With apologies in advance to all the sports not named baseball, there is nothing like the Fall Classic. Really, there’s nothing like October baseball. I should say, there’s nothing in sports like October baseball.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love game seven of an NHL playoff series, or any of the NFL playoff weekends, those are fun too. I watch the World Cup, Olympics, heck, even the NBA during the playoffs. No matter how great an individual or team achievement is in those sports, they still don’t measure up to baseball in October.
Baseball is a six-month grind with amazing moments. Perfect games, no-hitters, walk-off wins, there are games and moments that are every bit as exciting as a long run in a football game. But baseball really is a grind. The people that play, coach, manage, work in the game actually use that term, grind, when talking about their season. In the big leagues, they play 162 games in roughly 180 days.
Rarely during the season does a team feel a true sense of urgency and if they do, it’s typically towards the end of the season. Occasionally during the season there are games that the media and/or fans will label as “must wins” but generally teams don’t put pressure on themselves in June to win a particular game.
But in October everything changes, except nothing changes. In the NBA, they claim defense prevails more in the playoffs. Same thing in the NFL, except there have been plenty of high-scoring playoff games over the years. How many penalties are in a Super Bowl or AFC/NFC Championship game? Not nearly as many as called during the regular season. It’s almost as if suddenly the players don’t block in the back or hold.
Unlike in the Super Bowl, tonight 43,000 + San Francisco Giants fans will be cheering wildly for their team against the Detroit Tigers. Come this weekend, 40,000+ Tigers fans will be going nuts for their team. Regular, run of the mill, dyed in the wool, fans of both teams will have the opportunity to see their team play in the World Series. How many dyed in the wool fans of the NY Giants or New England Patriots saw the Super Bowl in person last year? How many dyed in the wool fans of the Miami Heat saw their team win the NBA Championship in person last year?
That’s the beauty of baseball. No matter how many ills the game has, the games still involve baseball fans. The teams that win stay on the field to celebrate with their fans, and over the last few years, take laps around the park and exchange handshakes and high fives with their fans.
I love the 49ers and they have several wins in their history that are included in the games greatest games. But none of them define a generation. In 2010 when the Giants won the World Series, that defined generations of fans. People talked about going to games, like myself, with their fathers or grandfathers and watching the Giants always come up short.
There is an ebb and flow to a baseball season. Maybe because it’s the summer and it’s how so many of us measured our summers as a youth, checking box scores, looking at the probable pitchers for the game today, etc. Football is an event. Baseball is a game.
So for the next five to nine days, fans in Detroit and San Francisco, and baseball fans throughout the country will enjoy the Fall Classic. Regardless of who your favorite team is, or whether they are even in the Series, there is nothing like watching the series and having it lead up to a last out strikeout or a Mazeroski or Carter ending. For me, I’ll be watching and hoping and praying the Giants make it two out of the past three years, making up for my first 47 years with none.
Here I sit on a sunny, for now, mid-October day. I was reminded by twitter that 25 years ago late yesterday afternoon I was at Candlestick Park for game 3 of the 1989 World Series. Before I go on I do want to give thanks to the folks that built the ‘Stick, they did good, that’s for sure. The place may have been one of the worst ballparks ever built but it also survived one of the worst earthquakes in American history.
As most of you know by now, the Washington Nationals foray into their first postseason lasted just five games and ended with one of their worst losses of the season. Leading by two into the ninth, they couldn’t nail down the final three outs before giving up their lead.
The final three outs of any game are hard, much less the final game of a series. Some very good to great pitchers have had trouble nailing down the last three outs from Dennis Eckersly to Mariano Rivera and their failures didn’t diminish their great careers. In my first year of broadcasting, Mark Littell was the pitching for the team I worked for, the Ogden Raptors. In case you don’t recall Mark, at the end of his rookie season he gave up a solo home run to Chris Chambliss that ended the 1976 American League Championship Series. He said the Royals called him every couple of weeks that off-season to check on him and make sure he was fine. He told me that Chambliss was a very good hitter, he made a decent pitch, Chambliss hit it out of the park, and that was that.
I don’t know Drew Storen that well, but I’ve spent enough time around him to know he can’t wait until Opening Day in 2013 so that he can put the finishing touches on the Nats first win. If I recall correctly, Drew joined us in August and was nearly unhittable finishing the season with nine saves in under a month. He just has a way about him that I think will allow him to move past this disappointment, put it behind him, and have a great career filled with many memorable saves.
