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Hobby Q&A: ‘Ball Boys’ Executive Producer Shawn Witt discusses reality show debut

Robbie's First Base is the setting for a reality TV show that debuts next Saturday afternoon on ABC.

By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

While many collectors can walk into a hobby shop any day of the week, many others might get their first glimpses — at least in a long time — when Ball Boys debuts on ABC next Saturday afternoon.

Yep, it’s a reality TV show set in a hobby shop.

The location for the show is Robbie’s First Base, a shop in Timonium, Md., a suburb of Baltimore, which has been in business since 1989. It’s owned by Robbie Davis Sr., who works with his 30-year-old son, Robbie Jr., along with employees Shaggy and Sweet Lou.  The first two episodes of the show, which is from the producers of Pawn Stars, will air beginning at 3 p.m. Eastern on March 24.

Although you can read our previous story by clicking here, We caught up with Executive Producer Shawn Witt to get a few more basics about the show in this exclusive Q&A.

Robbie Davis Sr. runs the shop with the help of his son and two employees.

Q: How did this project come about — and how long was it in the works?
A: Everyone at Leftfield Pictures is passionate about sports, and we thought that a sports spin on our show Pawn Stars would make for great TV. We searched sports memorabilia shops nationwide and ultimately decided on Robbie’s First Base. Once we chose Robbie’s, we sent a crew down to shoot a sizzle tape with the cast. We pitched the project to several networks and fortunately we were able to sell it to ABC.

Q: Just confirming — 12 half-hour episodes have been ordered?
A: Yes.

Q: Was the success of the Pawn Stars formula what made this of interest? Or was it the draw of sports? Or something else?
A: The appeal of item-based programming is strong and growing because of its ability to both teach and delight. Though there certainly are elements of Ball Boys that are reminiscent of Pawn Stars, we believe the venture into the sports-exclusive niche is a gamble worth taking because of the American audience’s -– and even international viewers’ -– overall passion for sports memorabilia, plus sports knowledge and debate.

Q: How/why was Robbie’s selected? What was the production company looking for … compelling characters? Interesting location? Type of shop?
A: The staff of Robbie’s First Base brings a vast knowledge and love of all sports to the table, but what made them stand out to us was their big, dynamic personalities and the atmosphere of their store. It has a charming, oldschool barbershop feel, and it’s common to have athletes and customers hang out while arguing sports all day long.

Q: What kinds of things would we expect to see regularly in the show? Mostly on-location there? Or on road?
A: The show documents the day-to-day memorabilia transactions. In an average episode, time is split 60-40 in favor of in-store transactions. However, each episode will feature a visit to a large, impressive collection or sports history museum.

Q: Anything else to add or that might be pertinent?
A: The personal collections the staff explores are truly remarkable as the boys come face to face with items such as a Honus Wagner Tt206, a game-used Jackie Robinson bat worth $150k, and the first Heisman Trophy ever awarded. Celebrity athletes also make appearances throughout the series, ranging from Pete Rose to hall of famers Jim Brown, Warren Moon and Art Donovan.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

Watch a teaser trailer for the show below.

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8 Comments

Aija Rabinowitz

The program will be awesome, but I think if you really want to capture the audience, add a feminine component to keep everyone intrigued, looking forward to the next episode. From past experience, guys alone tend to be boring.

Posted March 16, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

I’ve been collecting sports cards and trading cards since i was five years old. That would be 1959. I have seen a lot of stuff come and go and i have sold a lot and lost a lot over the years. My first collection was thrown away into a land fill by my father cleaning out the garage in 1974. I have bought and sold and traded since then. It’s only cardboard, pennants and balls , shoes , you name it, but it means a lot to somone somewhere including me. This show should give the industry a shot in the arm. A much needed shot in the arm to bring people back into the hobby shops, flea markets, and above all SPORT CARD SHOWS!

Posted March 18, 2012 at 7:15 am | Permalink
Adam Bell

I’m reallly surprised this show is going to be on ABC during time used for actual sports programming. I doubt that the numbers will be that good, going up against real sports. There has been no marketing from what I have seen on television. Will be interesting to see if they run advertisements during other hit ABC shows this week. I have been to Robbie’s and look forward to the show, I just don’t think it’s been given any help to succeed. It probably would do better on one of the ESPN networks.

Posted March 20, 2012 at 7:43 am | Permalink

show sounds interesting… I am usually against reality shows. Don’t care for them much, might have to check this show out.. at least a few episodes… yes, they should of added a female to the mix. Not to be sexist… but to help bring women into interest of watching a card shop reality show..

Posted March 20, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Permalink
Mike McGovern

I agree w/ Adam. Surprised this is going to be on ABC and at 3:00PM on a Saturday. I have seen NO commercials or marketing for it on ABC (or really anywhere other than Beckett and one or two other blogs/websites). I think this show has a lot of potential to succeed (the formula has been proven) but it doesn’t appear the network is giving it the proper chance. I think it would be much better off on an ad-supported cable network (History, Spike, A&E, etc.) who could air it in a better time slot for the target audience of 18-49 y/o males. (Im thinking 8PM – 10PM someday Sun-Thurs). I think a lot of us would really enjoy the show, but how many of us would watch it on a Saturday at 3PM?!? A time when we’re watching or playing sports! Any success will probably come from DVR & On-Demand viewings.

Posted March 20, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Permalink
david jones

looks like a really interesting show and might be worth watching

Posted March 24, 2012 at 1:25 am | Permalink
Anthony

I think Robbie Sr pays to much for the stuff that comes into his store, and/or his customers are really bad with money. Not a very compelling show.

Posted March 26, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

what is Joey Harringtons 2001 Champanship jersey worth the winning game in his last College Game at Oregon State. In mint condistion?

Posted November 5, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

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