ the Gwynn family receiving a standing ovation from the screening audience members of ‘Mr. Padre,’ Vin Scully and Orel Hershiser reliving the 1988 Dodgers season in a Q&A after watching ‘Only In Hollywood,’ and John Smoltz, Bobby Cox, John Schuerholz and Terry Pendleton slapping high-fives as they watched ‘Atlanta Rules, The Story of the 90s Braves.’

“We go into many of these just thinking we’re going to do a Q&A or have fans who want to just ask questions,” Beck said. “But most people there when they get a chance to get on the microphone just want  to share their stories, their memories and that moment with people who can all relate to what they were feeling at that time.”

MLB Network Analyst Harold Reynolds, who played several seasons in Seattle and emceed the Mariners event, said its documentaries and events like this that “connect history.”

“It’s everyone’s goal to continually keep the history of baseball alive and tell that story,” he said. “To be able to ultimately do that with an organization in an intimate way is not only important for the fans, but for the organization as well as a way to celebrate their history – I talked to multiple people with the Mariners who want to show this documentary not only to every player on the team, but every person in the front office as well.”

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Beck said that while the intimate nature of these events has been to their benefit, it’s her hope that they can expand even further. MLB Network has been in talks with the Mariners to show the documentary again after a game following Martinez’s induction in the Hall of Fame this year.

“The community around a team is what makes things special,” Beck said. “If we can do something to help bring fans together and root for their team, we’re accomplishing a great thing.”

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