As most of you know, I’m also a Giants fan so I’m following them closely as well. I was hoping for a Nats vs. Giants NLCS thinking that no matter who won, I’d have a “favorite” team in the World Series. As it stands today, the Giants trail the Cards two games to one and will need to find a way to win a game in St. Louis just to send the series back to San Francisco.
In the American League, it seems as if we are watching the end of a dynasty doesn’t it? The Yankees are suddenly old at the plate and with the injury to Jeter, it sure seems like there is a void in leadership. They just don’t seem like The Yankees. But then again, heck, maybe they’ll starting bombing Comerica Park and turn things around in the series.
Baseball gets lost amongst the other sports like the NFL, College Football, and March Madness, but how about all four Division Series going the distance? I’ve already touched on the Nats game, but their was high drama between the Reds and Giants, and the Yankees didn’t run away and hide from the Orioles with game five going down to the last out. Only the Tigers took the steam out of their game five.
At the beginning of the League Championship Series’ I was hoping for a Yankees vs. Giants World Series, but now I’m just hoping for a Giants vs. anyone World Series. For baseball fans over 50, the Yankees and Giants seemingly met all the time in New York but in reality, it has been 50 years this year since the two teams last met in a World Series. The 1962 World Series ended with Willie McCovey hitting a line drive to Bobby Richardson at second base with the tying and winning runs in scoring position. One famous baseball fan, Charlie Brown, never lived that one down.
What goes around comes around, right? In 1960, Bill Mazeroski hit the first walk-off home run to end a World Series in baseball history. He hit that home run off a beleaguered Ralph Terry. The 24-year-old Terry had to live with his failure for two years and three days before retiring McCovey and winning game 7 of the 1962 World Series, a World Series in which he was named the MVP.
Another season has nearly come to an end. Well one part of the season does come to an end later today as the Senators are set to play their final road game of the season tonight in Richmond. The season, wins and losses wise, hasn’t gone the way many of us thought it would go or hoped it would go. The Senators are 62-74 and have been out of the playoff race for most of the final month.
But this blog is about baseball, at least not about wins and losses.
I’ve spent more time this past week in Richmond just enjoying the time in the afternoon at the ballpark. There’s nothing I’ve experienced in my life, my working life anyway, that is like the late afternoon in a ballpark. Typically, the home team takes batting practice at 4:15pm followed by the visiting team at 5:00pm. For the 90 minutes during batting practice, there isn’t a whole lot going on in the park. Oh yeah, in places you can’t see from the press box front office folks are scurrying around tidying things up and getting the park ready to open the gates to the fans for that evening’s game.
As much as the quiet solicitude is nice, it’s also a rush when the gates open and fans begin to enter the park. There’s nothing like that energy to get in the mood to broadcast or play another game. Since I’ve never worked at an amusement I don’t know for sure what it’s like when the gates open in the morning, but I’d guess it’s something like when the gates open at Disneyland.
I think, for whatever reason, I’ve reflected more the latter half of this season on this and other things related to working in baseball. One never knows what the future holds so I wanted to savor the many different aspects to doing this job.
Working in baseball can be a grind, whether a member of the traveling party or a front office member that doesn’t travel. The season tends to be measured by homestands and road trips. The season starts and before you know it, the calendar has turned to May, the weather is warmer, and more people are coming to the game. Then you blink again and you’re sitting in the press box at The Diamond in Richmond writing a blog about the end of the season. If time would have passed this quickly when I was 11, I wouldn’t have hated school so much!
Traveling with the team means I’m not around to take care of a lot of little things, that become big things, throughout the course of the season. I couldn’t possibly survive at my job without the help of many people.
One such person is Todd Matthews. Without joking about it, Todd is one of the few people older than me working for our organization. He works tirelessly at keeping the suites and boardwalk organized. This season, more than others, he has been a huge help to me with several corporate clients. Without him and his dedication, I’m not sure where I would be right now.
Matt Dudas has spent the year interning for me. I’m not sure what he would have to say about me, ha, but I’m happy to say that he’s improved since he started working for the team. Oh he still has a lot to learn about being prompt and prioritizing, but he’s better than he was and his on his way in his new career.
