It's almost springtime and Dodger baseball is in the air. There just isn't much of it on the air, at least not during the week.
Of the Dodgers' 33 exhibition games, only 15 are being broadcast by new flagship station KFWB (980).
This is a break from the Dodger tradition of broadcasting every spring training game to promote the regular season.
The reason for the change is that KFWB doesn't want to preempt its news format for early morning baseball, which doesn't draw nearly as many listeners.
The Dodgers, who were on KXTA (1150) the last five seasons, went along with KFWB's wishes because of the station's potential to deliver new fans. Its listening audience is considerably larger than all-sports stations KSPN (710), the Angels' new flagship, XTRA (690 and 1150), and KMPC (1540).
"On a weekly basis, KFWB reaches more than twice the combined audience of the three all-sports stations," KFWB General Manager Roger Nadel said. "So our goal is to not emulate what they do, or give up our current audience in exchange for the all-sports audience. Our goal, and the goal of the Dodgers, is to grow the KFWB audience -- and the reach of Dodger baseball.
"Unfortunately, that means we carry fewer spring training games in order to preserve our existing news audience."
Nadel points out the station still has plenty of ancillary Dodger programming to promote the team, such as daily "Dodger Moments," which began in November, the daily spring training reports from Dodgertown, monthly "Ask the Dodgers" call-in shows, and Sunday night "Sports Wrap-Up" call-in shows.
Dodger senior vice president Derrick Hall said, "We'd love to have every game broadcast, but we are pleased with the promotion we are getting from KFWB. And our fans are going to be pleased with the coverage during the regular season. It will be a vast improvement."
During the regular season there will be pregame coverage and postgame call-in shows, although much of the pregame programming, according to Nadel, will still include the station's traditional quick doses of news, weather and traffic.
Nadel said no segment will be longer than three minutes, which provides some good news. Stu Nahan, who will be part of the pregame show, won't have time for any of his long-winded yarns.
Although KSPN is broadcasting every Angel spring training game, the Dodgers get more spring training television coverage.
There will be two Dodger telecasts on Channel 13 this weekend and two more the following weekend, plus another on Fox Sports Net 2 March 27, when the Dodgers play Colorado at Las Vegas.
When Channel 9 televises an Angel game against the Chicago Cubs Saturday at noon from Tempe, Ariz., it will be the station's first spring training telecast since a Freeway Series game against the Dodgers in 1998 and the first from Arizona.
Channel 9 has special plans for the occasion. Hitting coach Mickey Hatcher will wear a microphone, Manager Mike Scioscia will be interviewed in the dugout during the game, and a number of players will visit Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler in the broadcast booth.
On Monday, there will be an Angel preseason special on Fox Sports Net at 7 p.m. and a Dodger preseason special on Fox Sports Net 2 at 8 p.m.
Channel 9 will offer a look back at the Angels' 2002 championship season March 23 at 8 p.m.
KTLA Beefs Up
For possibly the first time, two local over-the-air stations will televise a Laker-Clipper game Monday. Channel 5 and Channel 9 are carrying the game.
In hopes of holding its own against Laker station Channel 9, Channel 5 is bringing back Bill Walton to join Ralph Lawler and Mike Smith. Also, Channel 5 will televise the game in high definition.
Walton, an on-and-off Clipper television commentator for the last 11 seasons, said he is thrilled to be rejoining Lawler.
"Ralph is as smart a man as I have ever known," Walton said. "And we're going to have a giant celebration. I had as much fun working alongside Ralph as I did playing for Coach [John] Wooden, playing with Larry Bird and dancing with Jerry Garcia and Bob Dylan."
That's Walton, understated as always.
New KTLA Anchor
Channel 5 has hired Leila Feinstein as a weekend sports anchor and weekday news reporter. Feinstein, who comes from KRON in San Francisco, has done fill-in work in sports on Channel 5.
As a weekend sports anchor, Feinstein replaces KNX's Steve Grad, who has been doing the weekend sports on a per-diem basis since the departure of Claudia Trejos in July 2001.
Some fans of sports talk show host Bill Werndl and his "Werndl Wire" have wondered what is the real reason behind his split with Steve Hartman, who had been his partner since 1996. His former employers at XTRA (690 and 1150) said it was because Werndl didn't want to move from the San Diego area to Los Angeles.
That's also what Werndl is saying.
"I don't want to disparage Los Angeles, but I love San Diego," he said. "It was a tough decision, but I really didn't want to move."
Another factor was that he had a job waiting at a new all-sports station in San Diego which went on the air last week. Werndl is now paired with Steve Mason.
The lineup at the new station, owned by John Lynch and located at 1090 on the dial, is: Scott Kaplan and Billy Ray Smith (6-10 a.m.), Matt Vasgersian (10 a.m.-1 p.m.), John Fricke (1-4 p.m.), Mason and Werndl (4-8 p.m.), John Kentera (8-midnight), and Sporting News network overnight.
Was This a Tryout?
Petros Papadakis, whose duties at KMPC include a morning show with Mark Willard, was on with Hartman on XTRA Wednesday. But KMPC program director Tim Parker said it was not supposed to be a tryout. "We're 100% committed to Petros and he's 100% committed to us," Parker said.
In a way, that's too bad. With Papadakis' ties to USC, he would seem to be a perfect foil for UCLA alum Hartman. Also, Papadakis is hilarious -- and he even makes sense every once in a while.
Goossen Tutor Promotions, formed by longtime boxing promoter Dan Goossen and construction magnate Ron Tutor in 2001, begins its second year of fights on Fox Sports Net with an attractive matchup.
Heavyweights Kirk Johnson and Lou Savarese square off in Dallas Saturday night and the fight will be televised as part of a two-hour show on Fox Sports Net Sunday at 6 p.m.
Goossen Tutor will provide Fox Sports Net with nine boxing shows through June.
The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita will be televised on ESPN2 Sunday as part of the "CITGO Racing to the Kentucky Derby" show at 1:30 p.m.... Pelican Hill Golf Club in Newport Beach will be featured on "Golf International" Sunday at 5 p.m. on Fox Sports Net 2. The show is a new 13-part series showcasing the world's top golf resorts.... The boating tragedy on March 22, 1993, that took the lives of Cleveland Indian players Steve Olin and Tim Crews and injured pitcher Bobby Ojeda will be the topic on "Outside the Lines" on ESPN Sunday at 7:30 a.m.... ESPN has hired Lisa Leslie to work as a commentator on three games during the women's NCAA tournament.
Marques Johnson, working the Pacific 10 tournament for Fox Sports Net, had this to say after UCLA's victory over Arizona Thursday: "I guess this dispels the notion that this team has quit on Steve Lavin."