Wednesday night, Taylor McGregor was on the warning track at Wrigley Field with the luscious green ivy on the outfield wall as her backdrop. This isn’t a shot a field reporter at a baseball game would normally be allowed to do, but there wasn’t a game at Wrigley Field, there was so no risk of interfering with the field of play.
The Chicago Cubs were playing hundreds of miles away at Detroit. Welcome to sports broadcasting during 2020 in the midst of a pandemic. Broadcasting road games at Wrigley and home games with no fans in the stands is something the 27-year-old has had to get used to this season in her first year with the Cubs’ new Marquee Sports Network.
It was only two years ago that McGregor was a sports anchor at THV 11 in Little Rock. Since then, her broadcasting career has really taken off as a field reporter for AT&T Sportsnet in Denver covering the Colorado Rockies, her hometown team, and landing a gig as a college football sideline reporter for ESPN during the 2019 season. The momentum continued with her inking a deal with Marquee over the winter.
McGregor’s love for sports was passed down from her grandfather who was a high school football coach and her late father Keli. Keli was a star tight end at Colorado State and played in the NFL with the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts in 1985 before retiring and earning a master’s degree in athletic administration. He worked on the Florida football coaching staff in 1988 and 1989 before heading to Fayetteville to serve in the UA athletic department from 1989 to 1993, rising to associate athletic director before he departed Fayetteville.
In 1993, Keli returned to his native Colorado to work in the expansion Rockies organization and eventually became president of the club. In 2010, a virus infected his heart muscle while he was on a business trip in Salt Lake City, Utah, and he died.
McGregor returned to Fayetteville and graduated from the University of Arkansas. (Three of the four McGregor siblings earned degrees at UA.) From there, she worked at KCWY in Casper, Wy., as a weekend anchor and sports director for close to two years before ending her local TV career in Little Rock.
I caught up with McGregor when the Cubs were in the middle of a home series with the rival St. Louis Cardinals earlier this month. We discussed beginning her career in local TV, what it’s like covering the Cubs in the pandemic, Sam Pittman’s hiring at Arkansas, her favorite Little Rock restaurant and more.
NO: Have you always wanted to be a MLB sideline reporter or did you have a different broadcasting goal in mind?
TM: I grew up around the game of baseball so it was always of interest. With that being said, I got into the business to ultimately do college football. College football is my passion.
NO: In some cases someone with your relationship with the Rockies would have been working for them quickly. How much does it mean to you that you “paid your dues” in local TV before you began working for the Rockies?
TM: I’m very thankful for people who invested in me early in my career. I was always taught about the need to “hone your craft.” To me, starting in local TV was a no-brainer. I knew I didn’t want to get too big of a job before I was ready for it. It would’ve been detrimental to my career. I’m thankful for the experiences I had that led me to the network level.
NO: How special was it to work for the Rockies considering your dad’s relationship with the club?
TM: It was special for a lot of reasons. Getting to interact with people every day who loved my dad and graciously passed that love along to me. Growing professionally in the very halls I roamed as a kid. The list goes on and on.
NO: Did you consider that a destination job when you took it?
TM: My dream has always been national television. Being in Denver working for the Rockies was certainly a dream come true for that season of life, but I always knew I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to grow my career if the opportunity presented itself.
NO: How did you land the Marquee job?
TM: I think it was a mixture of being at the right place at the right time, having people who recommended my work and having experience being an everyday MLB reporter.
NO: How disappointing was it when spring training was suspended in March due to the pandemic?
TM: When everything was first shut down, I was just worried about my family’s health and safety. There was so much uncertainty I really wasn’t worried about baseball. I still feel like I haven’t given too much thought regarding my own disappointment. Do I wish my first season with the Cubs wasn’t in the middle of a pandemic? Sure. But I’m trying my best to focus on the positives at this point.
NO: Did you head back to Chicago during the break and how did you fill your time?
TM: I was in Phoenix and eventually Denver with my mom. Luckily, I live close to open space in both states so I was able to get outside and stay active while maintaining social distance.
NO: Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies are a top-notch broadcasting crew for the Cubs. What has it been like to blend in with their chemistry, and what have they been like as you have transitioned?
TM: They’re true pros. They’ve both welcomed me with open arms and helped me both personally and professionally with the transition. I am so thankful for them and their kindness to me. Our entire Marquee crew is full of stellar individuals.
NO: What is a game day like at Wrigley Field with no fans? How difficult is it to do in-game reports at home and away games with no fans and limited player and manager access?
TM: That’s been the biggest challenge. As a reporter, I’ve always relied on my relationship with the players and coaches to get inside stories that help fans at home feel like they’re a part of the group. Unfortunately this season hasn’t afforded me that access so those stories aren’t prevalent as much as they’d normally be.
NO: Being a longtime Cubs fan, I have to ask you if the club if you think the Cubs will win the World Series this year. There is only one right answer.
TM: Well if there is only one answer… Of course!
NO: What do you think the pandemic will do to the popularity of baseball for next season and will any of the pandemic rules still be in place when a “regular” MLB schedule begins?
TM: As far as popularity, we’ve seen MLB ratings reach an all-time high. I envision that carrying over into next year as our country rebounds from this pandemic. As far as protocols being carried over, this situation is fluid. We see new things every day. I have no idea what will happen next season.
NO: You have spent the baseball offseason as a college football sideline reporter for ESPN. Do you plan on working games this fall?
TM: I do! I’m not sure what it will look like for us this season but I plan on being a part of ESPN’s college football coverage in some capacity.
NO: You are Arkansas alumnae, what do you think about Sam Pittman?
TM: I liked this hire when it happened. But now I love it considering the coaches he’s surrounded himself with since being handed the keys. I think surrounding yourself with men who’ve had success is important. Add that to his resume with the line of scrimmage and his ability to recruit, I’m on board!
NO: Can Eric Musselman guide a young Arkansas team to a deep NCAA Tournament run this year if they play?
TM: I was bummed to hear Isaiah Joe wasn’t coming back. But Coach Muss is at Arkansas because of his success recruiting junior college transfers in the past. I’m hoping Akol Mawein can step into a big role for the Razorbacks immediately. Obviously, the X-factor this season is COVID-19 and if there’s a coach I want during a pandemic it’s Coach Muss for his positivity and energy.
NO: What are your best memories of working at THV?
TM: Covering the Razorbacks was awesome simply because of my love for the Hogs. I have to say though, high school football and basketball in Central Arkansas stole my heart. I had SO much fun experiencing the energy and enthusiasm around high school athletics.
NO: What was your go-to Little Rock restaurant and why?
TM: Samantha’s! I lived downtown and their salmon salad is my favorite thing ever. Can you send me one?
NO: What will you be doing in 10 years?
TM: Hopefully, I’ll be covering the biggest games on a national stage. That’s the goal.