Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Final exam

In many ways, tonight was my final exam as a broadcaster. A good friend of mine, David "Google" Feldman, came out to Stockton and sat in the booth for the broadcast. Feldman is a producer of the Oakland A's games on TV, and he's produced a ton of other sporting events. He's called Google because he knows as much as Google, and knows it just as fast. Seriously. I thought I knew a lot about baseball, but he puts my knowledge to shame.

His job means he's sat in a production truck for thousands of sporting events and heard hundreds of play-by-play announcers. He's heard great ones, average ones, and bad ones. He knows the differences, he's opinionated, and he's not the type to sugarcoat what I'm doing right and wrong.

He's become a good friend during my years covering the A's, so I was fired up he would make the trip from Walnut Creek to Stockton to catch a game on a day off. We grabbed some lunch before the game, and he asked what I thought I was still struggling to do.

Told him that I'll probably always have to fight my urge to talk too fast, that I usually get tongue-tied once or twice a game describing a play, and I sometimes struggle with starting a story late in an inning that gets cut off.

On the last item, Feldman told me that's not a problem. Just say, "we'll talk more about that next inning" and it serves as a good "tease" to keep the viewer around. The key, Feldman added, is not to forget to come back to the story.

Early in the broadcast, Feldman gave me two excellent critiques.

One, I used one of his all-time hated phrases: "good success." He was right, and I can't believe how often I use it. It's totally pointless to use the word good. Feldman said the only thing that is "bad success" is when you have bad sex.

Two, he said my pacing was just a bit off. For example, Stockton third baseman Frank Martinez came to the plate in his first at-bat and I used him as an example of how the Ports have been devastated by injuries and promotions to Double-A Midland. I mentioned the first time we came to Stockton, he was batting ninth, and now he's batting third. Feldman told me it was really good information, but I rushed it. Introduce the batter. Pause. And then get to the information. I was rushing to get to my information.

Wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be for my final exam. Feldman sat right next to me, almost like a spotter or statistican would, and I saw him nodding his head out of the corner of my eye a bunch of times. I took that as a good sign.

Feldman left before the ninth inning, and told me something along the lines of, "you sound good. You're not talking too fast. You're information is great. You're doing really good."

Not sure if that counts as an A on my final exam, but it meant the world to me. It's probably more like a B or a B+. And again, he's not the type to blow smoke up my butt to make me feel good. He'd rip me if I deserved it. Feldman doesn't have the clout to hire me, but his approval definitely gives me the confidence to continue my broadcasting aspirations.

Still not sure if this means I'm ready for Double-A, or Triple-A, or the majors. Then again, I don't know how you determine if somebody is ready. I guess you're ready when somebody hires you. It's an extremely subjective process. There's guys in Triple-A who have been doing games for well over a decade, extremely good, and I'd think they are ready for the majors.

So I'm not going to get too far ahead of myself. But after tonight, and after a season of struggling to get feedback on what I'm doing right and wrong, it was awesome to know that I'm definitely on the right track.

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