TR Sullivan came to my house earlier this week to do an article on my autograph collection for the Rangers website. It was very nice of him and I would like to thank him for doing it. The article is at http://texas.rangers.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20081223&content_id=3727322&vkey=news_tex&fext=.jsp&c_id=tex. TR is the Rangers’ beat writer for mlb.com and also has a great blog at http://trsullivan.mlblogs.com/.
This week I am beginning voting for the second annual Texas Rangers Trades Broadcaster of the Year Award on the poll (on the left-hand sidebar). The winner will get an award, so please vote to make it more meaningful.
This week I did an interview with Rangers radio broadcaster Eric Nadel. He is a great guy and has always been very nice to me. He took a lot of time answering these questions and I would like to thank him for doing this interview.
1. What was your favorite team growing up and why?
I rooted for the Brooklyn Dodgers, because I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. But they moved to LA in 1958 when I was 7. I continued rooting for them from long distance. But when the N Y Mets came into existence in 1962, I became a Mets fan and went to a lot of their games. I also went to Yankee games, but rooted against them.
2. Did you play baseball growing up? If so, for how long and at what position?
Yes, I played baseball from a very early age, even sneaked into Little League one year early by writing a fake birthdate on my application. I was a first baseman and catcher, mostly. I played until freshman year in college.
3. How did you prepare yourself to be a broadcaster? What education did you have?
I first attended a broadcast summer program for high school students at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois after my junior year in high school. In college, at Brown University, I learned to be a broadcaster at the college radio station, where you learned from the upper classmen. We did not have any broadcasting courses, but I did take Voice & Diction, and lots of English classes to learn how to use the language. I learned on-the-air skills by working on the radio station, doing play-by-play of hockey and football, along with shifts as a disc jockey, newscaster and sportscaster. You can really learn to be an announcer only by doing it. I spent a lot of hours practicing play-by-play into a tape recorder at hockey practice while the team scrimmaged.
4. What are the three best things about your job?
The best thing is that my job is fun. Let's face it, I get paid to go to a ballpark and watch major league baseball games. I also love being the person who informs people about interesting events. And the job is never boring, as every game is different.
5. What are the three toughest things about your job?
The grind of 162 games in six months is difficult, physically and mentally. It is tough sometimes to make a game seem worth listening to if the Rangers are bad, or the game itself is one-sided. And finally, the travel, while fun and interesting, presents various challenges, most notably in getting enough sleep.
6. What is the most fun season you’ve announced and why?
The best by far was 1996, when the Rangers won the West and made the playoffs for the first time. It seemed truly magical, as the Rangers almost blew the lead with a week to go, but rallied again to win the title. The players on that team had a wonderful sense of togetherness and I felt personally close to many of them.
7. What is the most fun game you’ve announced and why?
I would say that the first Rangers' playoff game, a win at Yankee Stadium, was the most fun. It was an incredible feeling to beat the Yankees in their park. I had gone to many games at Yankee Stadium while growing up, so broadcasting a post-season game there was quite a thrill. Nolan's two no-hitters with the Rangers weren't bad either.
8. What is the best play you’ve announced and why?
I think the single most exciting play was David Delucci's walk-off triple against Oakland late in the pennant race in the 2004 season. The most exciting defensive play was Ken Griffey smashing face first into the wall to rob Juan Gonzalez of an extra base hit at the Kingdome in Seattle, in a game that had no bearing on the pennant race. Josh Hamilton made a very similar play last year in Oakland. And of course, there was Nolan Ryan's 5,000th strikeout, which was probably the most significant call that I have had historically. One more worth mentioning was Ramon Vazquez' 3-run homer that pushed the Rangers' run total to an all-time record 30 in August, 2007 at Baltimore.
9. Who have been the best and most fun players to interview and why?
Charlie Hough always had funny things to say, and was a pleasure to talk to. Interviewing Nolan Ryan after his 6th and 7th no-hitters, 5,000th strikeout, and 300th win, was a lot of fun. Of opposing players, Dan Quisenberry of the Royals was always clever and funny. Many opposing stars were both intelligent and friendly. Among those who stand out are Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor, Wade Boggs, Don Mattingly, and Kirby Puckett.
