Passing the mic: Francisco Lindor, Bryce Harper tell all on Sunday Night Baseball


This season, a different MLB player — from Kiké Hernandez to Ozzie Albies to Bryce Harper and so many more — is wearing a microphone during every Sunday Night Baseball game to speak with the ESPN broadcasting crew. With their turns in the spotlight, MLB’s brightest young stars have opined on the game, their lives and their teammates. Here, we will collect the best stories from those mic’ed up — and behind-the-scenes reflections from the production staff and the players themselves.

Francisco Lindor is surrounded by some new guys in the Mets’ clubhouse. Eduardo Escobar, the team’s chatty and high-energy third baseman, occupies the locker to Lindor’s left, and to his right, Max Scherzer has settled in. “We have a really good group of guys,” Lindor said over the weekend. “I really like our group of guys.”

The Mets’ front office wanted to surround Lindor with more support, more veteran players who could share the production and media burden with him — and Lindor does seem more at ease in his second year with the team. Word came down early in the season that he’d be happy to wear the microphone on Sunday Night Baseball, which makes sense — during games, he is seemingly in constant conversation with those around him. Lindor offered a scouting report on the Phillies as in-game conversationalists. Bryce Harper, he said, will always say hi, but generally is pretty quiet while on the bases. J.T. Realmuto talks a little. Rhys Hoskins is a first baseman, so he’s a talker. Jean Segura has a lot to say.

During his time with the microphone, Lindor did, too. He explained all the shouting and gesturing he was doing to the other Mets fielders — about the funky coloring of the sky, which might make it more difficult to see the ball. He talked about how Buck Showalter, the Mets’ new manager, has about “25 different expressions.” He explained how you can’t talk to Scherzer when he’s pitching. He poked fun at his teammate Luis Guillorme — and then flipped a 102 mph batted ball to him to turn a double play on air, much to the relief of the broadcasters and production crew alike.

They could all imagine what might be said if there had been an error — that Lindor was “distracted” by the mic — and Lindor could too. With a bit of a chuckle, he acknowledged to Karl Ravech, Eduardo Perez and David Cone that he was “shaking,” knowing that he had to stop the ball and make the play under those circumstances. And if Lindor has even more to say after Sunday night’s win, you couldn’t blame him. He’s off to a good start, hitting .282 with an adjusted OPS+ of 154, and the Mets are the only team in baseball to win each of their first seven series.

It was the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday Night Baseball, and the Phillies, trailing 1-0, were down to their last strikes (umpire Angel Hernandez’s interpretation of strikes, anyway). But from the middle of the Philadelphia dugout, Harper had unfinished business off the field. He asked specifically to restore his earpiece and microphone to genially sign off from his extended conversation with ESPN broadcasters.

Harper’s turn with the mic had started in the third inning, until he had to prepare for a possible at-bat. Then he continued in the fourth inning, the fifth, through much of the rest of the game — talking about his 10-year anniversary as a major league player, the challenges of serving as a designated hitter, being a dad, and how he preferred to cope with the evolving strike zone that Hernandez called in the Brewers-Phillies game Sunday. For two hours, he shared the joy of his craft with baseball fans.

That Harper was generous with his time on the live microphone was not a surprise to anyone at ESPN, because of his history with the relatively new technology. In the midst of the bleak 60-game COVID-19 season of 2020, Harper agreed to talk to the Sunday Night broadcasters during a game against the Braves — in the half-inning after Atlanta scored 10 runs on his Phillies.

Despite the one-sided blowout — and the unwritten old-school rules about how players should sullenly handle that sort of situation — Harper joined the broadcast, speaking cheerily about how the Phillies just needed to score a run an inning to get back into the game, the beginning of a discussion that carried on for most of that night. At one point, Harper’s earpiece was dislodged when he banged against the outfield wall in Citizens Bank Park while making a play, but after an inning of looking around on the warning track, Harper found the hearing device and continued to chat. He went way above and beyond anyone’s expectations.

“I thought that was a good opportunity to do it,” Harper recalled over the weekend. “It was in a COVID year, when the world was kind of upside-down. I was trying to make the best out of it, have some fun with it.”

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