Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘New York Yankees’

Sometimes, I pinch myself. Figuratively though, never literally. Fifteen years ago, I sat in the ballpark across the street and called a Red Sox-Yankees game into my tape recorder. The game was sold out; I rested my scorebook and notes on my right thigh and the tape recorder on my left thigh all while trying not to invade the personal space of those sitting next to me. A good chunk of my play-by-play from that game – Luis Sojo hit a walkoff RBI single in the bottom of ninth off Rod Beck to win it for the Yankees – wound up on my first baseball demo tape. That tape landed me my first baseball play-by-play job. Fifteen years later, I’m on the opposite side of 161st Street at the new Yankee Stadium, eight subway stops from where I grew up, being paid to call a playoff game featuring my surprising Houston Astros squad against the New York Yankees. Sure, it’s “just” a winner-take-all American League Wild Card Game but, in many ways, that raises the stakes. In a seven- or five-game series, losing the first game isn’t the end. However, losing the Wild Card Game is the end. Play six months to get into the postseason and it could be gone – Poof! – after one game, in which anything can happen; if you lose, it’s almost like you were never in the playoffs, the moment so fleeting.

The first pitch from Masahiro Tanaka to Jose Altuve is a ball.

*          *          *

The 2015 season is my 14th year broadcasting baseball – seven years in the minors, seven in the Majors, a play-by-play guy in 10 of those seasons – and I’ve never been involved in a postseason game. As a matter of fact, in only one of the previous 13 seasons had a team I covered finished over .500; the 2004 Kalamazoo Kings of the independent Frontier League. The Kings were in the playoff hunt until the season’s final week. The next year, the Kings won the league title, but I wasn’t there to see it; I’d moved on to the Binghamton Mets of the Double-A Eastern League by then. The B-Mets were in the playoff hunt until the season’s final day in 2006, but they split a doubleheader on that day to finish 70-70 & out of the playoffs.

What I learned this year was that, in the playoffs, the waiting is the hardest part. And the Astros had to wait longer than most to find out what was next for them. Going into the final day of the season on Sunday, there were four possible scenarios involving potential playoff or tiebreaker games in three different cities. After that day’s games concluded, the Astros were locked into the Wild Card Game in New York in two days, on Tuesday. Which meant a cross-country flight from Phoenix, arriving in New York – our third city on what was now at least a 9-day road trip – in the wee hours of Monday morning with a game scheduled for shortly after 8 pm local time on Tuesday. Being exhausted and sleeping through much of Monday morning did make the waiting any easier.

*          *          *

I was in the restroom when I heard it.

Colby Rasmus homered leading off the top of the second, a high, majestic shot to right; that appeared to be more than enough run support for Astros ace, and Yankees killer, Dallas Keuchel. I took my customary break when the top of the fourth inning began, turning the play-by-play over to Steve Sparks – my broadcast partner – which always mean a stop at the facilities. I’d just parked at a urinal when I heard the smooth, but booming, voice of Yankees radio broadcaster John Sterling over the restroom speakers announce that Carlos Gomez hit Tanaka’s first pitch of the fourth for a home run. Astros 2, Yankees 0. I’ve been in baseball long enough to know the game isn’t won until the last out is recorded, but I was confident the Astros were going to advance.

*          *          *

I woke up Tuesday morning feeling refreshed. The off-day Monday was needed to get over the grogginess associated with a late cross-country flight from Phoenix and to recharge my batteries after a 162-game regular season which included tension-filled games for most of the season’s final month. Monday was a great day to relax, go for a long walk & visit some friends & relatives in my hometown. Tuesday, it was time to get down to business.

I huddled at the desk in front of my laptop & iPad much of the morning. I updated my notes on the Yankees & made sure I had all the information I needed & wanted. Notes on the Astros’ postseason history and regular-season history against the Yankees were typed. This was my first time preparing for a playoff game, so I was learning as I went. Sure, I’d prepared for plenty of regular-season games, but this was different. How much work should I do for just one game? What information do I absolutely need & what information can be put on the back burner? By the time I closed my laptop & iPad, I felt pretty good about my preparation. I never get nervous for a broadcast if I know I’m prepared. I wasn’t nervous.

*          *          *

A two-run lead with Dallas Keuchel on the mound against the Yankees felt like a 10-run lead. Keuchel – who hadn’t allowed a run to the Yankees in the regular season – didn’t even allow many hard-hit outs. Alex Rodriguez did punish a pitch that George Springer ran down in the rightfield corner. The three hits Keuchel allowed – all singles – were harmless. He walked Astros nemesis Chris Young in the first inning, but that was the only free pass Keuchel allowed. The Astros got Keuchel another run in the seventh, when Jose Altuve poked a low-and-away pitch – a pitcher’s pitch – from Yankees reliever Dellin Betances into leftfield, scoring Jonathan Villar from second base. Keuchel handed a 3-0 lead to the bullpen – good most of the year, but shaky in September – when he departed after six innings.

*          *          *

I really wanted Caribbean food.

Houston is a great city with fantastic restaurants & plenty of ethnic food options, but finding good Caribbean food has proven to be difficult. Since moving to Houston, I’d heard of one Puerto Rican restaurant, which I tried & found lacking. Another Jamaican restaurant I read about on the Internet wasn’t up to snuff, at least not to me. A second Jamaican restaurant recommended to me by a friend had proven to be the real deal. So, Houston was 1 for 3 in the Caribbean restaurant department – a great ratio for a hitter, but not for my taste buds.

Growing up in the Bronx in a neighborhood filled with people from all over the Caribbean, I developed an appreciation for their food & culture. And I was confident I’d be able to find a good Caribbean restaurant near my Midtown Manhattan hotel for lunch before heading to Yankee Stadium for the game. A search on Yelp turned up a Puerto Rican restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen across town. Probably a 15-minute cab ride. Google Maps said it was a 30-minute walk. I was confident I could walk there in 20 minutes.

*          *          *

I felt a sense of calm when I saw Tony Sipp enter the game from the bullpen for the bottom of the seventh. The southpaw finished the regular season strong & matched up well against a Yankees lineup laden with lefthanded hitters and switch hitters. My calm was justified when Sipp worked around a one-out walk to Chase Headley, retiring the other three Yankees he faced in the inning. I was thrilled to see Will Harris enter the game in the eighth. Harris would’ve probably started the year in the minor leagues if it hadn’t been for injuries to other pitchers, but he never saw the minors in 2015, pitching well all year & earning the right to be the eighth-inning setup man in a winner-take-all playoff game. The Yankees went down in order against Harris, the ball not leaving the infield.

