Just a friendly word of warning to the next person who sidles up next to Jay Moskowitz at his friendly neighborhood tavern and tries to stump him with a trivia question, with the loser footing the night’s bar tab: You run the risk of getting aced by someone whose trivia knowledge has been judged superior by none other an entity than the MLB Network.
Moskowitz, who serves as the Orioles’ coordinator of baseball information and is entering his sixth season with the club, was chosen as the team’s representative for “Baseball IQ,” a new trivia tournament that premieres Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 9 p.m. It’ll take a while to get through 31 head-to-head matchups - one contestant for each major league club, plus reps from MLB.com and the Hall of Fame - but the network’s first venture into game shows sets up to be competitive offseason programming.
The 29-year-old Moskowitz - who spent three years at Ripken Baseball and interned in college for the short-season Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones before arriving at Camden Yards - was chosen after the MLB Network queried clubs about the best baseball minds they had to offer. Moskowitz filled out a sample questionnaire and made the cut, with Zack Brown of the O’s sales department designated as the runner-up.
Last weekend, Moskowitz ventured to MLB Network’s studios in Seacaucus, N.J., not far from his hometown of East Brunswick, N.J., for taping. He’s prohibited from saying how long he lasted in the tournament, but made sure to relish the unique experience afforded him.
“It was great. ... It was something I tried to enjoy, but not take too seriously,” he said. “I wanted to do well, but at the same time, I didn’t want to miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Prepping for a trivia tournament was made even tougher by the innovative format used by “Baseball IQ.” Contestants score runs by naming correct answers in categories given them by host Matt Vasgersian. What, you thought entrants were going to be asked gimmes like, “What third baseman earned the nickname, ‘The Human Vacuum Cleaner,’ based on his sparkling defense in the 1970 World Series?”
No, contestants at “Baseball IQ” are given a topic - say, opening day second basemen for the Braves or managers of the Angels - and alternate giving (hopefully correct) answers. If they repeat a response, give an incorrect answer or fail to come up with a guess, their opponent scores.
Each contestant played for a charity - Moskowitz’s was the Orioles Charitable Foundation - and he came away impressed with the first-rate set-up at MLB Network.
Without being too specific, Moskowitz called some of the questions from the pre-taping questionnaire “preposterous,” while the actual categories on the show were equally challenging. Focusing his prep work on any particular topic carried with it the risk of not being prepared for some other possible question.
“It was hard to study for. ... It could literally be anything,” he said. “Anything at all. But the historical side - 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, stuff like that - is always kicking around my head because of work. It’s what I’m used to.”
Part of Moskowitz’s job with the O’s is to collect interesting facts and feed them to the media. That can happen as part of each game’s press notes, via emails to reporters or by face-to-face visits in the press box. In those instances, Moskowitz conveys what he knows without worrying about camera angles, makeup, time limits or blinding studio lights.
“I’m used to being behind the scenes,” said Moskowitz, a Canton resident. “I kind of like the anonymity. It was surreal. The biggest challenge, I think, was trying to focus in the moment. ... The game show setup, that was unique (compared) to what I’d done before.”
Update: Moskowitz’s first-round match-up will be aired Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 9:30 p.m. Tune in to see if the O’s representative advances to the next round.