Thursday, May 31, 2007

Calling it down the middle

Interesting balancing act for myself tonight. This was our first game against the Stockton Ports, the affiliate of the Oakland A's, so I had no shortage of information and stories about the players and the organization based on my three years covering the A's for The Oakland Tribune.

Eager to share this knowledge, and eager to think of anything else to talk about during a verrrrry lengthy game, I felt like I was talking more about the Ports than the Nuts. During one of the commercial breaks, I said this to Brian VanderBeek of The Modesto Bee. Brian told me it was only natural, and not to worry about it. He felt the same way a couple years ago, after the A's switched affiliates from Modesto to Stockton, because he knew the players in the Stockton clubhouse better than Modesto's.

Since Modesto and Stockton are close in proximity -- about 30 minutes away and our station can be heard in Stockton -- I hope the listeners didn't mind. Figure a lot of people are interested in both teams. A lot of people in the Central Valley are A's fans. Heck, our radio station is the Central Valley's home for the Oakland A's.

Still, it felt weird spending so much time talking about the opposition.

Another thought occurred to me driving home: did we spend too much time talking about how long the game was? and how ugly the game was?

Fifteen walks and five errors combined. Just under three hours and 45 minutes to complete. Certainly can't neglect these aspects of the game, or pretend it's not happening. Still, it's our job to entertain the listeners during such a blowout.

Myself, Greg Young and Beek had no trouble doing this, telling a bunch of stories and getting onto some great tangents. Did my best to not neglect the game and steer us back to the action -- or lack thereof -- in the game. In a lot of ways, it felt like doing a sports-talk show, during a baseball game.

A couple of times, I made sure to say something like, "but where else would we rather be than the ballpark?" when the discussion was about the length of the game. Or I mentioned once that sometimes a three-hour and 20-minute game can be beautiful because there's so much action. I always find it annoying when people getting paid to watch and talk about a sporting event complain about being there so long.

Didn't want to be "that guy," and hope I didn't come across that way.

The more I think about tonight, the more I realize how fun it was. The game was horrible, no doubt. But the broadcast was actually a lot of fun.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sign of the times

Promised myself I wasn't going to complain about Visalia's facilities, and I made it through a game without a complaint. It was actually fun broadcasting today's game outside. Temperature in the 80s. No wind blowing my papers everywhere. A big umbrella was above me, blocking the sun from doing bad things to the equipment -- and the back of my neck.

Between innings, one fan came over and asked for my autograph. Honest.

"Do you even know who I am?" I asked him.

"I just know you're the announcer," he replied.

Thought about signing it Vin Scully or Harry Caray or Jon Miller, but settled for my own name.

The first few road games are always an adjustment because I'm solo for nine innings. Likewise, when I get home, working with a partner becomes an adjustment for a game or two.

Today was a quick game. Lots of quick innings, which makes it tough to weave any stories into the game. I've been trying to think of ways to bring the free-flowing, conversation-that-might-go-anywhere style that Brian VanderBeek and myself usually have into a solo broadcast. Not easy though. Going solo for nine innings, I don't want too many stats, or overdo the placement of the defense, or rely on the out-of-town scoreboard. I want to weave stories and do a little of it all.

You need some long innings to do that. Brandon Hynick, our ace starting pitcher, gets so many quick innings because he throws so many strikes, that was impossible yesterday. After all, it took my four different half innings to get through the major league baseball out-of-town scoreboard.

Anyway, no complaints. It was "cow" day at Rec Park, so the fans brought lots of cowbells to the game. I wonder how it sounded on the radio. Visalia isn't the comfortable place to broadcast. But as long as it doesn't rain, it's all good.

Packing for Visalia

Trying really hard to keep a positive attitude for this upcoming series in Visalia, which is not an easy task, especially at 7:45 on a Sunday morning. Bus leaves at 9:30 for about a three-hour ride. The game starts at 4 this afternoon.

In case you haven't read the blogs from the first trip to Visalia, here's the short version: no press box ... no roof ... froze one night ... sat in rain doing another game ... a bunch of drunks blocked part of my view in the last game and random people kept talking into my crowd mic ... oh yeah, and the hotel sucked. Beyond that, I loooooove Visalia.

At least packing isn't that hard. Four days. Three nights. Upper 90s is the expected high. Lower 60s is the low. Since the front office would prefer I wear a Nuts polo shirt every day, makes that decision easy. Throw in some shorts, a sweatshirt and shoes, and I'm done. I'll pack some workout shorts and shirt as well for the hotel, uhh, "gym" -- one treadmill and one stairmaster.