All of my co-workers put in countless hours and receive very little outside recognition. People don’t really understand how many hours it takes to put on a homestand. Generally, they are at the park from 8am until at least 10:30pm on the day of a game, every day. If we have a seven-game homestand, that means they are working those hours for seven straight days. Most people think what we do is glamorous, well, I’m not sure that’s a word I would you to describe our lives. For the single people, it’s nearly impossible to start a relationship with the hours that are worked for nearly six months.
I just want to publicly say that I respect each and every one of my co-workers and that I’ve enjoyed working with them, through the ups and downs. It may come as a shock to some of you, and not a shock to others, but as I’ve aged it seems I’ve become more like a curmudgeon than I care to think, instead of some happy-go-lucky Californian that I think I used to be. I think it’s time to find that guy again!
I also want to say thank you to Tony Beasley and Matt LeCroy for being the type of men you want to spend time with on a daily basis for five months. I have learned a lot from them, both about baseball and about life.
When I started this in Ogden in 2002, that feeling after my first broadcast was over was one of elation, and secondly of fear. I was elated that I was now a professional baseball broadcaster and the fear was that my cell phone was going to ring saying I was fired.
It’s hard to imagine but this weekend, barring any rain outs, I’ll broadcast my 1,500th game. There are many, many others that have done far more games than I, but still a staggering number to me considering I didn’t go on the air the first time in Ogden until a week after my 39th birthday.
I don’t know what the future holds, whether it holds another 1,500 games or no games (personally I’m hoping for more games), but whatever happens I’m thrilled to have worked with so many good people with the Raptors, Wizards and Senators, and all of the others throughout the leagues I’ve been in.
Just remember, April 4, 2013 is just around the corner and another season of Senators baseball. Maybe it’ll be the one that fans talk about forever, we can only hope!
As a kid growing up, my connection with the Giants wasn’t Bobby Bonds, Ken Henderson, or even Willie Mays, my connection with the Giants was Lon Simmons. His rich baritone, telling me the outfield was shallow, or deep, or the infield was at double-play depth, made me feel like I was at Candlestick Park on late summer nights.
There is no manual to broadcasting a game. Unlike going to work somewhere that has rules and regulations regarding how to make a sale, or input information into a spreadsheet, broadcasting a baseball game is an individual expression.
Thousands and thousands of games have been played over the past 80 years since games have been commonplace on the radio. Have all the broadcasts been good? Absolutely not. Are all broadcasters good, absolutely not.
Each broadcaster has a style that is as different as each game broadcasted. My “style”, I don’t know. Probably at times I talk about things that don’t make any sense, or become too critical of the play on the field. And to others, I’m probably too much of a homer. Just follow the twitter account of just about any professional broadcaster and there are far more people complaining than commending.
The past few days the Harrisburg Senators have not played very good baseball. They’ve pitched poorly, they’ve played poor defense, they’ve not hit, they’ve not hit with runners in scoring position, and for the past two games, they haven’t scored. This is not meant as a knock on the Senators. I know they are trying, I’m with them every day and I watch them work. No, rather, this is the ebb and flow of a 142 game season.
Saturday night at home they fell 19-9 in a game that wasn’t that close. Sunday they were shut out 4-0 on four hits. Which brings us to last night.
If you tuned into the broadcast at any point past the fifth inning you might have heard me talking about The World Book Enclyclopedia and the part of the book that dealt with the human body and the overlays. Or maybe you would have heard me talking about Apollo 11 and seeing the capsule on a national tour. Or maybe you would have heard me talk about the football stadium that baseball was played in for three seasons in Sacramento in the mid-1970s.
But no matter where my thoughts were taking me, a pitch wasn’t missed, each play was called, and the integrity of the game wasn’t compromised.
So you wonder why I would talk about nonsense? Well here’s why, because after scoring two unearned runs in the second inning, Portland scored nine runs in the fourth and sentfourteen batters to the plate. And the net result was that the Senators were shut out for a second straight game.
So instead of complaining about how bad they are currently playing, or ripping players for bad at bats, or over-analyzing a game that had a two touchdown difference, I opted for fun and nonsensical.
A listener wasn’t happy. Maybe more listeners weren’t happy, only one voiced their displeasure.
