VIERA, Fla. - Nationals fans, please give a warm welcome to MASN’s newest color analyst, F.P. Santangelo. The energetic young broadcaster shared his thoughts in this Q&A with Nats Buzz at Space Coast Stadium on Thursday afternoon.
What are your thoughts about the Nationals heading into this season?
“Well, I just think they are playing really good baseball. I don’t really want to get caught up in wins and losses in spring training, but I think when you are coming off of a tough year, it’s just good to have a good feeling about yourself as an organization and a ballclub. Right now, these guys are doing all the little things right. They are playing the game the right way. They are swinging the bats. I heard they started off 0-11 last year and I know they are 7-4 as we speak. It’s just a good vibe right now. Mike Rizzo’s done a nice job of putting together a good bunch of guys that know how to win. There are some winning players in that clubhouse, some veteran presence, and I think that’s going to translate throughout the season.
“I’m in between right now. I’m super excited about this team, but it’s a temperate enthusiasm. I just don’t want to walk off the edge of the cliff right now, but in my heart, I’ve been around a number of spring trainings, and I feel like this team could surprise a lot of people.”
How do you prepare for the opportunity to cover a new team?
“It’s a challenge. It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be. I’ve been here at the ballpark every day, being a pain in the butt really and just asking a lot of questions. Talking to players, coaches, Mike Rizzo, Mark Lerner and trying to assimilate into the Nationals family. It’s a pretty big family. I’ve been with the Giants for seven years. I grew up in northern California. I grew up a Giants fan. I played for the team, I coached for the team in the minor leagues and then I broadcast for the team. And now I’m with a new organization. And even though it has some roots with the Montreal Expos, which I spent 10 years of my career with, it’s still a challenge. That’s why I’m down here, asking a bunch of questions and learning on the fly.”
Did you always want to be a broadcaster?
“I grew up in Detroit, Michigan, until I was 8 and my dad decided to move west to California. But I grew up on summer nights listening to Ernie Harwell. He’s my favorite announcer of all time. I was lucky enough when I got to Sacramento to listen to the Giants broadcasts with Hank Greenwald and Lon Simmons, two of my other favorites. Flip a coin between Lon and Ernie Harwell. They are my two favorites. Jon Miller’s a close third and Duane Kuiper as well. Those guys were my idols.
“So I like listening to baseball on the radio and watching it on television. I was a broadcast journalism major at the University of Miami. I didn’t get my degree, but it was something that was going to be my safety net if baseball didn’t work, hopefully I could talk about it. I’ve always wanted to do this. That’s why I got into this seven years ago ... because I wanted to be a big league announcer.”
Do you have a broadcasting style?
“I don’t have a style. It’s me. All the Giants fans last year through that wonderful playoff run and World Series we had would come up to me and say, “You keep it real.” I’m myself. I flip on the switch and it’s me. On my radio show in San Francisco, there was no act. When I’m doing a game, there’s no act. It’s just me. Anybody who knows me away from this knows that I’m the same guy on the air as I am off the air. I’m the same guy, I just flip on the switch and hopefully I can teach you a little bit about baseball. I’m not going to sit up here and be a coach. I hope I break things down and analyze things in a way that can teach some people something about baseball and they remember it.”
When is it OK to use “us” or “we” while broadcasting?
“It’s never appropriate. I’m not wearing a uniform, so it’s not we. It’s absolutely against everything I’ve been taught as a broadcaster to ever say ‘we’ because I’m sitting up here with makeup on and a coat and a tie. So it’s the Nationals and it will always be the Nationals on every broadcast I do.
“I was taught by some of the best announcers in baseball - Jon Miller, Duane Kuiper, Mike Krukow and Dave Flemming, the broadcast crew for the Giants. One of the first things I learned was that you say ‘we’ when you’re wearing a uniform. I’m not wearing a uniform anymore so it will never be ‘we.’ “
How do you balance being critical but respectful of players and coaches?
“I think being honest is the right word. The higher you get up in the stadium, the easier the game looks. From what I hear about Washington, the game’s going to look really easy from where I will sit.