I need to find some paper weights and an umbrella for my outdoor "booth." The final game on Thursday is at 1 in the afternoon, and I'm sure the back of my neck will get cooked by the sun. At least I've packed my glove. Hopefully, I'll have time to shag some more flyballs in the outfield.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Don't forget to breathe. Very important.

After two months, you'd think the surge of adrenaline would go away whenever I go on the radio, but it really hasn't. Tonight was another "joined in progress" game after Oakland A's baseball on AM 970, and maybe it was because I was going along smoothly in a normal broadcast, when all of a sudden the Modesto Nuts jingle gets pumped into headphones and I know that we're going from internet-only to live on the radio.

Quite the jolt or adrenaline rush. When this happens, the exact details of what's happening in the game become secondary. I try to recap what's happened in the game, and figure it's OK if I miss a pitch or two, as long as I keep up with actual plays.

Tonight, we went live in the middle of an inning. I'm pretty sure there was two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, although my memory isn't so good. The San Jose pitching coach came to the mound within 30 second after we came on the radio, and that gave me the perfect chance to catchup the radio audience on what they'd missed.

Problem was, I was so amped with adrenaline, I was probably talking too fast. I'll have to listen again to be sure. Hopefully, I was still making sense. If nothing else, it wasn't healthy to say as much as I said without breathing.

After my recap, Brian VanderBeek -- our middle innings analyst from The Modesto Bee -- took a gigantic breath for me. He told me I can breathe now. It's like Beek is Miyagi-son from "The Karate Kid" for me: breath in, breath out, very important, Joshua-son.

Still need to work on my breathing, especially late in games. We went 12 innings tonight, and I felt afterward I was trying too hard to capture the perfect, dramatic, game-winning play. I think I've gotten much better at being laid back in the early innings, and not rushing my broadcast. I'm sure the "pacing" of my broadcast is still rushed at times, however, almost like I'm trying to do a baseball game with the rapid-fire intensity of a basketball game.

Using your voice to capture the drama is important, especially later in a baseball game. But since the game hung on every pitch from the eighth to the 12th, I was amping up on lots and lots of pitches, and felt totally exhausted at the end of the game. Oh yeah, as for that dramatic game-ending call ... the game ended on the most anti-climatic play possible ... a walkoff walk.

My friend David Feldman, a producer for A's baseball on TV, always told me what makes Ken Korach so good is his ability to go "low" at the really big moments -- and how that sounds so good. I know what Feldman means, but still have no clue how to do it myself.

Also had another thought tonight. This goes back to my post a few nights ago about how I could hear the San Jose announcer, Joe Ritzo, quite a bit because of how the press box is situated.

How much do the other announcers hear me?

Sure hope they don't leave town thinking they're glad that series is over, so they don't have to listen to me anymore. I really hope I wasn't overdoing it and distracting Joe. After the game tonight, Greg Young and I agreed we hear Joe more than any other announcers, but he's by no means a screamer. His voice just carries more and projects better.

We also agreed that, although we haven't heard all the announcers in the Cal League yet, we think Joe is the best so far.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Getting out of A ball

Wish I had something interesting today or another lesson learned. But it was pretty much a nothing day. Modesto was clobbered 11-4. The broadcast wasn't fantastic. Wasn't bad. Felt it was solid. Confessed my "no doubt about it" from last night on the air. A few technical problems early in the broadcast were irritating, but it was just one of those days.

Now that I think about it, this was actually another day that makes me glad to no longer be a newspaper reporter. Watching, or broadcasting, a stinker of a game like that is one thing. But as a writer, you still need to craft out two stories that are compelling to readers. Sometimes it's about trends or what's wrong with a pitcher, and there's storylines available. Other days, it's just one of those days, and those are the hardest game stories to write.

One thing did get me thinking. In my daily chat with manager Jerry Weinstein, for the pregame show, we talked a lot about the hardest jumps to make in the minors. Jerry felt the jump from Single-A to Double-A is the hardest, outside of the jump to the majors. Double-A is considered the stud league. Only real prospects are in Double-A. Most players don't make it out of A-ball.

Makes me wonder if the same applies to broadcasters.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Plenty of doubt

If it's possible to will a baseball over a fence from the broadcast booth, I did it tonight. Jose Valdez was at the plate in the sixth inning and hit a drive into right-center field. Sure, I'd like to see the kid connect on his first home run of the season. But my "willing" the ball over the fence had everything to do with my premature call.

Valdez crushed it. Loud crack off the bat. Ball exploded off his bat. Can't recall my exact words, but I know for certain that I said "there's no doubt about that one ... "

Except there was doubt.

Pretty much as soon as those words left my mouth, there was tons of doubt.