That’s okay. When I moved from the so-called “real” world into the world of broadcasting professionally in 2002, I knew people would be more likely to complain than commend, it comes with the territory.
Nearly every sports fan thinks they could be better than Joe Buck or Tim McCarver. There are people that couldn’t stand Ernie Harwell and people in southern California that won’t tune into Vin Scully. I am certainly not remotely close as any of the aforementioned broadcasters, just making a point.
Two or three weeks ago the Senators were involved in a blowout on the losing end and I had a listener email me the next day and say that my stories that day kept them listening, that the game was bad, but that the stories were funny and enjoyable.
I don’t know how much longer I will broadcast games on the radio, but I know that however long I do it and wherever I work doing it, fans will know I’m passionate about the team and that I care. Am I the best, most professional broadcaster around, heck no, I know that. However, if you listen enough you might find you enjoy the nonsensical.
Can you believe we are less than six weeks from opening the season in Bowie? With the nice weather we’ve had over the past couple of weeks it’s hard to believe that the season is still six weeks from starting since it feels more like late March than late February. But all in all, I’m good with the season not starting for nearly 50 days. I still have a lot to do before the season starts.
For the first time since my first season broadcasting (2002) I have purchased a scorebook. My scorecard is more involved than the kind on sale at the local sporting goods store. I need to have a place to keep notes, write down the defensive alignment, detailed pitcher information and plenty of room for subs. Since 2002 I’ve created my own scoresheet but this year I decided not to mess with that and to purchase the Bob Carpenter Scorebook. As some of you may know, Bob is the TV voice of the Washington Nationals and has been for the past several seasons. His scorebook has just about everything a broadcaster needs in the way of a scorebook. My only complaint/problem is that it was hard for me to write against the spine when keeping score on the left hand scoresheet. We’ll see how it goes this year. I’m hopeful that I can make it work without any issues. I’ll keep you posted.
Have I ever mentioned that I consider myself a Parrothead? Unfortunately I haven’t been to a concert in over 10 years now which is a bummer. I keep hoping that he (Jimmy Buffett) will do a show in the spring or fall close to central Pennsylvania. I’m not sure I should admit this or not, but I’ve seen him in the Bay Area (two venues); Washington state; Indianapolis; Chicago; Nashville; and West Palm Beach. I think that covers all the locations. One of my favorite stations on my XM is the Jimmy Buffett channel.
Music and baseball seem to go hand in hand, at least to me they do. Since I’m at a ballpark for many hours each day during the season, I hear a lot of music. It’s nearly impossible for teams to take batting practice now without music. It was always this way, especially considering there weren’t even sound systems in ballparks until the early 80s. I have no idea how teams took batting practice for 80+ years without music. Nowadays if the sound system isn’t on when BP starts, they’ll yell or scream or at times throw baseballs at the press box window trying to get our attention. And then, the music has to be at just the right level and it has to be the right type of music as well. Some of the music played is just awful. And I don’t say that just because of my age, but because the music is awful.
My other favorite channel, the radio classic channel. I love hearing the old the mysteries such as The Shadow, The Green Hornet etc., the old police shows such as Dragnet and Broadway is My Beat, and the westerns like Gunsmoke. When I’m on a trip listening to the old radio shows really seems to pass the time, much better than music. It’s amazing to me that those shows were mostly done on a stage, live, in front of an audience. They sound so realistic, the sound of a gunfight in Dodge City or walking down an alley in Boston. I find that I probably enjoy listening to the old radio versions of shows more than watching the TV version since it allows me to use my imagination.
I used to love sports on the radio for the same reason. Listening to Bill King describe a 3 on 1 fast break for the Warriors made it seem like I was sitting courtside. Long before I ever went to game I had an idea about what the arena was like. In those days, of course, smoking was allowed in ballparks and arenas so there was a layer of haze in the arena and the smell of cigarettes and cigars and more. The level of description was amazing, then my imagination took over. “Seeing” a Nate Thurmond block or a Rick Barry 23-foot jump shot, they were bigger than life in my mind. I can recall seeing for myself, the first time I was at a Giants game in person, Willie Mays “shading” towards right; Bobby Bonds playing “shallow”; Chris Speier and Tito Fuentes at “double-play depth”, all things I had heard Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons describe. In my mind, Candlestick Park was the perfect place for baseball, a heaven on earth place, in reality, it was horrible for both players and fans.