One more inning.

*          *          *

I haven’t been a full-time resident of New York City in over 13 years. Yet, getting back into The City’s routine, the hustle & bustle, is never an adjustment for me. As a matter of fact, I look forward to it. The streets were packed, as they always are around lunchtime in Midtown Manhattan. Office workers flood outside in the afternoons, seeking food. Many use their afternoon lunch breaks to smoke a cigarette or two, either in front of their office building or on their way to & from lunch (New York City has the most stringent non-smoking laws in the country, & public sidewalks are just about the only place where it’s legal to smoke outside of one’s private residence. For now).

The City’s geography is always in my head as I traverse Manhattan. For a New Yorker, memorizing the north-south avenues in order is tantamount to knowing your multiplication tables. The Puerto Rican restaurant was on 51st Street, between 9th & 10th Avenues. I left the Astros’ hotel, on 42nd Street, just east of Third Avenue, & quickly made my way to Lexington Avenue, before briskly walking uptown. I use the traffic lights to determine my moves. A red light at 44th Street meant making a left turn & walking west to Park Avenue, where I barely made the light before a red at Madison Avenue forced me back uptown. I made it through the pedestrian plaza that’s become Times Square before shooting up 8th Avenue for a few blocks. Construction on 9th Avenue forced me uptown again. I finally made it to 51st Street, a residential block with one storefront – the Puerto Rican restaurant. The beautiful fall weather meant my walk across town at light speed didn’t cause me to break a sweat or to be out of breath.

*          *          *

Yankees closer Andrew Miller was his usual dominant self in the top of the ninth, retiring the Astros on a harmless fly ball & two strikeouts. As Astros closer Luke Gregerson made his way from the visitor’s bullpen to the mound, the Yankee Stadium crowd was trying to summon up the strength to cheer their team to a rally, but it was obvious their heart wasn’t in it. Sparks pulled out the t-shirt & shorts he wore when he covered the Astros’ Champagne-fueled celebration from the clubhouse in Phoenix just two days prior; it was his job to get post-game interviews with players & coaches during every Astros clinching celebration. I’d just gotten back on the air when Sparks motioned to me that he was heading downstairs to prepare for another postgame party.

*          *          *

I stood behind four other patrons waiting to place their order; there was barely enough room for the short line. The restaurant was dominated by the kitchen & food prep area on the right. On the left was a narrow area with three sets of tables & chairs. One table was occupied by two women who were finishing their lunch. It quickly became obvious I was the only person in the restaurant who wasn’t fluent in Spanish. I felt right at home.

I was in line for a few minutes when a restaurant employee approached me.

“You eat here?” He asked me in a thick accent.

“Yes, I’m going to have lunch here. Not to go.”

“Sit! Sit!” He implored, waving toward a table. “I take care of you. Gimme 5 minutes. You want soda?”

I answered in the affirmative as I followed his instructions. Five minutes later, he asked me what I wanted to eat. I never saw a menu, but I didn’t need one. I settled on baked chicken with yellow rice (arroz con pollo) with plantains. “Maduros,” I told him, meaning I wanted the soft, sweet plantains, rather than the hard, salty ones. The food came quickly & in the large portions typical of a Caribbean restaurant. When I finished, I walked to the counter, which separated me from a short, raven-haired woman. After glancing at the chicken bones & stray pieces of rice remaining on my plate, she asked me if I had a soda. I told her I had. “Eight dollars,” she said. An eight dollar lunch in Manhattan? It’s a miracle!

The walk back to the hotel was a little longer than the walk to the restaurant. A full stomach will do that to you.

*          *          *

When he was with the Astros in 2004, Carlos Beltran turned in one of the greatest postseason performances in baseball history. However, he spurned the Astros for the Mets in free agency that winter & many Astros fans still boo him whenever he returns to Minute Maid Park. So, I’m sure many Astros fans took an extra bit of satisfaction in seeing him strike out swinging to begin the bottom of the ninth. The next hitter, Rodriguez, also struck out.

One out remaining.

*          *          *

I always try to take a 20-30 minute nap before I head to the ballpark. Even if I just close my eyes & don’t fall asleep, I feel refreshed & am less likely to get tired later in the day. Given how excited I was, it was a little surprising to me that I was able to doze off so easily after I slipped out of my shoes, packed my briefcase, fluffed up two pillows & laid face up on top of the bedspread.

Whenever I wake up from my early afternoon naps, I’m like a bucking bronco when the gate opens, & today was no exception. I bolted out of bed, quickly slipped on my shoes & grabbed my briefcase before storming out of the hotel room. After checking out at the front desk, I expertly wheeled my briefcase through the endless pedestrian traffic on my way to the subway station. I happened to arrive on the platform just as the 4 train was entering the station, which, to many New Yorkers, is tantamount to winning the lottery.

After arriving at my stop, I briskly walked to Yankee Stadium. I couldn’t wait to unpack, get settled in & to start my day.

*          *          *

One of the things I love about doing play-by-play is the unpredictability & spontaneity; you never know what you’re going to see & you usually don’t know exactly how you’re going to call something until it happens. I rarely think about what I’m going to say before it comes out of my mouth. Even when I give speeches, I never write them down verbatim; maybe I’ll jot down some brief notes or bullet points if I write anything down at all. However, when the final out was recorded, I knew exactly what I was going to say long before I said it, a rarity for me.

I’d been thinking about Frank Sinatra’s version of “Theme from New York, New York,” which is played after every Yankees home game, win or lose. I used to work in Kansas City, where I covered the Royals; after their wins, they play Wilbert Harrison’s version of “Kansas City” at Kauffman Stadium. The winner of this game was going to play the Royals in the American League Division Series, with the first two games in Kansas City. If the Astros won, I knew what I wanted to say, & it would incorporate elements from both songs.

Brian McCann stood in for the Yankees, their final chance to extend the game. The drama was quickly extinguished when Gregerson got him to swing at the first pitch.

“Ground ball, right into the shift! Fielded by Correa to the left of second. Throws to first, in time! And that is the ball game! Start spreadin’ the news, the Houston Astros win the AL Wild Card Game, beating the New York Yankees three to nothing! Kansas City, here they come!”

A perfect ending to a perfect day.