In fact, outright fear. The ball doesn't travel well to right-center at John Thurman Field in Modesto. It's deep too, about 375 feet, although players think it's deeper. The ball seemed to be moving in slow motion. I debated whether to say on the air there was doubt, or some doubt, but decided to just stick with my call -- and pray like crazy.

My stomach was turning. Palms were sweaty. I was calling upon the ghosts of broadcasters past to blow that ball over the fence. (All this, mind you, took place in about 2.5 seconds.)

Sure enough, it went over. Barely. Nonetheless, I'll take it. The audience didn't know any differently (well, unless they read this) and it sounds great on tape. It was another lesson learned. Don't jump the gun. Make sure there's no doubt if you say "there's no doubt."

The Modesto Bee's Brian VanderBeek, who was in the booth with me at the time, even sold my call a little by saying how Valdez got all of it. Might have even reiterated there was no doubt. When the inning ended, Brian asked me, "did you have any doubt?"

Hell yeah.

Remarkable game tonight. I'm still pumped. Great game and great broadcast. Puts me in a much better mood, especially after last night's fiasco. No technical troubles at all.

Modesto was down 7-0. Rallied to take an 8-7 lead, starting with Daniel Carte's two-run triple. San Jose re-tied it. Modesto won it 9-8 on Jeff Kindel's RBI double. Other than nearly blowing the Valdez home run call, I thought myself and broadcast partner Greg Young had great calls of the big hits in the comeback. Brian and I broke down the options for San Jose, if/once the Oakland A's move to Fremont.

Greg interviewed the two heroes on the field, Jeff Kindel and Daniel Carte, and hustled back to the booth to cue up highlights of the big hits in the game.

Sure felt like a major-league broadcast.

Another cool thing about tonight: these are the games I couldn't enjoy as a newspaper reporter. These nights require massive re-writing, and torn emotions. Especially when I covered the A's, my childhood favorite team, the fan in me wanted to be pumped with the crowd and players and savior the victory. The objective journalist in me couldn't do that, and didn't have time to do that. Not to mention, it's hard to do justice to a comeback like this in print, especially on deadline.

But now, as a broadcaster, it's my job to get pumped and go crazy -- a controlled and well-spoken crazy, of course -- so that my voice (and crowd mic) tell the story of what's happening.

The game ended two hours ago as I type this. I've still got adrenaline pumping through my body. I call this "a sober buzz" because I can't think of another way to describe it.

My alarm clock will go off in four hours. Still have a morning show to do. Need to get to bed. But no idea how I will sleep when I'm still so pumped.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Can you hear me now?

Never felt in sync tonight. It was a weird night. It was a night of being able to hear too much, and not being able to hear enough.

The way the press box is situated at John Thurman Field, the visiting and radio booths are right next to each other. The walls aren't thick, so depending on how loud each announcer is, and how loud the crowd is, you can usually hear each other a little. It usually only occurs when I stop talking and the crowd is quiet. Usually. Over the weekend, I never heard the Inland Empire once. Maybe he's just quiet or the crowd was so loud.

But tonight, it seemed like I heard Joe Ritzo, the San Jose Giants radio announcer, the entire night. Especially in the first couple innings. Not only did I hear him, but it was crazy how often we were saying, or about to say, the exact same things. I think Joe's a helluva announcer and wish I sounded as silky smooth as he does, so I figured it must not be a bad thing. Still, it felt like I was copying off the kid next to me in class.

I'd be ready to say something and hear him say it, so then I wouldn't say it. Or I would go out of my way to say something totally different than what he might say. For instance, whenever I heard him giving the stats of a certain hitter, I'd talk about the shadows on the field and what impact they are having. If he discussed the standings, I'd describe the pitcher's mannerisms on the mound. As a result, I never felt comfortable with what I was saying because -- being the contrarian that I am -- I found myself saying something different just to be different.

So I could hear Joe. And he could hear me.

But few people could hear me on the internet. The reason is our website was down. Not sure for how long or when it came back. Normally, by first pitch, we have 15-25 people listening. (The Live365 service we use tells us exactly how many are online and the peak of people listening, but it doesn't say the number of unique listeners.) Tonight, we had two people at first pitch. Must admit, it rattled me a little. Even though it shouldn't have rattled me at all. We usually average 25-35 a night, and we've hit as high as the 50s -- which I'm told is really good for a minor league broadcast. Our peak tonight was 12. I'm sure people gave up on us when the website was down.

Then we were supposed to join in progress with AM 970 ESPN Radio, after the A's game ended. The way this works is I get a phone call to my cell. When I feel it vibrate, I know we're 5-6 minutes away from joining with the radio audience. Then with about 15 seconds left, I get the radio station pumped into my headphones. That's my cue and I know when to start talking once the jingle is over. I hear all the commercials and know when to start talking again.

