Passion for softball drives ESPN’s extensive coverage of elite Clearwater tournament

CLEARWATER – Meg Aronowitz knows it takes a village to host the St. Pete Clearwater Elite Invitational.

For more than 15 years, ESPN’s coordinating producer has led the network’s softball coverage. She pours into every game to make sure the company improves the game.

That’s why the four days in Clearwater are fun for Aronowitz and his team. With more than 165 ESPN crew members, the company streams all 40 games across ESPN’s various platforms using four production trucks and 35 cameras spread across four courts at the Eddie C. Moore Complex.

“I believe you have to show it to develop it,” Aronowitz, 44, said. “I know people have heard me say this many times, but the truth is that’s how you capture people because I believe if you put a product on the air that captures people, they’re going to stay. .

Related: FSU softball hosts slew of tough Tests in Clearwater tournament

Michele Smith, tournament host and analyst for ESPN, also acknowledges the work that has been done to put the invite on a wider platform over the past four years. The event, Smith said, is the first women’s tournament that the company’s events division has “set foot on.”

“Softball is a priority for ESPN,” she said. “The number of dedicated people we have who want to be at this event, who want to be at the Women’s College World Series, just shows ESPN’s dedication to the sport of women’s softball.”

From left, ESPN analysts Michele Smith, in red, and Amanda Scarborough join play-by-play announcer Beth Mowins for games at the St. Pete Clearwater Elite Invitational. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]

Behind the Field 8 fence are two production trucks, roughly the size of a tractor-trailer. Each truck has three sections, each the size of a bedroom, for audio, replay and video production.

Inside the video production room, just under 10 people are seated behind screens with individual tasks. A director directs the show while coordinating producers’ assistance with soundboards, replays, and talent calling the game. Wearing separate headsets, there are simultaneous conversations between those inside the truck, the cameramen on location and those in Bristol, Connecticut, ESPN’s headquarters.

The main truck crew manages a wall of 41 monitors, watching the games from all eight camera angles on the 8 field – five in the outfield and three around first and third base and home plate.

ESPN crew members sit inside a production truck behind field 8 at the St. Pete Clearwater Elite Invitational.
ESPN crew members sit inside a production truck behind field 8 at the St. Pete Clearwater Elite Invitational. [ MARI FAIELLO | Times ]

“I tell people all the time that producing live television is the closest thing you can get to playing live sports again,” said Aronowitz, who played on the first-team intercollegiate softball in the United States. Emory University in 1999.

Every morning, Aronowitz said she makes it a priority to walk around and say hello to all of her production crews — from the people who sit in the trucks to the technicians and cameramen.

It’s one of Aronowitz’s favorite moments of the tournament because it’s also a sense of accomplishment, acknowledging that the work put into preparing for the weekend is finally paying off.

“I can look around and say that not only did we do this, but it’s such a success and brings so much joy to so many people,” Aronowitz said. “I just like to walk around and say thank you to my team and let them know that I appreciate the fact that they’re probably about to go to work a hard 18 hour day.”

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It’s easier for Aronowitz to have the crew have a passion for the sport and the tournament, just like her. Camera operators may work between 100 and 150 events each year, but she has grassroots technician employees — who often work in other sports — who request to work on the Clearwater-based tournament.

“They want to be there because they love it so much,” Aronowitz added, “because the passion of the fans and the teams and the access they give us is such a different level of energy with this sport. than other sports.

St. Pete Clearwater Elite Softball Invitational

Until Sunday, Eddie C. Moore Complex, Clearwater

Today: UCLA vs. Auburn, 10 a.m. (ESPN); Notre Dame at LSU, 10:30 a.m. (SEC); Tennessee vs. UCF, 10:30 a.m. (ESPN+); Northwestern at Clemson, 11 (ACC); Michigan at FSU, 1 p.m. (ACC); Oklahoma State vs. USF, 1:30 (ESPN+); Texas Tech vs. Washington, 2:30 (ESPN+); Texas vs. UCLA, 4 (ESPNU); Michigan at LSU, 5 (ESPN+); Wisconsin vs. Clemson, 5:30 (ESPN+); Washington vs. Oklahoma State, 6 (ESPN+); UCF vs. Texas, 7

More information: stpeteclearwatereliteinvite.com

Contact Mari Faiello at [email protected]. To follow @faiello_mari.

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