Read Full Post »

The last baseball game I attended before the strike was at Yankee Stadium. Me and my co-workers for the summer were given complimentary tickets, along with several other youth and teen groups, in the left-centerfield bleachers. I defiantly wore my Mets hat to the game, which pitted the Yankees against the Baltimore Orioles. Wearing the hat of New York’s National League team proved to be the right move, since former Mets centerfielder Tommie Agee was in attendance, signing autographs in the bleachers; his appearance was part of the program that allowed us to get into The House That Ruth Built gratis. I still have that hat, which Agee signed on the green underside of the bill.

Back then, I lived for baseball. Well, I still live for baseball – make my living in baseball, even – but, in those days, I was obsessed. Every winter, I’d suffer through pangs of withdrawal because there wasn’t any baseball on television; I’d scour Sports Illustrated for any blurb or mention of the National Pastime. I eagerly anticipated the Mets’ first spring training game, which was always televised on WWOR TV. I loved WWOR’s spring training open – which featured a wooden crate filled with oranges that would be hammered shut and, after a time lapse, reopened to reveal that the oranges had turned into baseballs – not only because it was pure genius, but also because it signaled that another baseball season was around the corner.

But now, there was a possibility that the baseball off-season would be longer than ever. The team owners and the players’ union were at an impasse in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement and a strike was imminent. None of the so-called experts seemed to think the strike would be brief, although no one had any idea how long it would last. A few weeks? A few months? Into the postseason? Into the following season? Anything seemed to be possible except, of course, a quick resolution.

The strike deadline set by the players was four days away and in the back of my mind as I watched former Mets pitcher Sid Fernandez staked to an early 4-0 lead, only to leave in the sixth with the score tied. I was sitting behind the Orioles bullpen and just missed getting the baseball reliever Jim Poole tossed into the crowd when he entered the game in the 10th. Mark Eichhorn, who had been warming up alongside Poole, teased and tantalized the fans who asked him for a ball; it seemed like poetic justice when Eichhorn gave up Randy Velarde’s walk-off RBI single in the 11th to lose the game for Baltimore.

Three days later, when I turned on my green-and-white radio on August 11th, 1994 to listen to the Mets play in Philadelphia (the game was televised on SportsChannel, and Mom had yet to sign us up for cable television), I was hoping the game lasted forever. It didn’t, but it came close; Ricky Jordan’s walk-off RBI single in the 15th won it for the Phillies. And I turned off my radio and wondered when I’d get to hear Major League Baseball again.

I finished the month at a summer camp in western Massachusetts, where I spent a week and a half canoeing, hiking and pitching tents in the wilderness. We were only allowed to shower every few days and there was no access to television or radio. Occasionally, our travels through the Berkshires and Adirondacks would take us by a newsstand or a newspaper vending machine, which would lead me to check the front page of the paper to see if the strike had been resolved. And, in every instance, there was a front-page headline about the strike. And, in every instance, that front-page headline indicated that the players were still on the picket line. Chris, a Chicago White Sox fan who served as my camp group’s counselor that summer before resuming his studies at a small, liberal-arts college in Minnesota in the fall, picked up on my routine. “Anything?” he would ask, after he saw me peek at newsprint. I’d shake my head. Nothing needed to be said.

The routines and rhythms of my sophomore year of high school helped pass the time, but the strike was never far from my mind. Those of us who are baseball crazed tend to gravitate to other seam heads, and it was all we talked about. I mean, it was all we could talk about, since the strike eliminated typical fall conversations about the postseason – which wound up being cancelled – and free agency. None of us really understood all of the issues at play; we were just hopeless baseball romantics hoping and praying that our beau would return post haste.

I had Biology class with Jonah Parsoff, who loved baseball almost as much as I did. Almost. Jonah also claimed to know more baseball trivia than me, which simply wasn’t possible. So, I offered Jonah a challenge: I would give him five baseball trivia questions every day and I guaranteed he would never get all five of them correct. So, for about two months, I spent the first few minutes of Biology writing trivia questions on a piece of loose-leaf paper, which I would covertly pass to Jonah in the front of the class (I always sat in the back of all of my classes, much to my mother’s chagrin. “You wear glasses” she would ask, “why are you sitting in the back?”). Jonah would attempt to answer my questions and slip the paper back to me. I don’t think he ever got more than three right; I know he never went five for five. I took delight in Jonah throwing his head back in frustration once I gave him the correct answers – a gesture that would prompt Mr. Young, our Biology teacher, to ask “Jonah, is something wrong?” mid-lecture. And, thus, my place atop the baseball-trivia throne was secure.

While I spent most of my time in Biology goofing off, I took Global Studies seriously; I always took great interest in history, which was partially responsible for my love of baseball trivia. However, I was convinced that my teacher, Mrs. Goodman, was assigning us papers at an insane rate that was unprecedented in the annals of high school history. However, I had little issue with one assignment from Mrs. Goodman that allowed us to write a 5-page paper on a current event selected from a pre-approved list when I saw that the list included the baseball strike. I immediately set to work on my masterpiece, in which detailed the follies of both the owners and the players’ union. My heartfelt missive earned me an A, and some unexpected praise from Mrs. Goodman; she told me I was an excellent writer and I should consider working for my high school’s monthly newspaper. I never thought of myself as an above-average writer and seeing my byline in print never occurred to me. But wouldn’t it be cool to write about sports? I thought to myself. And, after approaching one of the sports editors, I became a full-fledged sports journalist, penning important pieces on weighty topics – like the upcoming cross-country season – much to the delight of readers everywhere. At least that’s what I told myself.

My Pulitzer still hadn’t arrived in early March, when Dad and I plopped in front of the television to watch the Mets’ first spring training game, against the Yankees. Except it wasn’t the Mets, at least not the Mets with which we were familiar. The broadcast on WWOR opened with Ralph Kiner and Tim McCarver explaining that they weren’t going to pretend that the upcoming game featuring replacement players was to the Major League Baseball standards fans were accustomed. Thank goodness, because it would’ve been hard to pretend. Nevertheless, Dad and I were glued to the set because we had no idea what to expect from these people donning Mets and Yankees uniforms. An over-the-hill Doug Sisk, the frequent target of Mets fans’ derision when he was a reliever in the 1980s, started the game and was as uninspiring as I’d remembered.

