McCrady family enjoys special night on set of SportsCenter

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In order to keep his morning schedule in order, Tim McCrady is in bed each night by 9 p.m.

Like many, he wakes up early for work, but there is a secondary reason, too: SportsCenter.

McCrady's morning does not officially begin until he is seated inside his Ravenna home in front of his television for the 5 a.m. airing of ESPN's longtime sports highlight show.

It has been that way ever since his daughter Katelin McCrady can remember.

"He's just a sports fanatic. It is basically the only show he watches," said Katelin.

She can't think of the show without thinking of her father.

Imagine Katelin's excitment, then, when she moved to Hermosa Beach, Calif., two years ago and discovered that her first friend would be one that could give her family access to a tour of the SportsCenter studio in Los Angeles.

"I first met my friend, Aisha, through Craigslist when I was searching online for roomates," said Katelin, who is a 2005 and 2009 graduate of Southeast High School and Kent State University, respectively, and works in orthopedic sales.

"We ended up not rooming together, but we remained friends and I eventually found out that she was an assistant producer on SportsCenter. She told me that whenever my family came to town for a visit, she would be happy to give them a tour of the studio."

It took two years for everything to fall into place for a family visit, but once it did, Katelin naturally thought of her dad and SportsCenter.

"The tour was the first thing I thought of when I found out that he was coming to visit," said Katelin, 25, who is one of Tim's four children (Chris, 28; Amanda, 27; and Timothy, 24).

Tim McCrady, along with Katelin's older sister Amanda Mergy, flew into L.A. on a Thursday morning at 10 a.m. The SportsCenter taping was from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m., which meant the family did not leave the studio until 3 a.m. EST -- far later than Tim's normal 9 p.m. bedtime.

When the family arrived at the studio, they were given a tour by McCrady's friend and show producer. After the tour, they were brought back to the set where SportsCenter was being taped and were given three leather chairs to sit and watch the live takes.

For three hours, the family sat and watched anchors Neil Everett and Stan Verrett take TV viewers through the world of sports.

"My dad is a strong and silent type, but he looked like a little kid at Christmas through the whole thing," Katelin said. "I thought he would have been exhausted from the flight and how late it was, but he was wide awake and loving every moment of it."

"He was literally on the edge of his chair," she said.

The McCrady's even got mentioned on air by Everett as he ran down the Top 10 plays of the day, saying, "The McCrady's are in the studio and they said, 'Hey! Did you see that 9-year-old girl make that touchdown!?' "

Following the taping of the show, a production manager gave the McCrady family a full tour, which included a first-hand look at the office of Magic Johnson, other sets, the green screen room and a chance to meet a number of employees.

After watching the show through a TV screen for decades, Katelin's dad found himself inside the action and behind the scenes on a family trip that turned into a dream vacation.

"I thought it would be fun and that my dad would enjoy it, but I don't think we realized just how cool it would be. They really treated us like VIP and nothing we did the rest of the trip compared to SportsCenter."

Not even when Katelin maxed out her credit card to get a suite to a L.A. Lakers game and a trip to the Hollywood sign.

"We had fun everywhere, but everything took a backseat to the SportsCenter taping," she said.

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Email: tnader@recordpub.com

Twitter: @Tom_Nader

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