The SportsNewser Interview: Harold Reynolds

By Marcus Vanderberg 

It’s been nearly five years since Harold Reynolds’s life changed forever.

The former second baseman was a mainstay of ESPN’s baseball coverage, serving as the lead studio analyst for Baseball Tonight.

But Reynolds, 50, was fired in 2006 from ESPN for giving an intern a hug.

Yes, a hug.

Reynolds filed a lawsuit against ESPN for breaching his million-dollar contract. In April 2008, ESPN settled the lawsuit, giving Reynolds a seven figure settlement.

There’s no denying Reynolds talent, and after gigs with and SportsNet New York, he was hired by the MLB Network in 2009.

SportsNewser talked to Reynolds at the MLB Urban Invitational a couple of weeks ago about how his feelings towards ESPN and the day-to-day grind of being an analyst during baseball season.

SportsNewser: Do you have a preference to working in the booth or back in the studio?

Harold Reynolds: Wow. I like the studio. It’s tough. I like both. But studio for me, you can control the environment a little bit more. I like being able to give break downs and really take people and teach a little bit more. They really are two different animals in the baseball world. In a baseball game, I like telling people what’s going on and I can anticipate and try to tell them what might happen and stuff like that. If I had to pick, I would probably pick the studio.

You guys seem to have a lot of fun on set compared to most studio shows.

Yeah, I think if we didn’t do all that, I would rather do a game. We have a great group of guys. It starts with the leadership. Tony Petitti and John Entz have given us a lot of free range to be our own personalities and to really feel like we’re having a big impact on what’s being put out there. They let us bring our own input into the meetings. It’s great. You have a lot of freedom.

How does the day-to-day grind of a player compare to the day-to-day grind of an analyst?

Totally different … I really feel like I haven’t had a job. Playing [baseball] and then doing television. I watched my mom clean houses and stuff, so that’s work. For me, the grind I guess is a little more demanding with TV because we’re on the moment and covering everything. Even when you think you might have a day off, there’s a big news story and you have to go in and do it. So from that standpoint, the grind is probably greater with TV because you have more of a demand of coverage.

If you had to pick a favorite broadcast team, who would it be?

I love Hawk Harrelson of the Chicago White Sox … whoever he’s with. He’s probably my favorite. Just with his calls and his freedom in the booth like yelling at the umpires. He does whatever he wants to do and his freedom to express is pretty cool.

Dave Niehaus passed away at the end of last year. As a former Seattle Mariner, how do you think the transition will go this season with a new play-by-play broadcaster after 25-plus years?

It’s going to be very difficult. When you’re around as long as Dave was, you have a whole generation and grandkids that wake up listening to you in the summer. You just don’t replace that. He’s been ingrained with the Mariners since the conception of the organization. It’s not like you had another voice that you listened to if you’re a Mariner fan. You listened to Dave Niehaus. That was it. It’s going to be a very difficult transition.

Do you still hold any ill will towards ESPN?

Yeah, to be honest with you. I did what I had to do. I won a lawsuit and you try to move on [Editors Note: the lawsuit in question was settled out of court]. It was a situation that they should have never put me in. I feel good about standing up for myself.

While you were going through the lawsuit, what kept you motivated?

I love baseball. I love covering the sport and I loved teaching it. That always kept me wanting to come back to share.

How much will the sport of baseball benefit from the extra eyeballs due to the NFL lockout?

It will definitely benefit. There’s no doubt. I think people will turn to watch us and I think if people turn to watch us, there will be more people engaged. It’s a sport that’s on every day. For those involved in the other two sports, I’ve been through it four times. I understand that you go through those labor disputes, but I don’t know if it’s worth it with the times we’re in right now. I don’t know all their issues but I just know if it was baseball this time … when we we’re fighting, baseball’s minimum salary was $30,000. Now the minimum in Major League Baseball is $400,000, so I couldn’t recommend a lock out on a $400,000 salary right now. I look at the other sports and I don’t know if it comes down to a money issue or other issues.

Early prediction for the 2011 World Series?

I would have to say the Red Sox and the Phillies as an easy guess. Although I’m not sold because baseball is funny in that way in that it fools you with a major injury. We saw it happen already with the Cardinals and we just don’t know what’s going to happen.