I don’t recall the score, but I do recall the Yankees led by a narrow margin when the bottom of the ninth dawned and they summoned a pitcher named Mike Pitz to get the last three outs. After we finished making fun of his last name, we watched Pitz load the bases with two outs, bringing up Lou Thornton. The day before, we saw a local sportscast where Thornton proclaimed he didn’t get a fair shake when he was with the non-replacement Mets a few years prior and he became a replacement player to prove he belonged in the Majors.

“Well Lou,” Dad opined as Thornton dug in. “This is your chance.”

Thornton worked the count full before swinging and missing at a pitch that was nowhere near the strike zone. Game over.

I don’t have vivid memories of where I was or what I was doing when the strike ended, probably because the ending seemed so anticlimactic. And it didn’t really end, per sé; future Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor issued an injunction against the owners, which prevented them from implementing new labor rules and from using replacement players. Thus, the owners lost a significant amount of their leverage and were essentially forced to work something out with the players. Shortly thereafter, a truncated spring training preceded a truncated regular season and the love of my life was back. Unlike many fans, I didn’t hold any animosity toward the players or the owners; even though I didn’t understand all of the issues that led to a strike, I figured both sides were probably each at fault to a certain extent. Regardless, I just wanted to see baseball. The strike was the first test of my passion for baseball and, strangely, it increased my love for the game. If I could still obsess over baseball even after dealing with the postseason being canceled for the first time in 90 years and after months of uncertainty, then nothing would mute my love for the National Pastime. And nothing has.

Read Full Post »

We hadn’t been in our seats for very long when Dad pointed out the changes Yankee Stadium underwent during its renovation in the mid 1970s. Over there was where the Yankees bullpen was, Dad said as he pointed to an out-of-place nook behind the rightfield fence. Right there is where me and my grandfather sat when he took me to Yankees games when I was your age, Dad explained as he pointed to a section of empty seats in dead centerfield that were blacked out and blocked off, serving as a batters’ eye. Dad also pointed out the changed outfield dimensions and the monuments beyond the leftfield fence, which Dad said used to be located in centerfield, where they were in play. I stared at the retired numbers painted on the wall out by the bullpens in leftfield; there were so many of them.

I was a budding baseball fan on that night in 1989, two days shy of my tenth birthday, but I was already acutely aware of the storied history of the New York Yankees. I wasn’t even a Yankees fan, choosing to root for the New York Mets like Dad, Mom, Grandpa and nearly everyone else in my family who mattered. Yet, I couldn’t help but be awed thinking about all of the great players who roamed Yankee Stadium’s lush green grass. However, I was too young to remember the last great era of Yankees baseball; I was a fetus when the Yankees won the last of their record 22 World Series, in 1978, and I was two years old when the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Yankees in the 1981 World Series, their last postseason appearance. The Yankees had been marked by discord, dysfunction and a revolving door of players and managers ever since George Steinbrenner became their majority owner in 1973, but they’d always won, their drama not adversely affecting their play on the field. But, that was starting to change.

Ever since their last World Series game, the Yankees had been competitive, but not good enough to get over the hump. Their teams were marked by high payrolls and very good offenses, but also by inconsistent play and mediocre pitching. And, the Yankees certainly didn’t play like a well-oiled machine on this overcast June night. They committed six errors, leading to 12 unearned runs for their opponents, the Baltimore Orioles. Four of the errors occurred in the first three innings. Two of the errors were committed by first baseman Don Mattingly, the franchise cornerstone and winner of multiple Gold Gloves for his fielding acumen. The Yankees were down 7-0 in the top of the third inning when manager Dallas Green pulled starting pitcher Andy Hawkins. However, two batters later, Steve Finley – a rookie I’d never heard of – hit a grand slam off reliever Chuck Cary. Rain was in that evening’s forecast and many of the fans in attendance began opening their umbrellas and chanting for rain to wash the game away during the Yankees’ disastrous top of the third. Much to their chagrin, the rain stayed away all evening as the Orioles cruised to a 16-3 victory.

By the end of the 1989 season, the Yankees had suffered their third losing campaign since Steinbrenner’s reign began. Not surprisingly, the year included a managerial change, with Green being replaced by Bucky Dent in mid August. Meanwhile the Mets – the redheaded stepchild of New York City baseball for much of their history – continued to capture the hearts and minds of New Yorkers with their young, brash ballclub and dominant pitching. The Mets finished second in the National League East in ’89, but they were a year removed from a division title and three years removed from a dominant season that ended in a World Series triumph. Clearly, the Mets’ star was rising while the Yankees’ star was falling.

The biggest problem the Yankees had in those days can be summed up in two words: starting pitching. The ’89 season fell in the middle of a stretch in which the Yankees had a different Opening Day starting pitcher for nine straight seasons. That year Tommy John – a 45-year-old who wasn’t expected to make the team – took the hill for the Yankees in the opener. John won on Opening Day, but was released less than two months later with a 2-7 record and a 5.80 ERA; he never pitched in the Majors again. In 1985, the Yankees opened the season with 46-year-old knuckleballer Phil Niekro on the hill. 1991’s Opening Day hurler was journeyman Tim Leary, who’d lost a league-leading 19 games the year before. In 1990, Dave LaPoint, who had a 5.62 ERA in ’89, got the ball in the opener; he was released the following spring training and saw action in only two more Major League games after the ’90 season. Hawkins wasn’t one of the many Yankees Opening Day starters of that era, but he was signed to a hefty contract as a free agent, only to disappoint. Even when he wasn’t disappointing, Hawkins was still losing; in 1990, he threw a no-hitter in Chicago against the White Sox, but the Yankees committed three errors in a four-run eighth and Hawkins and the Yankees lost 4-0. The next start, Hawkins tossed 11 shutout innings against the Minnesota Twins, but allowed two runs in the 12th and lost 2-0. It’s pretty hard to go 0-2 over a two-start stretch that includes 19 consecutive innings without an earned run, but Hawkins and the Yankees were able to make that happen (to add insult to injury, in 1991, Major League Baseball ruled that Hawkins’ performance in Chicago would no longer be officially recognized as a no-hitter because he only threw eight innings. That wasn’t Hawkins’ fault; since the White Sox led after 8 ½ innings, they didn’t have to bat in the bottom of the ninth).