But tonight, I couldn't hear the engineer back in the studio, and I couldn't hear the commercials.

Don't know when we joined in progress or what was the first thing I said. It wasn't the opening I prefer. We used a cell phone and a timer to make sure we were clean coming in and out of breaks. That was fine. But it was all just weird.

The good news is Greg Young, my broadcast partner, did two great interviews live on the field after the game. As the Nuts walked off the field, he asked closer Andrew Johnston to wait a few minutes, which he did, then Greg grabbed catcher Neil Wilson. So back-to-back interviews, which I thought made our postgame show kick butt.

So to recap: I heard Joe. Joe heard me. The internet audience didn't hear me. And I didn't hear the radio station.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Gone. Outta here. Tell it goodbye. See ya.

The most-asked question I received upon telling my fellow newspaper writers about my career switch was, "what's going to be your home run call?" Baseball announcers are supposed to have these great home runs calls.

The great Lon Simmons, who is in the Hall of Fame, would say, "you can tell it goodbye!"

Duane Kuiper of the Giants is famed for saying, "it is high ... it is deep ... it is outtttaaa here!" Except you need that in caps with a lot more exclamation points to get the full effect.

I could make a list of more, but why bother when somebody else already did?

My boss happens to hate, "SSSEEYA!" I even had to promise, on the air during his drive-time afternoon talk show, that I would never use that one.

This is my standard response to my home run call: If Bill King didn't need one, I don't need one. Besides, I want to focus on the fundamentals. What's the count? Where are the infielders? Are the shadows a factor? What's the score? I want to crawl before I walk.

I haven't had a ton of practice with home runs. The Nuts hit six in one game back on April 13, but Modesto is third-to-last in longballs. They hit three on Saturday night and I'm feeling pretty good about nailing all three of the calls. Once I figure out how to post sound bytes, I'll add them.

Driving to work at 4 a.m. this morning, I got to thinking more about home run calls. Pretty much all of them are taken. Now, it's pretty much "it's gone!" or "that is outta here!" After that, you risk saying something really stupid in order to be different.

My good friends on the Angels beat entertain themselves during the season by playing something called "the late game." There's an elaborate point sytem, but it basically boils down to the first person to say "late" on a home run. They thought I should use "late" for my home run call. I actually practiced it in the car this morning ... "to the track ... to the wall ... looking up ........... late!"

Didn't work.

The other dumb idea involves a popular baseball phrase these days: "he gone." Although to get the right affect, it's like a hybrid mix of hip hop and country. So I practiced that one too ... "to the track ... to the wall ... looking up ...................... he gone!"

Didn't work either.

I'll stick to fundamentals for now.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Trust your words, idiot

Anybody know if there's a mind trick I can use so that I trust the words I'm about to say? I noticed during today's game that I have the extremely annoying habit of changing my mind on what word to use just as I'm starting to say the first word.

It happened at least twice, both times in the exact same context, and I'm still pissed at myself.

The pitch was a simple ball out of the strike zone. No contact made. The pitch was taken. But instead of saying "misses outside," I wanted to use, "misses way outside." Except that just as I started to say "way," I changed my mind and said "well."

So what listeners heard was a hybrid cross of both. It probably sounded more like "whale" with a funky cajun accent.

Thought about this driving home. The more I think about it, the more I realize I'm doing it a lot. Most of the time, when I change my mind on a word to use, the two words don't blend together. But I still find this a personally annoying habit of mine. I need to break it. I need to committ to a word and say it.

What if Bristol is listening?

Between one of the innings today, my broadcast partner Greg Young asked something that I'd been trying not to think about -- which means I've been thinking of it every day.

"What if Eric Young Sr. is at ESPN Headquarters in Bristol, and he's listening to our broadcast to hear how his son is doing?"

We started to think about how great this would be. Maybe Chris Berman asks him what he's listening to, or maybe one of the head honcho decision makers is listening. We started to think about cool it is that maybe some people at ESPN are listening to us online.

Then I had a sobering thought ... what if they are listening, and they think we really suck?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Best broadcast yet

Pretty fired up about tonight's game and broadcast. Best of the season so far. It all came together. The game was compelling. It was an electric crowd, really into every pitch, and that background noise does three things.

1. It fires me up.
2. It creates great background noise.
3. It allows me to raise my voice when something big is happening, so it doesn't sound like I'm screaming over dead silence for no apparent reason.

There was some dramatic moments that I handled well. Three home runs were hit and nailed my call on all three.

