Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Suchon takes over Nuts play-by-play

The following article was in today's Modesto Bee. When Brian called me and said he wanted to do a story, I figured it would be a couple paragraphs inside the sports section. I was shocked to learn it was splashed all the way across the front of the sports section. Even more frightening, they dug up an old photo of me from somewhere at The Oakland Tribune -- and made it enormous on the website.

It was after a horrendous decision to dye my hair blonde. It looks like I have radioactive waste coming from my hair. Pretty sure I'd just gotten back from a cruise too, so my face is bright red and I'm wearing a red sweater. It might be my worst look since my 4th grade school photo, when I had pencil marks all over my front teeth because I was a dumb kid who didn't even realize what he was doing that day in class. Anyway, here's the story.


Last Updated: February 13, 2007, 05:20:29 AM PST

Ten years ago, Josh Suchon embarked on what he hoped would be a career as a baseball play-by-play announcer, taking a job as director of broadcasting with the Modesto A's.
There were a few technical glitches.

The renovated John Thurman Field didn't have a press box, let alone a broadcast booth. Oh, and the front office never bothered to look into securing a radio contract.

Suchon stayed with the team for six weeks before taking a job covering high school sports for The Oakland Tribune. Within four years, he became the paper's San Francisco Giants beat writer, then moved his laptop across the bay in 2004 to cover the Oakland Athletics.

"When I first left Modesto, the way things went down I was so disappointed that I didn't even listen to games on the radio," Suchon said. "Then my love of baseball took over. And every year it became more and more important to me that I give it another shot."

Now 33, Suchon has taken the large step back into the radio side, taking a position with ESPN Radio 970 that includes being the play-by-play voice of the Modesto Nuts.

Local listeners will be able to hear Suchon beginning March 1 as part of the Modesto Morning News show from 5-9 a.m. The Nuts open April 5 against the Visalia Oaks, and Suchon will continue to deliver baseball by night and sports news by sunrise once the season starts.

"The only time I'm ever awake at 5 a.m. is when I have to catch a plane," Suchon said. "Now, I have to be awake and coherent and let people know what's going on in the sports world. I'm hoping there's good caffeine in Modesto."

Suchon replaces Jim O'Reilly in the Nuts' booth. O'Reilly suddenly left the station last fall.

"It was an extensive search that we opened nationwide," 970 program director Geoff Silvius said. "We had guys with Double-A jobs send in tapes, and we had guys right out of college looking for their first job. But the great thing about Josh, in addition to his passion for becoming a play-by-play guy, is his understanding of the area."

Even while writing about major-league baseball, Suchon never lost the itch to get behind a microphone. Several times a year, he would find an open broadcast booth in Oakland and do play-by-play into a tape recorder.

Oakland announcer "Ken Korach has been very supportive, and it was an inspiration just being around Bill King," Suchon said. "I thought it was cool that Bill King knew my name. I would do the play-by-play just to remind myself how much I liked doing it and to keep those fires alive."

Those recordings became handy when Suchon needed audition tapes to reclaim the same Modesto play-by-play job he landed in 1997.

"Coming back here to start again is very funny to me," Suchon said. "I wouldn't trade the last 10 years for anything, but this is like going back in time."

To comment, click on the link with this story at http://www.modbee.com/. Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at 578-2300 or bvanderbeek@modbee.com.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Carl Steward darting here and there

My colleague at The Oakland Tribune, Carl Steward, had a nice plug for me at the bottom of his column today. I hope Carl is right.


Finally, a fond farewell to ANG Newspapers baseball writer Josh Suchon, who is following his longtime broadcasting passion and will be the radio play-by-play voice of Class A Modesto for ESPN Radio 970. It won't be surprising to those who know Josh's professional work ethic and love of the game to see him back in the big leagues before long.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Moving time

It's taken me a little over 10 years, but I've finally landed the type of job I wanted when I departed San Diego State. I accepted a job offer Tuesday from AM 970 ESPN Radio in Modesto to become the station's sports director.

My primarily responsibility will be the play-by-play announcer for the Modesto Nuts minor league baseball team (California League; Rockies affiliate) for all 140 games. I think I will also do play by play for the Friday night high school football Game of the Week in Modesto, in addition to do three sports updates an hour between 5-9 a.m. on the station's morning newscast. (I have no idea when I will sleep.)

Making the transition from newspaper reporter to radio broadcaster is extremely exciting, yet more than a little nerve racking. I basically said "yes" before I had the chance to think it through and get cold feet. It's something I've always wanted to do, I love new challenges, and I didn't want to look back later in life with any regrets for not giving this my best try.

Over the past month in Texas, where I've basically been testing to see if I'm any good at broadcasting, I've learned that describing the action of a baseball game is challenging, but highly rewarding and quite the adrenaline rush. After Wednesday's game, which was actually close and entertaining, I had the amazing sensation of a sober buzz.

Whether or not I'm good enough to reach the majors again -- this time as a broadcaster -- remains to be seen. It's just as much about luck and timing as skill, but maybe I can pull it off.

I start in Modesto on March 1. I still can't believe I'm leaving San Francisco, the city I love so much, but at least it's only a 90-120 minute drive away.

I'll definitely miss seeing my friends and family in various cities throughout the league. That was always a highlight of the job, which usually made up for the time I missed at home. Now I guess these friends and family members will have to get out their Cal League schedules and meet me in Rancho Cucamonga or Stockton, instead of Chicago or Miami.


Monday, February 5, 2007

Advice from Ken Korach

The following is an email from A's announcer Ken Korach:

Scribe....good to hear from you and I really think you are on the right track. I especially liked the improvement you have made from the first couple of broadcasts to the recent ones.

The only thing I would stress as far as a critique would be to focus more on the game. Obviously, you don't have the advantage of crowd noise. And, I think you have done a great job of doing your homework and getting interesting information from the players. Really good hustle on your part.

Very impressive and this would mean a lot to me if I was hiring someone. And, in the league like the one you are covering, the games are of little importance compared to the individual struggles of the players to make it.

Still, in doing the play by play, I would like to see you focus more on the fundamentals. At times, you seem to want to get your stuff on the air, and the game is secondary. I like to think of a broadcast as being built from the field up to my stuff...not from my stuff down to the field. In other words....right handed hitter or left...where is the outfield playing...is the third baseman in on the grass...the count the score...is the pitcher on the first base side of the rubber.

Ernie Harwell said it is simple...you call the game, but that would be boring if just called the game for three hours, so you mix in a little color.

Several times you get caught with "And there's a fly ball to left field." I hate when I do this...and it is going to happen...you can't avoid it all the time...but, I hate to get caught off guard. I like to have the pitcher into the windup and delivering the ball to set up the play.

The pacing is so important. You really improved in this area. It seemed forced in the first game I heard. The best broadcasters...and maybe this is why so many of the greats came from the South (Harwell, Barber, Allen)...have great tempo. Nothing is forced...it is relaxed and easy. Intensity may work in football and basketball, but not in baseball.

And, the good ones have the ability to bring the action into focus when the game is on the line. Increase the tempo...capture the drama with their voices. King was great at this.

One little thing...you use "zero" when giving the score. You don't hear anybody using zero. It may not be proper English, but it is 2 to nothing instead of 2 to zero.

Anyway, it sounds like you are having fun...and, what great experience.