But, the Yankees didn’t miss only on veteran pitchers. In 1984, the Mets began the season with 19-year-old phenom Dwight Gooden in their rotation and the Yankees, not to be outdone, put 18-year-old Jose Rijo on their season-opening roster. Rijo wasn’t a phenom, bouncing between the Yankees and Triple-A in ’84 before being traded to the Oakland Athletics after the season; Rijo later became a solid starting pitcher with the Cincinnati Reds, whom he helped to a championship in 1990. In 1986, 23-year-old Doug Drabek spent most of the year in the Yankees’ rotation before being shipped to the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he became one of the best pitchers in baseball, winning the National League’s Cy Young Award in 1990. Hard-throwing lefthander Al Leiter had great stuff, but struggled to throw strikes. Nevertheless, the Yankees refused to limit his pitch count. As a 23-year-old in ’89, Leiter threw 163 pitches in a start in which he walked nine, struck out 10 and allowed five runs; two starts later, Leiter walked seven and allowed four runs in a 130-pitch effort. Shortly thereafter, Leiter was dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays, where he had arthroscopic shoulder surgery before becoming a rotation mainstay and an integral part of championship teams with Toronto and the Florida Marlins.

The Yankees weren’t much better with position-player prospects. First baseman Kevin Maas – whose batting stance resembled someone sitting on the toilet – set a record by hitting 10 home runs in his first 79 Major League at-bats, but his performance went in the toilet after that. Outfielder Oscar Azocar liked to set fire to his bats, but he didn’t set the world on fire with his hitting. Hensley Meulens was nicknamed “Bam Bam” because of his prodigious power, but that moniker became a punch line as the outfielder struggled to make consistent contact. The Yankees had promising power hitters Fred McGriff and Jay Buhner in their system in the 1980s, but they traded both away. Both became All Star sluggers with other franchises.

I felt fortunate that I decided to latch onto the Mets rather than the Yankees. Sure, the Yankees had all that tradition, but they were a mess. Meanwhile, the Mets were winning with talented young pitching – Gooden was only 24 in 1989 and he’d already won a Cy Young Award – and scrappy position players scored runs in bunches in a lineup anchored by Darryl Strawberry, perhaps the National League’s best power hitter. The Mets finished second again in 1990, but at least they didn’t lose 95 games like the Yankees, who finished last for the first time since the Johnson Administration. But, Strawberry departed as a free agent after that season, Gooden struggled with injuries and drug abuse and the Mets started a freefall into mediocrity. Meanwhile, the Yankees seemed to have figured it out all of a sudden, making some savvy trades and free agent signings just as their farm system started to bear fruit. By the mid 1990s, the Mets were the rudderless ship and the Yankees were becoming dynastic again. To add insult to injury, both Gooden and Strawberry found themselves in Yankees pinstripes, where they redeemed their careers (Strawberry’s bouts with drug addiction became public after he left the Mets) and helped the Yankees win championships.

Nowadays, the Yankees aren’t quite as good as they were in the 1990s, but they’re still one of baseball’s best teams year after year. A generation of baseball fans has come of age knowing nothing but Yankees success. However, I remember an era when the Yankees seemed incapable of doing anything right and the Mets owned New York City. Where have you gone, Andy Hawkins? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Read Full Post »

I recognized Mom’s number when I opened my flip phone. I knew why she was calling.

“Hi Mom,” I answered. “I hate this move. I think it’s a terrible move.”

Mom tried to be diplomatic.

“Just give it some time,” she said. “Things could work out.”

I wasn’t going to give it any time and I knew it wasn’t going to work out; I’d never been more certain of anything in my life as a sports fan.

So, yeah, I wasn’t excited about Isiah Thomas being named president of the New York Knicks.

The Knicks are the reason I care about basketball. I came of age living and (mostly) dying with those talented and tough Knicks teams of the early- and mid-1990s that regularly went deep into the playoffs and regularly succumbed to those great, Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls teams, save for one NBA Finals appearance in 1994, during Jordan’s basketball hiatus. The Knicks were Wile E. Coyote; they’d keep coming up with ingenious plans to win it all, yet they’d always be leveled by an anvil or go careening off a cliff, the Bulls yelling “Beep Beep!” and sticking their tongue out as they raced to another title. But, I loved Wile E. One of the best birthday presents I got as a teenager was an Anthony Mason jersey. I begged Mom to take her Toyota Corolla through the car wash that Charles Oakley owned. Mom was also a huge Knicks fan; the Knicks won their only two NBA championships when she was a teenager. Knicks tickets at Madison Square Garden were hard to come by, so Mom and I had a seven-game New Jersey Nets ticket plan during the 1995-1996 season in part because it included seats for one of the Knicks games against the Nets at Continental Airlines Arena. I privately sneered at the Bulls hats, jackets and jerseys that filled New York City back then; it’s easy to root for the Road Runner, but you have to stick by your hometown team, even if they continue to buy products from Acme that keep failing them and don’t reach their full potential.

The Knicks didn’t have much of an identity once the late 1990s rolled around, but they were still competitive and capable of doing damage in the playoffs, culminating in a surprise NBA Finals appearance in 1999. The following season, Scott Layden took over as general manager and, after a couple of decent years, the Knicks hit an iceberg. It had been a decade and a half since the Knicks had bottomed out, and their lack of high draft picks didn’t allow them to rebuild with younger players. The Knicks kept signing and trading for veterans who were either mediocre or over the hill and none of the handful of young players they acquired panned out. Eventually, they did hit bottom, and it cost Layden his job late in 2003.

By the time Layden lost his job, I’d left New York City and was working as a sports play-by-play broadcaster and a news anchor and reporter for a radio station group in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Growing up, the Knicks were my second-favorite team behind the New York Mets, but they’d taken a backseat to the New York Giants, who I could watch every week at a bar a few minutes from my apartment, and Syracuse University, my alma mater, whose men’s basketball and football games were regularly shown on cable. I tried to watch the handful of Knicks games that were on television in Michigan but, as their record dipped, so did their national exposure. But my passion was reignited that day I was working in the newsroom and saw the Associated Press wire story announcing the Knicks’ hire of Thomas, which was followed by Mom’s phone call a few minutes later. The Knicks had stagnated under Layden, but going from him to Thomas felt like having a malignant tumor removed only to find out I had cancer. Thomas, one of the best point guards in NBA history and a good evaluator of amateur talent, had failed as a coach and/or general manager in several stops, even taking the time to run the minor-league Continental Basketball Association into the ground. I knew the Knicks were doomed.