In fact, I'd say the last two games were our best two broadcasts. The three innings with Brian VanderBeek, our analyst from The Modesto Bee, went really well. Felt we covered a lot of interesting topics, got off onto some good tangents, then I brought us back to the game and we didn't neglect the game.

I'll give Friday a B and Saturday a B+. Even with my ego, I just can't give myself an A or even an A- minus.

But regardless of the grade, I'm pumped. These nights remind me that I made the right decision in this career switch. The key is doing this every night, not just when there's big crowds and compelling action.

Hank Greenwald always said something to the effect of, "anybody can do a great job on a great game. It's the truly great announcer that can make a boring game sound interesting." Hank was the announcer for a long time on some really bad Giants teams, so he had lots of practice doing it. And he was extremely good at it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Woke up this morning

The body wasn't created to wake up at 3:45 a.m., especially when you go to bed around midnight. I'm still not used to it. Probably never will be. I'm usually in a fog for a few minutes when the alarm goes off. I'm not a "push the snooze button" guy. Don't have the time. I literally roll myself out of bed, splash water on my face, throw on a hat, and drive to the radio station.

This morning, however, I needed to lay in bed for a few minutes to comprehend things.

I guess my dream was the result of watching the latest Sopranos episode, and reading a book about the series. Anyway, onto my dream.

The details are fuzzy, like most dreams, but the jist is that somebody was trying to shoot me just before I went on the air to broadcast a game. So it was my job to try and shoot the other person first. The rub was, the only way I could do this is by wearing my headphones, because somebody was telling me where to go, where to stop, and when to shoot.

I don't own a gun. Haven't shot one in over 20 years. No desire to change any of that, all of which made this one of the most intense dreams of my life. Right before "the final sequence" was about to go down, the alarm went off. My heart was racing like crazy. I needed a good 5-10 minutes, staring into darkness in my room, to comprehend what happened.

Even an hour later, as I did my first sports update at 5:10 a.m., I was still in a fog from the dream.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The other No. 22

Talking for three hours requires a lot of concentration. I have borderline ADD, which makes this difficult. A baseball game provides many times to sound like a dummy. Mine came in the seventh inning last night. The mistake was simply. Didn't flip my scorebook over. Looked on the mound. Saw the No.22 was making warmup pitches. I'd just been told a No.22 was warming up in the San Jose Giants bullpen. Figured it was a new pitcher. Started talking all about No.22, where he's from, his height and weight, his stats this year. The whole thing. About 30 second into this diatribe, I realized that Wayne Fultin couldn't be the new pitcher for the San Jose Giants ... because the San Jose Giants were batting. Ooops. It was still Brandon Hynick, the same pitcher for Modesto who had started the game.

Thought about pretending like this never happened. Instead, I mocked myself on air.

Then I said, "let me try this again."

I paused a second and started again.

"Bottom of the seventh from San Jose Municipal Stadium. Modesto leads 4-0 and Brandon Hynick is out for his seventh inning of work ... "

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Woooo .... I got ruined

Learned a valuable lesson today about complaining to the boss. Found out this afternoon that yesterday, the guys at the radio station had some fun with somebody I said during Sunday's broadcast.

It was a wild, dramatic game. Modesto won 8-7, but not before Lake Elsinore scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, had the tying run at third, and the winning run at first, when the final out was a rocket back to the mound caught by the pitcher. Upon describing this play and the final outcome, I was exhausted and in need of a breath.

Didn't mean to do what I did. Didn't want to do what I did. But in my desire to catch my breath and use that to indicate what type of game it was, I ended up doing a "woooooooooooooo" instead of a quick "whew." My "wooooooooooooo" reminded some of pro wrestler "Nature Boy" Ric Flair. At least, that's what one of my colleague at AM 970 ESPN Radio, thought when he heard it. (I'm withholding certain names, until I get their permission to use them). My colleague replayed the clip about 20 times, or so I'm told. Then my boss, in the final segment of his show, admittedly with no material left, played it again. And again. And again. Plenty more laughs at my expense.

Against my better judgment, I sent a text message from the bus to my boss that said, "talking shit about me again? You're totally and absolutely dead to me." (For the record, we have the type of relationship that we frequently declare we are dead to each other. It's not literal.)

The boss asked if I can come on the radio at 5:20. I figure he wanted a segment on the Nuts and maybe on the A's. I'm wrong. He took a page from the Howard Stern Radio Handbook. That's the page that declares that any hard feelings -- real or imagined, half or fake, or anything in between -- must be discussed live on the radio.

The "woooooooooooo" gets played another 20 times in about five minutes. I have three choices.

