When news broke that Bert Blyleven’s role would be reduced in the FSN broadcast booth, media critics speculated that this meant expanded workloads for Justin Morneau, Jack Morris, Torii Hunter, and other ex-Twins.
While that may be true, they’ll also have another guest in the booth: Champ, the Skateboarding Dog.
“We’re really looking to shake things up in the booth while still providing the excellent mix of play-by-play and analysis our viewers expect,” said FSN Director of Communications Becky Mielke. “Champ is a good boy who loves treats, belly rubs, and the national pastime.”
Critics are skeptical.
“A dog? On a skateboard? I approve of both those things unconditionally, but in this context I don’t understand,” said the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand.
“I’m no fan of Blyleven, but this is at best a lateral move,” said Baseball Prospectus’ Aaron Gleeman. “Still, the skateboard intrigues me.”
FSN is confident that Champ will blend seamlessly into the broadcasts.
“Champ has an excellent feel for the game, and shares a real chemistry with Dick (Bremer, longtime Twins announcer),” said Mielke. “And he and Bert are housebroken about equally, so that won’t be an issue going forward.”
As for the skateboarding, Champ’s owner says the dog, a German shepherd/border collie mix, has been gleaming cubes and doing ollies since he was a pup.
“Oh, Champ took to the skateboard straightaway, mister, he sure did” said Terry, a soot-covered Dickensian ragamuffin in a watchcap who didn’t offer a surname or place of residence. “Couldn’t afford one from the department store, so me and Pa built one with parts from the scrapyard. You shoulda seen him go up and down the old factory road like a real live person, mister!”
Champ is expected to do tricks between innings for fans at Target Field as well.
“I don’t really want to oversell the tricks aspect,” said Mielke. “I mean, he’s a dog on a skateboard. That’s the trick. What we’re interested in is the knowledge he brings to each broadcast.”
Which leads to the obvious question: How can a non-talking animal add anything to a baseball broadcast?
“It’s really pretty simple,” said Mielke. “One bark means strike. Two barks means ball. A series of barks is a home run, and a low growl means there’s a squirrel on the field and Dick needs to restrain him, because he will absolutely go after that squirrel.
“We had the same system with (former FSN reporter) Robby Incmikoski. The production team is ready.”