10. What is a typical day like in your job?
I usually wake up between 9 and 10am, spend a couple of hours on the Internet reviewing what went on in baseball the previous night. I then work out, eat lunch, relax or walk or surf the web until about 3pm, then go to the ballpark. When I get there, I spend an hour or two talking to our manager, players, and also to players, coaches, and media members from the other team. I go up to the booth around 5:30, prepare my scorebook for the game by writing in the lineups and some notes, read the press notes, have a quick dinner around 6:15, then I'm ready to go on the air live at 7pm. (By then, I have already recorded the manager's show, and recorded a broadcast "open" from the booth that comes on the air at 6:30pm.) After the game it takes me a couple of hours to wind down, and I usually go to sleep between 1-2am.
11. What are some of the differences between broadcasting college hockey, college baseball, college football, major league baseball, and women’s basketball?
Baseball is different from all the other sports because of all the "dead time" when the ball is not in play. It is the most conversational sport and requires that you use much more of your personality and background materials in order to be an entertaining broadcaster. In all the other sports, there is not much dead time to fill, so your ability to do play-by-play is by far the most important part of the job.
12. What are some major changes in broadcasting since when you started broadcasting the Rangers in 1979?
The advent of the Internet changed completely the way we prepare for games. So much information is available online that it's much easier to know a lot before I even show up at the ballpark. Another major change is that the players used to hang out socially with the broadcasters and sportswriters. That is not the case anymore.
13. What is the experience of being in a movie like?
In my case, only my voice was used. I flew to Austin for the day and spent a few hours in a sound studio recording my lines. As it turned out, the script for The Rookie was poorly written when it came to the play-by-play re-creation, so the director encouraged me to re-write the lines to fit my own style, which made it a lot easier. The director did not claim to know more than me about my job, and since I was basically re-creating my job, he gave me tremendous freedom in the way I did it. The weird part was not knowing how the movie was going to turn out, until actually going to the theatre to see it when it opened.
14. What is the experience of calling games in Latin America like?
The passion of the fans in Latin America is very different than it is here, much more intense. And the ballparks are much smaller than major league stadiums, in most cases. At times, you can actually feel the ballpark moving when the fans start going crazy. The games themselves are much less disciplined, and the strategy is much less predictable.
15. Will you be putting out a new edition of your 1997 book ‘The Texas Rangers: The Authorized History’? Why or why not?
I originally planned to put out a new edition if and when the Rangers win the World Series. Now I am not sure if I will do it, even if the Rangers win the World Series. It took an entire off-season to do the book, and I don't know if I am willing to give up that much time to do another book.
16. What adjustments do you have to make when you change broadcast partners? How do you feel about Victor Rojas’ move to the MLB Network?
I am very happy for Victor as it is a great career move for him. Adjusting to a new partner is always fascinating. The main thing is getting the timing down, so that you don't talk over each other. It sometimes takes a little while for the two personalities to blend. That's why it really helps to do some spring training games with a new partner.
17. What do you think are the keys to the Rangers’ success in 2009?
I have heard that pitching might be the key. Seriously, since it appears the Rangers probably will not sign any major free agents, the development of young pitchers like Harrison, Hurley, Feldman, McCarthy, etc., will determine if the Rangers have a chance to seriously contend. I think that Nelson Cruz will be a huge factor offensively. If he can offset the loss of Milton Bradley, the Rangers will be able to contend if their pitching staff can rank around the middle of the league in ERA.
18. I’ve heard that you prefer broadcasting on radio over TV. Why is that?
The beauty of the radio job is that you get to describe everything for the audience, something that the TV announcer does not need to do. It's the most satisfying part of the job, for me. Also, on radio, there is no director telling you what to do. You have the freedom to talk about whatever you want, without paying attention to a TV monitor. And of course there is no dress code on radio, and no need to wear make-up or make sure your hair (if you have any) is combed.
I would like to thank Eric again for allowing me to interview him and for the great answers to my questions.
Results of last week’s poll:
Do you think the way Rafael Furcal handled himself (using the agreement with the Braves to up the Dodgers’ price and then signing with the Dodgers) was wrong or okay?
Wrong – 80%
Okay – 20%
Come back next week for the beginning of my list of the top 50 Rangers of all time.