Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Former writer goes Nuts for broadcasting

My former newspaper, The Oakland Tribune, did a story about me today in the media section. It was really weird being interviewed. I'm used to asking the questions, not answering them. It was even weirder reading a story about myself. I'm used to reading my words, not somebody else's words about me. Anyway, here's a copy.

Andy did a real nice job on it. As I read some of my quotes, I thought about some of the dumb things I probably said that he didn't use. Gave me an all-new appreciation for my old job, and how easy it is to make somebody look really good or really bad -- simply based on what quotes are used.


By Andy Altman-Ohr

DOES THE name "Josh Suchon" ring a bell? Think in terms of a byline you used to see in this sports section. He was our Oakland A's beat writer from 2004-06 and our Giants beat writer for four years before that.

Now, Suchon is the voice of the Modesto Nuts of the California League.

"Some people thought I was nuts — literally — to become a Nut," Suchon said.

Suchon had many a sports fan's fantasy job as a reporter covering a big league ballclub; he even wrote a book, "This Gracious Season: Barry Bonds & The Greatest Year in Baseball," shortly after the 2001 season.

But since his first job out of San Diego State in 1996 — a job that included play-by-play for the Watertown Indians of the New York-Penn League — he had the announcer's itch. In 1997, he was set to call games for another minor league team, but fate stepped in — a canceled radio contract one day before opening day. He ended up being a reporter for the next 10 years.

"But when Bill King died, it really had a big effect on me," said Suchon, 33, who grew up in Pleasanton listening to the great King. "I thought, maybe I should give this one more shot. Even if I fall completely on my face, I'll know I at least gave it a shot."

In college, Suchon had announced Aztecs baseball, men's and women's basketball and football. He noted that in an online resume, where he also posted clips: from a "broadcast" he did an empty booth during an A's game on one of his off-days, and from some on-air appearances (during a game on Ch.36 and on "Cold Pizza," for example). That led to a job in the one-month, four-team Texas Winter League a few months ago.

"That actually helped me a lot," Suchon said of the somewhat bogus pay-to-play league. "It made me so much more prepared for opening night in Modesto. I would have been so much more nervous, going through much of the angst and learning curve I already went through down there."

Another positive from the Texas experience: He asked A's play-by-play man Ken Korach (who had already encouraged him to follow his heart) to review his work.

"Ken is an amazing announcer and an even more amazing person. Some of the best advice he gave me was to build the game from the field up to the press box: What's the count? Where are the position players? Start on the field, then, as time permits, work it up to the press box," Suchon said. "With my background as a reporter, I had so much information I wanted to give, I'd be behind the action. That was a good reminder. What happens on field comes first, and my notes come second."

Suchon's work in Texas helped him land the Modesto job, where he works solo for road games and has a partner at home. The Nuts (a Colorado Rockies affiliate) are in San Jose tonight to open a three-game series.

Suchon said covering major league baseball for seven seasons is a plus in the announcer's booth, but not in terms of regaling listeners with stories from the road or the clubhouses. For example, last week a Nuts hitter was in an 0-for-10 funk with seven strikeouts when he had a good at-bat, drawing a walk.

"I said, 'Frank Thomas often liked to say he could walk his way out of his slump. You don't have to get a hit to break out of a slump,'" Suchon said. "Then in his next at-bat, the guy got a base hit, so I felt that was maybe a good story to tell. I try to work stuff like that in."

The Nuts radio station, KESP ("ESPN Radio-970"), usually can be heard in the Livermore, Pleasanton area at night. But it is also the Oakland A's and San Jose Sharks' station, and those teams' games take precedence, often rendering Nuts games to Internet-only status (

Suchon also does weekday sports updates on KESP during homestands and nearby road games, three times per hour from 5-9 a.m. — for which he awakens at 3:45 a.m.! Sometimes he also fills in as the No. 2 man on an afternoon sports talk show.

Sleep? He grabs it when he can.

"Covering major league baseball was a dream job, and then I had a new dream," Suchon said. "The main thing is I didn't want to have any regrets. I didn't want to look back and in 10 years and say 'What if.' I wanted a new challenge, and I wanted to see if I could do this."

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