Hobby Q&A: ‘Ball Boys’ Executive Producer Shawn Witt discusses reality show debut
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.
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.
Watch a teaser trailer for the show below.