Unfortunately, he didn’t prove me wrong. Thomas, who eventually added head coaching duties to his team president responsibilities, saddled the Knicks with bad contract after bad contract. Like New York Yankees or Brooklyn Dodgers fans of a certain age who can recite the entire roster of their great teams of yesteryear by heart, I can name most of the Knicks poor acquisitions and the beneficiaries of the terrible contracts under Thomas off the top of my head: Eddy Curry. Jerome James. Stephon Marbury. Steve Francis. It got to the point where I stopped getting upset about the Knicks’ losses because I knew continued futility would be the only way for Thomas to get canned. I was amazed the Knicks stood by Thomas even after an embarrassing sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by one of the Knicks’ former female employees; it was a lawsuit the Knicks could’ve settled out of court, but they chose to fight it, leading to a lot of their dirty laundry being aired in a public forum. Some of my ire directed at Thomas began to be diverted to owner Jim Dolan, who seemed to have more faith in Thomas’ ability than he should’ve.

I was living in Binghamton, New York when the Knicks finally fired Thomas after the 2007-2008 season, prompting a celebration. Moreover, Thomas was replaced by people with excellent track records: Donnie Walsh, who’d built some really good Indiana Pacers teams, was named the president and Mike D’Antoni, who’d won with the Phoenix Suns, became the head coach. It was going to take a few years to rid the Knicks of all the bad contracts Thomas had saddled them with, but there was now a light at the end of the tunnel. New Yorkers have a reputation as an impatient bunch, but we had no problem accepting and watching terrible Knicks teams for a few years because we were confident the manure would turn into roses.

And that’s what made the first few months of the 2010-2011 Knicks season so wonderful. The Knicks had cleared enough salary cap space to finally sign some good players, led by standout center Amar’e Stoudemire. I was concerned about Stoudemire’s injury history – the Knicks couldn’t find anyone willing to insure his massive contract – but I still thought he was a good piece to build around. Besides, Walsh had put the Knicks in position to make more free agent signings over the next year or two, so Stoudemire was going to get more help. I followed the Knicks closer than I ever had as an adult, and their improved on-court product led to a ton of national television appearances, making it easier for me to keep an eye on them from Kansas City.

Then, the Knicks traded for Carmelo Anthony.

I’ve had a soft spot for Carmelo Anthony ever since he led Syracuse to their first-ever championship in college basketball. That was during the 2002-2003 season, Anthony’s only year in Syracuse orange. After years of resisting the urge to bring in a “one-and-done” – players who plan on declaring for the NBA Draft after playing one season of college basketball – Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim relented and landed Anthony, and it couldn’t have worked out any better. Unranked at the start of the season, Syracuse gained momentum as the year progressed, thanks to Anthony’s ability to gel with the rest of his teammates. Fellow freshmen Billy Edelin and Gerry McNamara handled the point guard duties that season and both proved adept at getting the ball to Anthony in spots that would allow him to score effectively. Syracuse was a balanced team with the ability to score inside or outside and a tight rotation of players who all knew their roles; Anthony thrived in this atmosphere.

Things have been different for Anthony since he was picked third overall by the Denver Nuggets in the 2003 NBA Draft. He’s developed a reputation as a player who is only capable of scoring and incapable of helping his teammates score or making those around him better. At Syracuse, Anthony wasn’t asked to set up his teammates, they had several capable rebounders and their 2-3 match-up zone hid his defensive shortcomings; all Anthony had to do was score. In the NBA, the team’s star player is expected to pass at least occasionally and it’s hard for any team to make a deep playoff run when their best player isn’t an elite-level passer, rebounder or defender. Anthony certainly made the Nuggets better, but their ceiling was limited because Anthony was limited as a superstar.

I was aware of Anthony’s reputation when the Knicks acquired him in February, 2011. Anthony made it clear he planned on leaving Denver after the season and that the Knicks were the only team he wanted to play for. It was unlikely Denver was going to be able to trade Anthony to any other team and Anthony was all but certain to choose the Knicks during free agency that summer. Walsh reportedly saw no need to trade for Anthony; the Knicks were already good enough to win a postseason series or two and they’d have to give up quite a bit to acquire Anthony in a trade. By picking up Anthony in free agency, the Knicks would be able to keep their core intact and add Anthony, which seemed like a win-win proposition. Walsh’s strategy made sense to me, but he was reportedly overruled by the meddlesome Dolan and the trade was made. I was incensed. Not only did Dolan ignore the recommendation of the general manager he hired to rid the Knicks of the mess Dolan helped create, but I knew there was little chance of Walsh – or his allies – sticking around after the 2010-2011 season.

Not surprisingly, the Knicks gave up several key players to get Anthony, were swept in the first round of the NBA playoffs and Walsh resigned after the season, although he remained with the team as a consultant. And the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season saw the Knicks get off to a terrible start, in part because of the difficulties Anthony and Stoudemire had playing together. Both players like to operate in the post, creating a logjam that made it more difficult for both to score. And, Anthony performs better in a slow-paced, half-court game, whereas D’Antoni had installed an up-tempo, full-court style of play. The Knicks didn’t start to play as a unit until the emergence of Jeremy Lin, an afterthought who’d been claimed on waivers and had never stuck at the NBA level. But Lin, a point guard, proved to be skilled at making his mediocre teammates better and got his start during a stretch in which Anthony and Stoudemire didn’t play much together, since one or the other was out for various injuries or family emergencies (Stoudemire left the team for several days after his older brother died in a car accident).

Last week’s predictable first-round playoff exit for the Knicks – at least they won a playoff game this time, their first postseason victory since 2001 – ended a tumultuous season that saw D’Antoni resign and several key players miss lengthy stretches of the season. Anthony was in the middle of the tempest; his strained relationship with D’Antoni reportedly led to the latter’s resignation, and Anthony’s work ethic, desire to share the ball on offense and ability to stay in shape were questioned by his coaches, media and fans. The fact that Anthony carried an injury-riddled team the last month of the season and ensured the Knicks got one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference seems like a footnote. Many Knicks fans felt duped: Anthony was supposed to be the superstar who would lead them to bigger and better things instead of an impediment to their long-term success. I can’t say I expected many associated with the Knicks to sour on Anthony so quickly, but I’m not surprised.

Perhaps a full training camp and a traditional, non-condensed schedule will help Anthony and the Knicks find their rhythm next season. And, the Knicks have an entire off-season to surround Anthony and Stoudemire with players who compliment them. I think the Knicks will be better next season than they were in 2011-2012, but I still expect them to disappoint. I am glad the Knicks are good enough to warrant my attention again and that they expect to win more games than they lose. But, I’m still wary of that anvil that always seems to fall from the sky.

