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ESPN will put on its kid gloves

Tom McNeeley, the producer of the Little League World Series on ESPN, said the event is just as important to the network as a Sunday night Major League Baseball game.

The difference, he said, "is that these are 12- and 13-year-old kids."

So he sees no point in having the cameras linger on devastated boys whose team was just eliminated.

"Our philosophy is to switch over to the jubilant team," he said.

ABC has aired the Series since 1963; ESPN picked up the broadcast in 1982. With ABC and ESPN under the same umbrella, the networks share the duties of broadcasting all 32 games through Aug 26 (on ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2). The World Series kicks off at 2 p.m. today as Walpole, the New England Regional Champion, faces Hamilton, Ohio, the Great Lakes Regional Champion.

"For many years, Curt Gowdy Jr. was the lead producer and he really helped bring this up to the level where it's currently at," said McNeeley. "It really evolved and we take it very seriously at ESPN, with the complement of equipment and production value of a major league game."

The series features eight teams from the United States, and eight teams from around the world.

The television crew arrived in Williamsport, Pa., Wednesday, where they had a meeting with the coaches of all 16 teams, and showed them a DVD of coaches wearing microphones, and how the kids can be prepared for the cameras.

"And then all our research people are sitting down, to interview every kid off camera, to get all information they might use," McNeeley said.

McNeeley said the boys, not accustomed to being on camera, ham it up sometimes.

"These kids learn quick, though," he said. "But at the end of the day, these are still little kids.

"It can be a tense game, and we'll still have the mikes on, and you can hear the coach consoling them, saying 'stay in the game, it's the last inning.' Then you'll hear a kid say, 'But Coach, we're still getting pizza after the game, right?' "

Extending the fight
When WEEI executive Jason Wolfe proposed to extend the Jimmy Fund radio/telethon to two days this year, Mike Andrews, the fund's chairman, envisioned a chance to raise even more money to fight cancer.

Then his eyes started glazing over, as he wondered what he had gotten into.

"We're really not sure what's going to happen," said Andrews. "We're treading in new water here."

Last year, the Jimmy Fund raised $2.9 million; this year, the goal is $3 million.

The fund-raiser began yesterday with WEEI hosts having Jimmy Fund patients, doctors, and families into the studio on Yawkey Way. The fund-raiser continues today with the assistance of NESN, which will try to raise money during the Red Sox-Angels day-night doubleheader.

"We'll have guests on during our for pre- and postgame shows, but baseball will take a backseat today; our main focus is the Jimmy Fund," said Joel Feld, NESN's executive vice president of programming.

Andrews, who is always on the lookout for new ways to attract attention to the fund-raiser, is most excited about walking on the field with most of his 1967 Red Sox teammates and with 1967 Jimmy Fund patients before tonight's game.

"We never anticipated the growth this would have or realized the appeal," he said of the radio/telethon, now in its sixth year.

Opening faceoff
Versus and NBC unveiled their NHL schedules. Versus will begin its coverage Sept. 30 in London with a game between the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings at noon. The cable network will air six Bruins games, starting Oct. 22 at Montreal. NBC begins its "Game of the Week,' Jan. 20, with either the Bruins at the New York Rangers or the Ducks at the Dallas Stars. The network's new partnership with the NHL offers flexible scheduling on NBC's nine Sunday games. NBC picks from up to four games 13 days before the scheduled game, then the network and league select the "Game of the Week." The other games will be available to regional carriers, although it won't be televised at the same time.

Growing Nation
The people of Waterbury and Seymour, Conn., are Sox-less no more. Comcast will carry all Red Sox games on NESN, effective immediately. Sox fans in the heavy Yankees territory of Connecticut could not watch Sox games unless they had a satellite dish or went to a bar in a nearby town . . . No surprise that the PGA Championship, with winner Tiger Woods, garnered big ratings for CBS. The network had a 6.2 rating/14 share, the seventh highest for the season's fourth major since 1986 . . . Dan Patrick, who left ESPN radio earlier this summer, will be on WEEI next Thursday and Friday doing a fill-in stint for the vacated 6-10 morning show . . . Brad Blank, who represents Bob Neumeier, said Neumeier signed a three-year contract with NBC last fall and is going to Japan next week for a track and field meet. He will also cover the Olympics for the network next summer and works on the "Football Night in America" show Sundays in the fall.

Susan Bickelhaupt can be reached at