I’m looking forward to this season, more than any season in recent memory, and looking forward to becoming more descriptive, less analytical, and to having more fun on the air this year. I hope you join me for the ride.
Hello all. Yes, I’m alive. The sun is out this morning and the temps are supposed to reach nearly 50 today. One can only hope the weather will be this nice in mid-April.
Earlier this week Emily Winslow, our Director of Community Relations, signed me up to be a speaker at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Harrisburg. About an hour before we headed over she came into my office and told me that I needed to talk about goals. The group of kids I spoked to ranged from the 1st grade to 8th grade, somewhat difficult to relate to all of them at the same time. Oh well, I think they had fun and I used the word goal probably two dozen times, making the teachers happy as well.
With spring training right around the corner, meaning the season is closer and closer, the talk of goals had me thinking about my life and my goals. So I’ve been thinking the past couple of days about what I would like to accomplish both personally and professionally over the next few months. These are in no particular order…
- Break 2:30 in the half-marathon I’m running on March 18 (I use the term running loosely!)
- Run (again using that term loosely) 400 miles during the course of the season
- Break 80 in a round of golf (yes, playing all 18 holes)
- Be kinder and more entertaining on the radio broadcasts (my new partner, Matt Dudas, will help with this)
- Go to bed earlier and wake up earlier (watching west coast baseball on TV in a hotel room is a killer for falling asleep early)
- Eat fewer french fries
- Eat more vegetables
- Eat less chocolate
- Eat more vegetables
- Be kinder and nicer to those close to me (no, I’m not going to say I want world peace, I’m not a beauty contestant)
- Not to let four-pitch walks to .220 hitters to cause my blood pressure to rise
- Enjoy watching every minute of every game and realize there are a lot worse things to be doing, regardless of the score of the game
- Write more blogs
- To not let the radio setup in New Britain bother me
- See the “real” Beach Boys in concert one final time
I warned you that there was no rhyme or reason to the list.
Okay, onto actual baseball related topics. I’m personally very excited for this season to start. First and foremost, things look pretty good for the Nationals to make some waves this year. And what makes that thought even more fun is the number of players on their roster that played here in Harrisburg. Secondly, I think we will see a whole bunch of really good younger talent this year at Metro Bank Park. I’m looking forward to seeing the group of players that I’ve heard about for the past two or three seasons. I don’t have any particulars but am guessing we will be pretty young this year. I should know a lot more when I make my annual trip to spring training in the middle of March.
I was saddened yesterday to hear about the passing of Gary Carter. The older I am the harder it is to hear about athletes passing that I watched their entire careers. I didn’t see the Expos play a whole lot of times in the 70s against the Giants, but I do remember a night game in about 1975 or 1976 that is probably the coldest night I’ve ever paid to watch a game in. I have no idea what the temperature was that evening at Candlestick, but extra socks, blankets, jackets, hot chocolate, none of it was nearly enough. And it was in July or August!
In the immediate future here at Metro Bank Park, we are beginning the process of getting everything ready for the season. The office is busy with selling tickets, advertising, and merchandise. The guys outside are busy getting the field ready (it looks great especially considering it was under 4″ of mud in September), clubhouses and the rest of the ballpark. I guess we’re still about eight weeks away from the home opener on April 12 against Reading.
Okay, that’s it for today. I’ll be back sooner than later and plan to write mini-blogs over the next six weeks updating you all on spring training, the office, and my goals. Have a great weekend!
Here are some random thoughts as October comes to a close.
- I’m rooting for the Rangers to win the World Series. Making the World Series in consecutive seasons is no easy feat, and it would be great for their loyal fans to experience a baseball championship parade.
- I still don’t understand how in the biggest game of the season there was such a big communications breakdown between the Cards dugout and bullpen.
- Does anyone really care whether the NBA ever plays a game again or not? Okay, that’s not nice of me since I have some friends employed by NBA teams and I’d hate to see them lose their jobs. So for the sake of my friends I hope the NBA figures out how to save their season.
- Is it time for spring training yet?
- In a strange scheduling quirk, we’ll start the 2012 season ahead of several major league teams as the big leagues don’t start until we do this year.