Read Full Post »

The first New York Mets game I attended ended with Mets slugger Darryl Strawberry hitting a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving the Mets the win and making me a Darryl Strawberry fan at five years old. Once I became immersed in baseball a few years later, I became an even bigger Strawberry booster. He was a man of prodigious talents who was fun to watch whether he was hitting a baseball 400 feet or swinging and missing at a pitch in the dirt – and he did both often. Strawberry was a very good player in the clutch, but he was also prone to lengthy slumps. He had the tools to be a great defensive player, but he seemed uninterested in the field. However, none of Strawberry’s shortcomings muted my ardor for him because I understood he, like every other athlete, has flaws. But, as far as his baseball skills were concerned, I felt Strawberry’s positives far outweighed his negatives.

I was still a fan of Strawberry’s after I learned he was a drug and alcohol abuser, which helped explain his streakiness. Even though I was disappointed to find out about Strawberry’s off-field problems, I still loved him for his on-field excellence. At a young age, I saw Strawberry for what he was: a great athlete and a troubled human being. And, no matter what, I was always in awe of his on-field excellence while bemoaning his off-field issues.

Over the years, I’ve wondered how I developed the rare-for-a-youngster – but healthy – concept of admiring athletes for their playing abilities without expecting them to be flawless. I think it’s because of where and when I grew up. In New York City, two things sell newspapers and get people to watch the news more than anything else: sports and scandals. And, those two things were far from mutually exclusive when I was growing up. Two years after a magical season that won him the 1985 National League Cy Young Award, Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden checked into a drug rehabilitation clinic after testing positive for cocaine and relapses would be common throughout his career. New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor was one of the most feared and dominant players in NFL history, but he had several run-ins with the law and his problems with drugs were an open secret. Heck, even New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner got into the act, getting banned from baseball for 2 ½ years after hiring a thug to dig up dirt on outfielder Dave Winfield, one of the Yankees’ star players. And those are just a few examples of sports scandals involving New York City athletes and sports figures during my formative years in the late 1980s and early-to-mid 1990s. Combine a potential sports scandal with the insatiable and competitive New York City media and no stone revealing an athlete’s bad behavior is left unturned. New York City media aren’t above fabricating or embellishing a scandal either. Thanks to them, I grew up in an environment that looked to tear athletes and sports figures down, rather than build them up and/or keep their misdeeds quiet.

In other words, I grew up in a much different place than State College, Pennsylvania, home of The Pennsylvania State University.

One of the biggest reasons the allegations of child molestation and sexual assault levied against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, and the subsequent cover up – in which Joe Paterno, Penn State’s legendary former head football coach, took part – have gotten so much attention is because Paterno is a hero to many in Central Pennsylvania and beyond. Not only has Paterno won a lot of games, but he seemed very committed to the growth of his university as a whole, donating millions of dollars to Penn State and graduating his players at a higher rate than most big-time football coaches, all while helping Penn State develop into a nationally-recognized university academically and athletically. Some have argued Paterno is the most important figure in Penn State’s history, an argument that would be nearly impossible to make for any other college coach, past or present, at any other university. And, unlike many sports heroes – including my beloved Strawberry – Paterno was always very accessible. He and his family have lived in the same modest house in State College, Pennsylvania for decades and, for many years, Paterno would walk from his home to Penn State’s Beaver Stadium on game days. Many Penn State fans felt like they knew Paterno and felt he was a man of unimpeachable integrity, which made the revelation that he chose not to go to the authorities when told of possible inappropriate contact Sandusky had with minors in the Penn State football facilities that much more galling.

No sport provokes more passion, pride or unabashed idolatry than big-time college football – a sport that’s virtually nonexistent in New York City. College football’s invisibility on the New York City sports scene is in part because there are no big-time programs with long track records of national championships or yearly bowl-game appearances in or near the five boroughs (Rutgers University’s football team has had success in recent years, but they’re barely a blip on the New York City sports scene). The invisibility is also in part because unabashed idolatry just doesn’t jibe with the majority of New Yorkers and New York City isn’t a market where media will go out of their way to praise athletes and sports figures or hide their transgressions. It would’ve been impossible for a cover up like the one that occurred at Penn State to occur in New York City, where the media would’ve put pressure on Penn State to  remove Sandusky in 1998, the first time a police report alleging Sandusky molested young boys was filed. The combination of sports and scandal are an irresistible pull to New Yorkers and the New York City media.

Because of when and where I grew up, I never had a romantic, rose-colored-glasses view of sports, but that certainly didn’t dim my passion for sports or for athletes and others involved in sports. And, while I’m not a cynic, I do follow – and, nowadays, cover – sports with my eyes wide open. I admire what I can see and don’t jump to conclusions about what I can’t see. I understand most people involved in sports are good, well-meaning folks, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be corrupted by money, prestige or power, just like anyone else. I’ll always enjoy the games but I always keep in mind they’re just that – games. And those participating in those games are just as human and as flawed as everyone else.

And, no matter what happens, Darryl Strawberry will always be my favorite athlete.

Read Full Post »

Once I decided I wanted to be a play-by-play broadcaster, I knew I wanted to call baseball games, and I knew that meant starting out in the minor leagues. So, during my junior year at Syracuse University, I sent my résumé and cover letter to a handful of short-season teams – short-season since their 76-game, June-to-Labor Day schedule meshed with my summer break from college. I wound up getting hired as an intern by the Queens Kings, a short-season minor league team the New York Mets had just purchased and moved to Queens, New York with the intent of moving them to Brooklyn the following year, once a stadium had been built. The Kings played their lone season as a Toronto Blue Jays affiliate (their player development contract with the Blue Jays had yet to expire) in a ballpark the Mets renovated on the campus of St. John’s University, less than seven miles from Shea Stadium. We didn’t draw very well, but the Kings was a great proving ground for me because I got to learn what the business of minor league baseball was all about. But, the Kings didn’t broadcast any of their games, so I still didn’t have any baseball play-by-play experience. So, during my senior year of college, I sent several minor league baseball teams a five-minute snippet of play-by-play I did of a Syracuse University basketball game from the upper reaches of the Carrier Dome. Not one team contacted me.