1. Hang up.
2. Continue to be pissed off.
3. Play along and laugh at myself.

I chose the third option. I mixed in a few lame attempts to give context to my "wooooo" and justify it. Tried to change the subject. Nothing worked.

In short, I was totally ruined on the radio. For a second straight day. With colleagues like these, who needs friends?

Wasn't feeling too good as I walked back to Modesto's batting cage. They were wrapping things up. One of the players, outfielder Cole Garner, walked up to me and asked, "why is my mom asking if my face is alright?"

The night before, Garner was out on a play at the plate. It looked to me like he was tagged out in the face. That's how I described it. We don't have instant replays in the minors. Cole's mom was listening online. She called him after the game to make sure his face was alright. Cole wasn't too happy. He wasn't too pissed. More like curious and maybe a little annoyed. I explained that's what I saw, it happened fast, and I don't have replays.

So now I'm feeling like a total jackass. Nice way to get ready for the game.

Early in the game, I was awful. I mean it. Awful. I'll admit it. Can't talk. Stumbling over my words. I'm saying ball when it's a strike. I'm saying outside, when it's inside. I'm saying left field when it's right field. I'm just a total mess. At the end of an inning, I take off my headphones, turn off my microphone, and declare, "holy cow, that was horrendous."

In San Jose, the visiting announcer shares a small "booth" with Andre, the scoreboard operator. Andre looks at me and agrees.

"That was really bad," Andre tells me. "You even said the score wrong at the end of the inning. You said San Jose is up 5-2, instead of Modesto."

Great. I realized that I was still rattled from the afternoon. Andre is a former play by play announcer, and he's ready to pump me back up though, just like a coach. "It's alright. Shake it off. It's a long game. We all have bad innings. Settle down. Come back strong this inning."

I stand up and stretch. Shake my head. Try to loosen my shoulders. Drink some water. My first reaction is to curse my colleagues and blame them for "getting in my head." Then I realize how lame that is. I need to be mentally tougher. I need to be a pro. If a player melted down from what a heckler said, or a talk-show host said on the radio, I'd ruin him in print.

(OK, as a beat writer, it's not my job to ruin somebody in print. I might mention some of these details and let the reader draw the conclusion. But I'd rip him over drinks that night at the bar after the game.)

The two-minute inning break ended before I knew it. I started over. It's a grind, but the broadcast gets better. I get back into the flow of the game. My mistakes are minimal, and I'm probably the only one who notices them.. It's still in my head a little. I'm still pissed, but I'm now pissed at myself for getting rattled.

At the top of the eighth inning, I get a hunch. Daniel Carte is going to hit a home run. Not sure where it came from, but I felt it. So I told myself to really focus and be ready for a home run. Sure enough, on the second pitch, Carte goes deep. I nail the call.

"GREAT CALL!" Andre writes to me on a sheet of scratch paper.

A little redemption. A little comeback of my own. And a couple big lessons learned.

Don't bitch to a boss who has an afternoon talk show.

Don't let an embarassing moment get in your head.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Issues wit te laptop

An email to my bosses:

Fellas, just an FYI, but tis keyboard on tis laptop as a bi issue. You see, te letters tat are between te F and J do not work. Tats wy teres so many typos in tis email. In addition, te backspace doesnt work and te sinle and double apostropys do not work eiter.

I first noticed tis problem a few days ao. It came back witin a couple ours. But it appened aain Friday mornin (temporarily) and now as occurred aain today and its remainin a problem. I took te laptop to a computer store on Friday. To order a new keyboard would take at least tree days, if not more. Tats not realistic for us.

I also ad tem briefly look at te wireless connection. Te connection is fine. Te problem exists on some leve wit te laptop, but tey cant tell to wat extent until tey spend serious time wit it. Te bottom line is tis macine is becomin more and more useless by te day.

Te wireless sinal ere at Lake Elsinore was cuttin out over and over durin Fridays ame. Its ard to broadcast a ame wen Im constantly lookin at te computer to see if its workin, ten tryin to troublesoot as te ame is oin on.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I hate vague positive feedback

Somebody told me, "you're sounding really good. Keep it up."

Didn't know what to say. Never know what to say after a compliment -- other than "thanks" -- but this was really awkward, because what I really want to say is, "really? What specifically sounds good?"

Actually, what I really, really want to say is, "I know that overall I'm sounding good. But give me something specific that's bad."

Generic compliments are the worst. They don't help. I have a healthy enough ego to know that I'm sounding good. I'd have already quit if I sucked. But I'm only going to get better if I get told something specific that I'm doing wrong, or that's annoying, or isn't clear.

So if you listen to a game, and feel like giving me feedback, do me a favor.

