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OC Register: The Chicago White Sox broadcast booth is a good place for Michael Schur

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Michael Schur is a baseball savant and a television virtuoso, a pair of skills that would make for a unique business card. Watch the series he’s produced closely – “Parks & Recreation,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “The Good Place” – and you will encounter an occasional baseball Easter Egg.

On one episode of Parks & Rec, we meet the law firm of “Babip, Pecota, Vorp & Eckstein.” On another, Amy Poehler’s character makes a reference to a part of the city of Pawnee called “Detwiler Square.” This was a blink-and-you-missed-it reference to Chicago White Sox pitcher Ross Detwiler.

Saturday, Schur is making his broadcasting debut as a color commentator for NBC Sports Chicago. He’ll partner with play-by-play man Jason Benetti to call the game between the White Sox and the Angels. In a telephone interview Friday, Schur was asked to name as many White Sox players as he could. He was already 10 names deep when he dropped Detwiler, a journeyman reliever with a 5.63 earned-run average.

“For some reason when I was writing for Parks and Recreation, sometimes I would choose the name of a relatively obscure baseball player,” Schur explained.

It was Benetti who reached out to Schur via email about substituting for Steve Stone this weekend. Stone schedules a vacation during two White Sox road trips each season, one before the All-Star break and another after. His replacements are as eclectic as they are talented.

Friday, basketball player-turned-broadcaster Bill Walton joins the booth. Mike O’Brien, a “Saturday Night Live” alum and the creator of the NBC series “AP Bio,” will take a turn Sunday.

Schur is most famous in baseball circles for creating content under the pseudonym “Ken Tremendous” for the website FireJoeMorgan.com. It’s been more than a decade since Ken (or anyone) last posted on the site. Yet Schur’s reputation as a broadcasting critic persists.

“I’ve thought for years, how fun would it be to even pick his brain about producing baseball on television,” Benetti said. “What could that bring to baseball? And then when this came about that we were going to do some celebrities, he was one of the first people I thought of. Very much top of the list. I think he’s going to be amazing just because he’s such a clever, creative human being and he loves baseball. Who knows where the conversation’s going to go but it’s going to be glorious to see it. I actually think it’ll be good for baseball to get him in that chair, especially because of all the barbs he threw on Fire Joe Morgan.”

Needless to say, Schur has no intention to imitate Morgan, the longtime ESPN commentator. Or Walton. Or Hawk Harrelson, who honed a unique style in the White Sox booth from 1982 to 2018, pausing briefly from cheerleading to serve as the team’s general manager.

“I remember listening to both of them when I was a kid,” Schur said of Harrelson and Stone. “It’s a slow game, it’s deliberate, it requires constant attention, but if you talk too much you’re annoying. It’s a real skill, a real craft. My only hope, honestly, is to not embarrass myself. … I made sure Jason knew I had no idea what I was doing.”

His modesty is at least partially false. Schur grew up a diehard fan of the Boston Red Sox. His impromptu analysis of the Yoan Moncada-Chris Sale trade Friday was more than passable. His ability to name a dozen White Sox players on the spot testifies to his voracious consumption of baseball – even random games between non-playoff teams, like Saturday’s.

“I’ve heard every local broadcast team in the league call a dozen games over the last couple years,” Schur said.

Schur says he never aspired to be a broadcaster. He couldn’t be sure he’ll get a chance to be one again. Benetti didn’t have to twist his arm to join the White Sox booth. It isn’t NBC’s national Game of the Week, but it’s a good place.

Saturday’s broadcast, then, will not be open season for lampooning the meaninglessness of a game between two sub–.500 teams.

“I watch so much meaningless baseball,” Schur said. “Red Sox games are pretty meaningless right now. I would never chastise someone for watching meaningless baseball. I’m not going to make fun of anyone watching the game. It might be hard for me to avoid the existential nothingness of the game. But here’s the thing: tomorrow I’m going to watch Mike Trout play baseball live. He’s the kid we’re going to tell our kids about. He’s Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, whoever you want to say he is. You’re going to watch Moncada, you’re going to watch Mike Trout, you’re going to watch Tim Anderson.

“Who cares if they’re not in the playoff hunt, it’ll be a nice evening in Anaheim. We’re going to watch Mike Trout roam around center field. It’ll be amazing.”

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