- I just spent a week in California and did I mention it was nearly cloudless and 75 for the whole week? A guy could get used to that type of weather. Oh wait, for 35 years I was used to it.
- I’m personally rooting for Tony Beasley to return to Harrisburg as the Sens manager in 2012.
- Can you really get used to the cold and snow?
- Kudos to new Caps radio guy John Walton on a great start in DC, but then, did you expect anything different? He’s the consummate professional.
- Thanks to Tim Foreman, Brandon Forsburg, and Ben Moyer (and many more), Metro Bank Park is nearly ready for baseball after the floods in mid-September. Those guys have done an amazing job cleaning the field and the ballpark.
- Did you notice that over the past two seasons the Senators have the best record in the Eastern League at 157 wins and 127 losses for a winning percentage of .553?
- Is it time for spring training yet?
- When all is said and done, does Albert stay with the Cards or does he end up somewhere else?
- How many out there remember when the Kansas City Royals weren’t a small market team, but a franchise blueprint to follow?
- Can the 49ers keep it up and a respectable season?
- I’d like to watch one more night baseball game at Candlestick Park to see if it was really as bad as I remember!?!
- Best Senators game this season you ask? Too many to chose from but it’s hard to argue against September 1st with the Cowboy Monkeys Rodeo and Stephen Strasburg on the mound. And did I mention the Senators clinched the regular season division championship that night!?!?
- I can’t wait for the gates to open to Metro Bank Park in 2012 as we have some pretty cool changes in store for fans this coming season along with more interesting entertainment.
- Only because my wife watches, but am I the only one that thinks Chas Bono can’t dance? I don’t care about anything else, I thought the show was about dancing!?!?
- Do we really still need a video on how to buckle the lap buckle on an airplane? Really?
Okay, I think that’s it with the random thoughts on this dreary Thursday. It’ll be a nice night to prepare for Saturdays broadcast and to watch game 6, if it’s not rained out.
Until next time be sure to follow me on twitter at @hbgsensradio.
It’s officially Friday the 13th as I type this. It’s also 1:37am in the morning. Why am I up so late, well, it was a four hour game earlier tonight and we didn’t arrive back at the hotel until a little after midnight. I’m sure I’ll be sleepy soon, I’m just not sleepy yet.
The season is a little more than a month old and the Senators are a game under .500, but all is going to be okay with the team. When all is said and done, fans are really going to enjoy watching this team all season long.
The season is an interesting time. People in baseball talk about the grind, the day in and day out of being at the baseball park, waiting to play the game that day in whatever city it is.
For those of us in the front office, we point towards the season nearly the moment the previous season ends. All we do is talk about wanting the season to get here so there is baseball again and not the cold winter and somewhat drudgery of the off-season.
So then why does everyone in the game want time to go by so quickly? I’m guilty of it. During games I’ll mention how long it has taken to play five or six innings as if I really have something better to do at 10:30pm on a Tuesday night.
A baseball game, the baseball season, they should be cherished like a fine glass of wine, or a nice thick, juicy steak. It’s not something to rush. A game and the season should be something to enjoy, savored. No two games or no two seasons are alike.
Someone very smart years ago said that if you come to the ballpark every day, you’re sure to see something you never have before. That phrase has been true this season and was true tonight for sure.
Because of my job, I get caught up in the game(s) while I’m broadcasting and I certainly want the Senators to win. But after the game is over, and there is time to reflect, I’m back into my more normal mode of not letting the wins and losses affect me one way or the other. Their are just too many games and too many long days to let one game affect you.
My alarm went off at 6am this morning. The bus left the ballpark for Richmond at 8am. We arrived in Richmond sometime around noon. And then I headed to the ballpark at 3:30pm. The game started a minute early at 7:04pm and finished at 11:06pm. What I just described is why I don’t/can’t get caught up in the wins and losses. The day is too long and there are too many games to worry about one game. In mid-August is when the team will start worrying about a loss.
Tomorrow (Friday), the team leaves the hotel at 10:30am to go workout at a local gym. Then it’s lunch time, followed by a short nap (maybe) and then onto the ballpark at either 2:30 or 3:30pm. Game time is at 7:05pm and we’ll hope for a shorter game than 4:02.
Well, it’s now after 2am and 10am is going to come early. Here’s to hoping the Senators bounce back on Friday night and start a road winning streak.