ESPN’s Coley Harvey published a profile on Friday of internet-famous baseball narrator Jimmy O’Brien aka JomboyMedia on YouTube. For those unfamiliar, his videos consist of short, but detailed, breakdowns of interesting and comedic moments that happen in baseball games. Here’s an example:
The piece provides some insight on how a fan turned his passion into internet fame, made it his full-time gig in the process and how he’s gotten pretty positive attention from MLB players familiar with his work. It also talks about the concerns that have arisen as a result of his content.
In the video above, for example, some of the most entertaining parts are the clips O’Brien put in that featured hot mics picking up sound from ballplayers and managers in the game. The subject of using those kinds of clips comes up in the story, and not just because O’Brien—an avid Yankees fan—was one of the first to post Aaron Boone’s famous “fucking savages” rant that an umpire’s microphone picked up with a surprising amount of clarity. No, oddly enough it came up because if the Yankees had it their way, JomboyMedia would maybe have had a tougher time getting that clip in the first place.
On at least one occasion, weeks before Boone’s blowup scorched the internet, Yankees officials contacted MLB to inquire about how it might better legislate the way O’Brien or anyone else uses audio from the games — particularly games in which players, coaches or umpires are not specifically miked up.
The league has yet to respond to the Yankees’ inquiry.
“It wasn’t supposed to be that clear,” [Joe] Torre, the former Yankees manager, said of the ambient-sound feed fans can access. “It shouldn’t happen. That’s just crowd noise and stuff.” Added Torre, who was recently surprised that a 37-year-old video of one of his own profanity-laced managerial tirades surfaced: “[Arguments are] not something you’re proud of. There is an entertaining value when you go nose to nose, as long as it ends there. ... When it starts getting personal, that’s dangerous.”
The story does mention that O’Brien has permission from the league’s social media team to continue posting clips for content, though the league still has the right “claim certain videos for their own if the situation arises.” It seems that his growing popularity and amplification of a sport that so desperately needs saving got him some goodwill among the powers that be.
That being said, it is hilariously on-brand for a baseball team to be so close to shooting itself in the dick while trying to stop something that most certainly helps the sport look better and more fun. But, hey, at least some people got cool MLBPA-licensed shirts out of the whole thing.
Even with his players falling in love with the slogan, and apparently getting a whole box of those shirts shipped to wear before a game, Yankees vice president of communications and media relations Jason Zillo voiced a desire for the league to do more about these damn hot mics.
“[I] certainly appreciate and respect where we are in 2019, where part of growing the game is giving some of that personal and intimate dialogue and baseball give-and-take over a nine-inning game through mics,” Zillo said. “But there has to be some type of guardrail to mitigate or eliminate what could become a very dangerous situation, where if players or teams aren’t made aware that there is the potential of some type of live mic picking up any and all sound throughout the game, that could really become a slippery slope and it could be damaging to a team. It could be damaging to a player’s career.
To his credit, O’Brien says that he doesn’t put out anything that would damage careers. His goal is just to put goofy shit on the internet that makes people laugh and maybe appreciate baseball more, which seems to be working out pretty well. That goal can’t be accomplished if the league actively smothers what kind of content someone like O’Brien has access to.
Ideally this would serve as an example to those in the world of baseball that fun things are actually good, and they should leave those fun things alone. But we’re not in an ideal world so I’m personally looking forward to MLB quietly getting rid of umpire mics and playing recorded voice-overs of ball and strike calls on broadcasts sometime in the near future.
Correction: A previous version of this blog said the Yankees created the Fucking Savages In The Box t-shirts when it was only approved by MLBPA. We regret this error.