Doug Glanville saw both ends of the spectrum during his time with the Cubs.
A first-round draft pick in 1991, Glanville was part of the 1997 team that endured the worst start in National League history at 0-14. He also hit the go-ahead triple in the 11th inning of Game 3 of the 2003 NL Championship Series.
And though he played most of his career with the Phillies in between, Glanville has maintained a connection with Cubs fans, who now watch him on NBC Sports Chicago. Glanville has appeared on the network’s new “Baseball Night in Chicago” show, pre- and postgame shows and during games.
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“Once I got to Chicago, I built a base relationship with the fans and actually a lot with the media, too,” Glanville said. “The fans were so positive, and we were a team that struggled in 1997. But I was moved a lot by how they supported you and were loyal and stood by you. Coming back in this capacity, it’s been that much more rewarding to see how that endures.”
Glanville isn’t your average baseball analyst. He’s a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times and has written for the Atlantic and Time. He wrote a book published in 2010 titled “The Game From Where I Stand.” He also just submitted final grades for a class he taught at Penn, from where he graduated in engineering, called Communication, Sports, and Social Justice.
Glanville might not be broadcasting if it weren’t for his writing. When the Mitchell Report on baseball players’ use of performance-enhancing drugs was released in December 2007, Glanville wrote a column on ESPN.com saying, in part, the root of the problem was players’ fear of failure.
With the help of his friend Alan Schwarz, a New York Times sportswriter who covered Glanville for the Daily Pennsylvanian in college, the Times published a version of the column the next month. Still living in Chicago at the time, Glanville received critical praise in a chance conversation at church with a professor from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism.
“She said, ‘Wow, that was a quintessential opinion piece. It had all the elements of it.’ And I said, ‘Well, what are all the elements?’ ” Glanville said. “I wasn’t in journalism. But it gave me a real confidence. This was an official endorsement that I might be on to something here.
“So I started writing, and I loved it. My dad was a writer — passed away 15 years ago — but it felt like a way to keep him close. So I kept writing and writing.”
The Times gave Glanville a regular op-ed column, called “Heading Home,” and it led to a publisher approaching him for the book deal. In January 2010, he ranked No. 1 in former Sports Illustrated writer Richard Deitsch’s sports-media power rankings. Soon after, Glanville auditioned for a TV job with ESPN, even though he had no broadcasting experience.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” Glanville said. “Obviously, I had content, but it was different, it was long form. The TV side, I didn’t know. I didn’t know where to look. So I was like, ‘I bombed that one.’ ”
But he hadn’t. Glanville’s audition included being the color commentator for a game that already had been played. He was paired with play-by-play man Karl Ravech to call a Red Sox-Yankees game, and he was provided with game notes.
He felt fortunate because he knew some of the veterans in the game, having retired after the 2004 season. But that wasn’t what impressed Ravech. During lulls, Glanville talked about events around baseball and the world from that time.
“So at the end of the thing, he said, ‘Where did you get that stuff? Were you just making it up?’ ” Glanville said. “I said, ‘Well, no. You gave me the date of the game. So I just looked at what happened in other news that same day. Isn’t that what you do?’ He’s like, ‘Well, yeah. Nobody’s ever done that in the 25 years of my interviewing.’ ”
Two months later, Glanville began a seven-year run as an analyst for ESPN, appearing on “SportsCenter,” “Baseball Tonight” and “Wednesday Night Baseball.”
“I came in with zero experience, so I had to learn,” Glanville said. “It took awhile [to learn] how to talk to the camera. So everything I’m doing now is literally from just training, doing it over and over again. I hired a voice coach.
“The best line I heard was, ‘This is not a baseball job. This is a communications job.’ You can have all the information in the world, but if you can’t convey it … your presentation matters.”
Glanville became a free agent in April 2017, when ESPN laid off more than 100 staffers. During his year away from media, he pitched his class everywhere, and it eventually was picked up by Penn. But he wasn’t out of broadcasting long.
NBCSCH host David Kaplan, a longtime friend, reached out with a text, suggesting that the former Cub look into doing some occasional pre- and postgame work for the network. Vice president of content Kevin Cross took it a step further.
“We’ve done the concept that Kap was thinking about,” Cross said. “We have a rotation of folks that come in and help us with some of our shows. But when we start really thinking about what Doug can bring to the table, he’d be better off being an NBC Sports Chicago employee.”
Glanville satisfies Cross’ requirement for what he calls a “four-tool player”: Someone who is strong on TV, can contribute to the network’s digital platform, is active on social media and can provide audio, such as on podcasts or radio.
Case in point, Glanville has written two video essays, which aired before the Cubs’home opener and crosstown series (think ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi). He wrote a column for NBCSCH’s website on the fractured relationship between the Cubs and Sammy Sosa. And he has provided analysis during games from the dugout in addition to his studio work.
“We don’t want to put a box on [his role] and say this is exactly what it’s going to be,” Cross said. “It’s still evolving. We want to just explore it, experiment, be creative. We’ve already tried a number of different things with Doug, so let’s keep at it.”
Glanville’s schedule also is evolving as he commutes from his home in Hartford, Connecticut. But he’s relishing the job, and his creative juices are flowing.
“I’m really thankful for this opportunity to get back on the saddle,” Glanville said. “I have a trillion ideas, and I’m grateful that I’m working with people that celebrate that. And everybody’s been, quite frankly, wonderful.”
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