1. Tell me, "I liked the part of the game when you .... "
2. Tell me, "Why in the world did you say ..... ? That was dumb and made no sense."

I'll like you a lot more and it will help me a lot more.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Happiness is Visalia in my rear-view mirror

Okay, I have a new outlook on games at Visalia and Bakersfield. I'm no longer going to worry about a so-called perfect broadcast, or anything even resembling it. I'm going to do the best I can, but I'm going to lower my expectations to a point that it just doesn't matter. I just want to grind through each game, not think about it afterward, and move onto the next ballpark.

Tonight, there was a loud rapping sound during the middle of a game. Thought it was somebody setting off firecrackers. I was later told it was gunshots by a car as it drove by an apartment complex. Still not sure if that's true. Either way, it's just not fun. It's hard to get comfortable here.

It was also dollar beer night. The crowd was pretty tanked. A group of six guys spent most of the game at the top of the stands, just in front of me. I was high enough that I could see over them, for the most part, but I had to bob and weave a few times. I thought about telling them "down in front," but realized drawing attention to me wasn't good.

Besides, these guys looked like they were looking for trouble. It's bad enough that all the sober people -- or drunks paying attention -- see the crowd mic as they walk by, and feel the need to say something directly into it. There's no security around me. The last thing I need is a bunch of drunk dudes who think it's amusing to mess with me.

So I don't say a word. The drunks come and go. The gunshots or firecrackers are behind me. It's freezing cold again. It's super dark.

Happiness is Visalia in the rear-view mirror.

Oh yeah, and the boss not making me work tomorrow morning from 4-9 a.m. at the radio station.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Blame it on the rain

Remember yesterday's warm-and-fuzzy story about how charming life in the minor leagues is, even when it sucks? Forget it. I freakin' hate Visalia.

Tonight, I broadcasted a game in the rain. In the fucking rain. You've got to be fucking shitting me. I'm trying to avoid cursing in the blog, but I don't think you can truly comprehend what I was thinking unless I swear this time. All I could think the entire game was, "you've got to be shitting me. This is not happening. You've got to be shitting me."

It didn't rain hard enough to stop the game, but it rained pretty much non-stop the final five innings. Remember, I'm outdoors. No roof. What did I do? Put a towel over the equipment. Kept my scorebook under the table. Used no notes or any reference books. Just sat in the rain, got drenched, and broadcasted a game.

You've got to be shitting me.

It will be funny one day in the future. I guess it's funny now. I hope this is worth it. I hate Visalia. I love my job. Most of the time.

A day in the life of the majors

Shortly after sending out "A day in the life in the minors" -- it was originally a mass email to my friends and family -- my friend David Feldman responded with his own slice-of-day posting about life in the majors. Feldman is the associate producer for A's baseball on KICU-TV. Here it is:

On Monday I arrived at the A's charter flight to Boston, and was quickly greeted by a Airline worker who took my bag to be loaded on the plane. After a very quick security check, boarded the tricked out 757 with nothing but first class seats and was offered a cold beverage by a very cute flight attendant. On my way to my own row, I picked up a very tasty breakfast sandwich and a candy bar for later.

Twenty minutes after take off (none of that tray tables up, or electronics off) I was offered my choice of lunch: Chicken Cordon Blue, Beef tips, or a cheese burger. I ordered off the menu and had a very nice peanut butter and jelly sandwich. After arriving in Boston, we were bussed directly to our 5-Star Sheraton hotel and picked up my room key which was waiting for me on a table, along with snacks and beverages.

I enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Legal Seafoods, including a tremendous bottle of wine. When I returned to my private room my luggage was waiting for me. Today, I watched an amazing game from one of the most storied ballparks in baseball history and capped the night off with a night of bowling.

And of course, everything will be paid for by someone other than me. (Editor's note: ahhh, I remember the good ol' days of an expense account.)

Now I just have to ask if I can shag balls.

My first reaction: okay, even if I'm not on the team charter, why did I give up that life again?

My second reacton: oh yeah, because this is still more fun, and I'm following my dream.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

A day in the life of the minors

Today was the ultimate “only in the minors” type of day at Visalia. Recreation Park in Visalia is about 60-something years old and pretty much needs to be imploded. There is no visitors radio booth. I’m on a table next to the press box underneath a Bud Light canopy. I’m just above the crowd, so the folks in the closest rows can hear every word (no seven-second delay either). A fairly small crowd, so I’m self conscious as it is, knowing they can probably hear every word – especially if Modesto does something good and I go crazy.

