GET READY FOR THE WHEELHOUSE!

ESPN Houston's highly anticipated new afternoon show debuts Monday

ESPN Houston's highly anticipated new afternoon show debuts Monday
The Wheelhouse will take over the afternoon drive slot. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

Sports talk stations ESPN 97.5 and 92.5 are shaking up their on-air schedule and host lineup Monday in bold moves that will rattle the Houston radio market. The simulcast FM tandem will introduce two new shows, four new personalities, move some pieces to new time slots and put a fresh coat of paint on the stations' sound.

Here's the new lineup: John Granato and Lance Zierlein from 7-10 a.m., followed by Charlie Pallilo in his earlier 10-noon slot. Afternoons get underway with Joel Blank and new partner Jeremy Branham hosting The Killer B's show from noon to 3 p.m. Perhaps the biggest difference maker will be an all-new show called TheWheelhouse from 3-7 p.m.

TheWheelhouse will be hosted by Jake Asman, Cody Stoots and Brad Kellner, three younger guys whose energy and perspectives on sports will be unique on Houston airwaves. Owner David Gow must have lots of confidence in the trio – he's given them the cleanup spot, batting fourth with the longest show on the schedule.

"In addition to being strong in radio, they are very digitally savvy. They do a great job of taking the content that they create and pushing it out over all the different platforms. These guys are content creators who will reach audiences in many different ways," Gow said.

The Wheelhouse guys will take over the afternoon drive slot from The Blitz, formerly hosted by A.J. Hoffman and Fred Faour. The Blitz ran for more than a decade, which is forever plus eternity in radio years. The show effectively ended when Hoffman left the fold last month for a position with a gambling enterprise in Las Vegas. Faour will stay with ESPN Houston as a roving betting analyst, popping up regularly on the other shows.

Let's take a closer look at the three hosts of The Wheelhouse.

Jake Asman's first job out of college was a producer for sports radio WFAN in New York. He moved to Houston in 2018 to start work on ESPN 97.5 and 92.5's sister property, the national SportsMap network.

SportsMap: How will you approach being part of a team on The Wheelhouse rather than your previous experience hosting a national show by yourself?

Jake Asman: Our show is going to be very collaborative. Cody, BK, and I all will have a voice in the direction the show will go. We want to make sure that if someone has a strong opinion that day or a unique angle to take on a topic, or a great segment idea that we follow through on it. Our goal is to create entertaining, informative, and high-energy radio that the city will embrace. The three of us plus our producer Andrew Carlson are going to make sure that we are always prepared, talking about the topics that people in this city care about, and providing a unique listener experience.

Cody Stoots, in addition to having the most Texas-sounding name ever, grew up in Houston and was Intern of the Year once at ESPN 97.5 and 92.5. He worked at "Double T 104.3" (the most Texas-sounding radio station ever), got his degree in journalism, and returned to Houston in 2014 to get his career moving. He's also worked for Sports Illustrated and the Outkick network.

SportsMap: Tell me about your vision for The Wheelhouse. Will you guys carve out distinct roles or will it be a free-for-all?

Cody Stoots: I think I am pretty funny but unfortunately I think Brad will be the funny one. He's had us rolling since we met him. I would say whoever has the juice each day is going to be the one to get us going. Some days that may be one of us and some days we will all be ready to get after it from the start. We are going to play off each other and have fun talking about what our listeners talk about.

Brad Kellner was born in Kansas but, as the saying goes, got to Texas as fast he could. Well, he was 5-years-old, when his family moved to Dallas. He went to the University of Texas and began his radio career as morning show producer at AM 1300 The Zone in Austin. A year later he moved 104.9 The Horn, the flagship home for UT sports, where he worked his way up to afternoon drive host.

SportsMap: Houston and Austin are 150 miles and worlds apart. Tell me about your learning curve of Houston sports.

Brad Kellner: My mom is from Houston and my dad is from Galveston. Houston has always felt a little bit like home to me. Most of my extended family lives around Houston and I spent a lot of my youth down here. I have always supported and kept up with the Clutch City sports teams. There are a ton of Houston fans in Austin, so I have been talking about the Texans, Astros and Rockets on the air for a number of years. I am excited for the opportunity to focus on these teams and attend more games, practices and events in person.

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These uniforms have to go. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

Major League Baseball will consider going back to having players wear their team uniforms for the All-Star Game.

Club uniforms were used by the American League from 1933-2019 and by the National League from 1934-2019. When the game resumed in 2021 following the pandemic-related cancellation in 2020, MLB had started a uniform contract with Nike and Fanatics, and All-Stars were outfitted in specially designed league uniforms that drew criticism from traditionalists.

Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

This year's AL uniforms had a sandy base with red sleeves and lettering and the NL had a navy base with light blue sleeves and lettering.

“I’m aware of the sentiment on this issue,” Manfred told the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday. "I think where my head is on it, it’s something we’re going to have a conversation about coming out of the All-Star Game. We've got a lot of uniform things going on. And, obviously, the conversations have to involve the players first and foremost but Nike, some of our partners. But I am aware of the sentiment, and I do know why people kind of like that tradition."

MLB and Nike were criticized for club uniforms this year and said in May that 2025 club outfits will have larger lettering on the back of jerseys and individual pant customization. Players complained this year that white pants worn by some teams are see-through enough to show tucked-in jersey tops.

Regional sports networks

Manfred said a national steaming package of local television broadcasts is a future possibility.

“I could see a situation where we grow into a 30-club model. It might start on the digital side, where you have 14 or 15 clubs, and, you start with a digital product there as your first alternative,” he said.

“I was in Sun Valley last week and I did the whole speed-dating thing with everybody who’s ever streamed anything. When you talk to people in the streaming business, they’re not really interested in buying the state of Wisconsin and two counties in Michigan," Manfred added. "They want to be able to stream quite frankly, all over the U.S. and Canada but more broadly internationally. So I think those conversations are a product of owners saying, holy cow, the RSN business is really deteriorating. We know the future’s going to be streaming. What we’re hearing from the streamers is they want a more national product, and we need to be responsive to what people want to buy.”

MLB took over production of Arizona and San Diego local television broadcasts last year following the bankruptcy of Diamond Sports’ Bally networks and said MLB will be available as an option for teams looking for new deals. He said Padres game are approaching 40,000 subscribers, which he called a good figure.

“Having said that, from a revenue perspective it is not generating what the RSNs did," Manfred said. "The RSNs were a great business. Lots of people paid for programing they didn’t necessarily want. And it’s hard to replicate that kind of revenue absent that kind of bundling concept.”

Offense

While offense is near half-century lows, it has picked up from early in the season.

“The decline in offense is something that we’re paying a lot of attention to and we’ll continue to monitor to make a decision as to whether we think we need to do something. You do hear a lot of chatter about the dominance of pitching in the game. That’s absolutely true.”

Birmingham

After the success of the June 20 game between San Francisco and St. Louis at Rickwood Field, Manfred said MLB will return to the ballpark in Birmingham, Alabama, but the “exact form” had not been determined.

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