After I graduated from college and returned home to New York City, I realized I needed to get serious about getting a baseball play-by-play job. And, if no one would hire me without baseball broadcasting experience, I had to be creative. So, I decided I would go to a handful of Mets and Yankees games with my tape recorder and call the action from the stands. From there, I would choose the best-sounding clips and cobble them together into a demo tape I could use to pursue a play-by-play job for the 2002 baseball season.

I followed through on my plan and registered for the minor league baseball job fair at the Baseball Winter Meetings, which were being held in Boston, Massachusetts in December, 2001. I had no idea how many broadcasting jobs would be available at this job fair so, to be safe, I made 50 copies of my demo on my dual cassette recorder. Maybe 10 of those demos actually wound up in the hands of hiring parties, but I did land my first broadcasting job, with the Yakima Bears of Washington State and of the short-season Northwest League, thanks to that demo.

Recently, I found one of those original demo cassettes and decided to listen back to my earliest work. I figured it would be educational at best, entertaining at worst. So, after I found batteries for a tape player I hadn’t used since Dubya’s first term, I gave it a listen (You can listen as well; each play-by-play clip I post is followed by my analysis. Clicking a link will open it in a new browser window or tab).

My voice was the first thing I noticed; it sounded awful. I was trying to talk over the crowd, which you should never do. As a result, my sound alternated between “shouting” and “raspy”. I remember being hoarse after each of the Mets and Yankees games I called because I didn’t know how to properly control and modulate my voice. With experience, broadcasters learn to speak in a more measured tone, a tone that’s different for everyone and a tone that allows you to carry a broadcast every day, for several hours, without getting hoarse on a regular basis.

Mike Piazza two-run home run (:40)

My demo begins with a call of one of the most famous home runs in New York Mets history: Mike Piazza’s go-ahead, two-run blast in the eighth inning of the Mets’ 3-2 win over the Atlanta Braves on September 21st, 2001. The Braves were the Mets’ nemesis for more than a decade; even when the Mets were mediocre, they always played the Braves tough, but Atlanta always seemed to find a way to win. The Mets had won the National League wildcard the previous two seasons, culminating in a World Series defeat at the hands of the Yankees in 2000. At this point in 2001, the Mets were in third place in the NL East, 5 ½ games behind the first-place Braves, and nine games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the wildcard. It was a night fraught with emotion not just because of the game, but also because it was the first major sporting event New York City since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Mets eschewed their traditional baseball caps for caps honoring the New York Fire Department, New York Police Department and Emergency Medical Service workers. Both teams’ uniforms had small American flags sewed on the back, just above the players’ names. A red, white and blue ribbon was painted onto the Shea Stadium grass.

You could feel a lot of that emotion in my home run call. I thought I did a good job describing the scene immediately before (“Karsay sets at the belt”) and after (“…into the camera bank, just to the left of the 410-foot sign in centerfield”) the homer. But, you can hear my issues with voice modulation and pacing. In between “deep to centerfield” and “Andruw Jones is back” I take a rather noticeable deep breath; it sounded like I was hyperventilating. I did do a nice job of letting the crowd noise tell the story, though.

B.J. Surhoff RBI single (:37)

Broadcasters are taught to begin their play-by-play demo with their best call, a call that will immediately grab the listener. At the time, I thought the Piazza home run call was my best but, upon further review, I think the second call on my demo is better. That call came two days later in another Braves-Mets game, on September 23rd, 2001. The Mets had beaten the Braves the previous two days, keeping their playoff hopes alive. They were now 3 ½ games behind Atlanta for the division lead, with 13 games to play, but the Philadelphia Phillies were just a half-game back. The Mets entered the ninth with a 4-1 advantage, but saw it evaporate, culminating in a game-tying, RBI single by pinch hitter B.J. Surhoff that I called. I did an even better job of setting the scene in this call (“Braves trying to avert the sweep and stay in first place”). The call of the game action was decent as well and I thought I wrapped things up effectively and succinctly at the end of the call (“so, three times, the Mets were a strike away from winning the game and three times the Braves have been able to keep things alive”). You could hear the disappointment in my voice, which I don’t think is necessarily a bad thing; unless you’re auditioning to call a game for a national audience, there’s nothing wrong with conveying favoritism for the team you follow the closest, and I was still an unabashed Mets fan at the time. The key is to make sure the favoritism doesn’t morph into blatant rooting.

A grouping of highlights (like Piazza’s home run and Surhoff’s RBI single) often serves as the appetizer on a demo (and, like an appetizer, highlights are often unnecessary) and one’s call of a half inning of baseball action is the main course. Generally, at least two half innings should make their way onto a demo. Ideally, you’d like one to be a half-inning with a lot of action and the other half-inning to be a quick one with minimal action; for my first baseball demo, I simply picked the two half innings I thought sounded the best. For reasons unclear to me now, the first half inning I chose wasn’t a full half inning; it was three of the four batters in the bottom of the second inning of a Boston Red Sox-Yankees game on June 4th, 2001 (You generally shouldn’t put a partial half inning on your demo; you don’t want the hiring party to wonder why you chose to exclude part of the frame).

Bottom of the second inning, Red Sox @ Yankees 6/4/01 (3:57)

I set the scene well at the start of the inning, giving the runs, hits and errors for both teams and mentioning who’s due up for the Yankees. I also like that I mentioned the inning’s leadoff man, switch-hitter Bernie Williams, was batting lefthanded against Pedro Martinez (it’s a good idea to occasionally mention which side a hitter is batting from; it helps paint the picture). I’m not too crazy about the home run call, mainly because I never mentioned what the outfielders were doing. However, I do like that I knew Williams had homered off Martinez earlier that season. I also liked the background info I had on Henry Rodriguez. I still had a lot of work to do on calling pitches. You should mention where every pitch ended up and, if possible, the type of pitch (e.g., “fastball high and inside”, “curveball drops below the knees”, “off-speed offering in for a strike over the outside corner”).

Listening back to my first demo wasn’t as cringe-worthy as I initially thought it would be. I think I sound like a broadcaster who’s rough around the edges, but has some potential; I can definitely see why my demo attracted the attention of the Yakima Bears, a team in a position to hire broadcasters with little or no baseball play-by-play experience. It still amazes me that I got my career rolling with a rather simple demo created from Major League games I called from the stands. If you would like to hear the rest of the demo, the audio is posted below.

Highlights (:52)

Bottom of the eighth inning, Red Sox @ Yankees 6/4/01 (17:36)

Read Full Post »