But first, rewind to batting practice. The daily "Jerry Weinstein" show is recorded, edited, and ready to be fired from the laptop. My lineups are in the scorebook. My stats are next to the lineup names. We have a pitcher doing a “simulated game” before batting practice. Back in my days as a newspaper beat writer, this would mean standing around, taking notes, charting or counting pitches, talking to the pitcher, and pitching coach, and hitters afterward, and making a lead note out of it.

Instead, I was in the outfield shagging flyballs. Yes, I was shagging flies. Not because I had to, or was asked to, but because I asked if it was OK because I thought it would be cool to do -- and it was.

Extremely cool.

Granted, the first ball hit at me in right-center was a rope, I broke in, heard a reliever yell “back” and felt it whiz over my head and felt like a total schmuck for mis-judging the ball so badly. But I settled down and caught four balls in all, and one was a damn fine running catch if I do say so myself. It nearly took the glove off my hand too. I choked on two others I should have caught and missed cutting off a couple balls in the gap. Damnit.

But I didn’t get conked in the head, didn’t hit any of the pitchers while throwing the ball back into the dude on bucket patrol for the day, didn’t totally humiliate myself, and had a blast. Just as I took the field, Elton John's, "Tiny Dancer" was being played over the ballpark's speakers.

Felt like it was my own "Almost Famous" moment. Definitely the highlight of the season.

Then the game started. We didn’t get connected with the radio station until well past we were supposed to go on the air. (Fortunately, it was an internet-only broadcast.) They started the game almost two minutes early too. I had to cutoff the manager show early because the game was starting. During the broadcast, in the middle of an inning, I somehow ordered a bottle of water from a waitress when I thought it was free.

When I pulled out a five and motioned for change, so I could tip her, I was handed $1.25 back. So I guess the waters aren’t free or else that was a helluva tip. I was going to ask about this, but I was on the air. The equipment manager sent me a text message in the fifth asking what sandwich I wanted from Togo’s. I managed to type “r beef. wheat. 6.” during a half inning.

Doubt I missed a pitch. Doing a broadcast outdoors wasn’t too bad when the sun was out … then the sun went down, the wind kicked up, then reallllly kicked up, and I froze my butt off the last 3-4 innings. There’s no lights above me, so it was like broadcasting in the dark. I could barely see a thing in my scorebook.

Notes to self: bring a jacket tomorrow, bring morepaper weights, and bring a flashlight.

As I’m walking to the bus quickly – so I didn’t get left, like I did Saturday night in the ghetto part of San Bernardino (think tattoo shops and churches with metal bars) – the lady at the concession stands asks if I’m with Modesto. When I say yes, she stuffs my arms with about 25 slices of pizza. So I hop on the bus and suddenly become the most popular radio announcer in the Cal League, walking down the aisle and passing out cold pizza to hungry ballplayers.

Later I’m back in the hotel room. The wireless isn’t working. I can’t post my game wrapup to the Nuts website. I’m watching the A’s rally at Fenway Park on ESPN. Instead of crafting a story about this for a couple hundred thousand readers, I simply get to enjoy my boyhood team rally for a win.

We’re staying at the Lamplighter here in Visalia. I have a roommate … it’s the Togo’s gathering clubbie. The players are just outside dropping off their uniforms because they wore them on the bus back to the hotel. They didn’t shower at the ballpark because only two of the showers there work. I’m not sure what we’ll do after Thursday’s game, considering we are bussing back to Modesto (a three-hour ride) immediately after the game. That could smell really bad.

At least I’m catching up on my movie watching on these bus trips. Casino Royale and Déjà vu was our viewing material Monday afternoon from San Bernardino toVisalia. We saw the new version of The Natural when coming back from San Jose a few weeks ago. Cheezy to watch it on a bus of baseball players, but fitting and that made it extra cool.

This was the day before I decided that an extra 90 minutes of sleep was worth driving myself from Modesto to San Jose. Felt pretty good about my decision until after the game, when I got to my car, and saw where a foul ball hit my front windshield and the broken glass spidering throughout the window. There does 300 bucks that I don't have.

I must admit, there are times I wonder what in the world I was thinking with this career move. There are other times when I just think that I’ll appreciate the major leagues even more when I get back there.

Then there are other moments that I savior, like my running catch in the outfield during batting practice today, when a player comes up to me after the game and says his uncle enjoyed hearing me call the game on the internet, when the manager looks at me after our daily pregame show and says “that was a good one” and later requests a copy of every show to date, or when I get tiny little goosebumps hearing my own call of the final out of our pitcher’s two-hit, complete-game shutout Monday.

I have no idea if I’m really any good at this. But I’m sure having fun doing it.

At least, I’m having fun when I’m not freezing my butt off from an outdoor press box, while somehow ordering a water and text messaging my dinner order during the middle of an inning.