If you're one of these people who thinks there are already too many reality TV shows, who thinks that there couldn't possibly be another subject to explore now that we've gone behind the scenes with everyone from head-case lovers to tattooed survivalist freaks to people aspiring to a career in show biz when they should be aspiring to bus tables at Denny's, think again.
Because here comes a reality TV series about - of all things - minor-league baseball.
Specifically, it's about the Aberdeen Ironbirds, the Orioles Class A farm team in the New York-Penn League that's owned by Hall of Famer-in-Waiting Cal Ripken Jr. and plays its home games in a jewel of a ballpark right off Exit 84 of Interstate 95.
The first episode of Inside the Ironbirds, chronicling the lives of young professional ballplayers clawing their way to the major leagues, is scheduled to air July 5 on Comcast SportsNet.
Eight more episodes, each 30 minutes long, will follow. But if Baltimore viewers are expecting something like the edgy HBO series on the Ravens' training camp that aired two years ago, where the cameras seemingly followed the players and coaches 24 hours a day - even on a raucous night out in a local saloon with Mr. Nightlife himself, Tony Siragusa - they'll be disappointed.
"Can you have a reality show where the cameras follow people all the time?" said Rich Daniel, producer of Inside the Ironbirds. "That's not real life."
Then again, Daniel and his production team hope to do more than document sweaty men snapping towels in the clubhouse or giving each other the hot foot on the long bus trips that are a staple of minor-league life.
The first episode will introduce the team and its largely anonymous roster to viewers, and explore the ownership strategy of Cal Ripken, who is, of course, anything but anonymous. Another episode will study the young Ironbirds as they ingratiate themselves into the Aberdeen community. (The players live with local residents during the season.)
And one or two episodes will deal with life on the road, the endless grind of interstate travel, cheap motels and fast-food joints the typical minor leaguer endures.
Just enough reality
"It'll be fair, toned-down and realistic," said Daniel, who was a producer for WJLA-TV in Washington for 20 years. "There can be too much reality in my opinion. And if there's too much reality, you're not welcome back.
"It's not Hard Copy, it's not an expose ... it's life as a minor leaguer, the best we can bring it to you."
So, in a sense, this will be "reality lite."
No cussing, no loud, embarrassing fights with the girlfriend caught on videotape, no footage of beered-up Ironbirds stumbling home at 2 in the morning.
Nonetheless, it is mining new territory for a reality series.
In fact, the Comcast people say that aside from a documentary on the St. Paul (Minn.) Saints of the Northern League that aired in 1996, they know of no other up-close and personal TV study of a minor league baseball team.
For their part, the Ironbirds are understandably thrilled about the attention the series might generate.
All 38 of their home games at spiffy, 6,000-seat Ripken Stadium - minor league baseball's newest Garden of Eden - were sold out last year. And anticipation about the arrival of ballyhooed first-round draft choices Adam Loewen and Nick Markakis has added to the excitement levels this season.
But a reality TV series - that's when you know you're big, in Harford County or anywhere else.
"This is the biggest stage in the Orioles farm system ... with the [stadium] itself, our proximity to Baltimore and Cal's [ownership]," said Ironbirds general manager Jeff Eiseman. With the reality series, "we're looking to show people what the spirit of minor league baseball is, how people embrace their teams."
Since the Ironbirds' 30-man roster was finalized only recently - opening night was June 17 - team officials say they're unsure which of the players might emerge as potential "characters" for the reality series - or if any will take over the cameras the way Tony Siragusa did on HBO's Ravens series.
PR director Steve Spadafino says pitcher Brandon Spillers is "a pretty funny guy" and that pitcher Joe Coppinger and first baseman/DH Luis Jimenez are gregarious enough to attract the TV cameras.
But Eiseman thinks Comcast would be foolish to focus too much on one or two players, given the vagaries of the minor league existence.
"The reality is," said Eiseman, "you could have a guy you focus your attention on, and he gets called up or sent down the next day."
"Called up" might mean a promotion to the DelMarva Shorebirds or the Frederick Keys, the next steps up the O's minor league organizational ladder. "Sent down" might mean a demotion to the O's lower Class A team in Bluefield, W.Va.
Capturing the lifestyle
But Daniel and his staff are still fleshing out the themes that will connect the various episodes of Inside the Ironbirds.
Filming for the first time at the Ironbirds season opener against the Brooklyn Cyclones, the crew shot the mob scene that always accompanies a Cal Ripken autograph session, this one in the stands behind home plate.
They shot Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich throwing out the first ball and University of Maryland All-American linebacker and Aberdeen native E.J. Henderson throwing out what the announcer referred to as the "first pass."
They shot an inning in the Ironbirds dugout, too, although presumably with the idea of editing - heavily, one hopes - much of the spitting and scratching that ballplayers tend to do in these situations.
And, this being the springtime from hell in Central Maryland, they also shot the rain that fell throughout and ended the game early.
Which, as any fan would tell you, definitely came under the heading of "too much reality."