“I wasn’t a superstar. I was a bench guy and I had to work for everything I had. So when I watch these guys make a mistake, yeah, I’ll acknowledge it and I’ll try to explain why they did it. But I’m not going to sit up here and rip people. I think the biggest mistake ex-players make is they sit in the press box and they forget how hard the game was. I talked to these guys the first day of spring training in the clubhouse and I said I am on your side. I will never forget how hard the game is. Everyday was a battle for me and I know it’s a battle for them. I respect what they are doing.”
How do you like working with Bob Carpenter?
“I had met him a couple of times. I knew of him and I respected his work. He’s a professional. He’s wonderful at what he does. It’s just a privilege to be up here with a guy who is going to help me a lot. This is my first year of doing it every day. I’ve done about 15-20 games a year filling in for the Giants in the booth. I did the pregame and the postgame every day for seven years and I had the radio show, but I’ve never done this on an everyday basis. It’s always been good when I’ve been in the booth and I’m looking forward to working with Bob. We’ve golfed together a couple of times here at spring training and we’ve had dinner together a couple of times. He’s a great guy. He’s wonderful at what he does and it’s just an honor to be up here with him.”
Should we expect to hear some Montreal Expos history in your broadcasts?
“Not really. This is the Washington Nationals. As this ship gets further away from shore, we can look back to the origins. If somebody breaks Vladimir Guerrero’s record of the hitting streak or if Pedro Martinez has a record that’s broken, then we might reminisce a little bit about Montreal, but it’s not something I’m going to put in Nationals fans’ faces. I think this is their team and their city. But there is a history there and if it comes up, I’ll acknowledge it.”
Will you be utilizing Twitter this season?
“First and foremost, I have to concentrate on being good every night. Hopefully the fans like me half as much as they did in San Francisco and we’ll have a great time here, so I have to really focus on that. Off the field, I’ll start tweeting again. I had a bad experience with it. I’ve backed off Twitter. There’s a lot of positive with Twitter, but there’s also a lot of negatives. People take what’s tweeted for fact and it’s not gospel. But there are a lot of responsible people on Twitter. I follow Ben Goessling, Adam Kilgore and Bill Ladson. I like to follow the beat writers. They are bringing me up to speed on the Nationals. But as far as me, how many big league broadcasters actually tweet? I have to concentrate on being good first before I start spreading myself too thin.
“I was addicted to it during the Giants season. I was tweeting during the games but I did the pregame and postgame, so during games it was easy. I can’t be sitting here tweeting in the middle of the game now. But I’m not opposed to using it.”
Is there anything else you want Nationals fans to know about you?
“I respect this position more than anybody could possibly imagine. I think a lot of times ex-players feel like it’s their right to be in the booth. I’ve been around the best broadcast team in baseball for seven or eight years now and I’ve realized what an honor it is to be here. And I feel like I’ve worked really hard to be here. There’s a lot of parallels in my career. I spent seven years in the minors and I spent seven years doing pre and postgame shows. And now I’m in the big leagues doing it on an every day basis. This is all I ever wanted. I don’t aspire to do anything else in broadcasting. I just wanted to be a color analyst with a major league team. The fact that it’s with an organization that I spent 10 of my 15-year career with makes it that much more special.
“While I grew up as a Giants fan and I’ve done a lot with the San Francisco Giants, this is the other organization for me. Ten years in the Expos organization, which is now the Nationals - these are my two teams and I’ll be rooting for these guys. Not so much on the air, but in a way that you’ll see.
“I get involved with the team. Last year with the Giants, I was really into that playoff run. I was yelling and screaming, pumping my fists and going nuts for these guys. I won’t be doing that on the air, but secretly deep down on the inside, I’ll be rooting for these guys every single night. It’s fun to be around a winning team. If they win, everybody’s happy. It’s an easy clubhouse to be around. It’s fun to do the broadcast.”
You can follow F.P. Santangelo on Twitter and watch his next MASN broadcast on Friday, March 11 at 6 p.m.