I think they may be partly serious and partly kidding, but the Inland Empire 66ers of the Single-A California League say they have offered their job as play-by-play broadcaster to Bob Costas.
In a recent interview with sports columnist Joe Posnanski, Costas said that he still had a dream of calling an entire season of minor league baseball. According to Posnanski, “(Costas) has often talked about a dream - one he insists he still has, even after hosting all the Olympics and winning all the awards - of broadcasting a full season of minor league baseball somewhere. The draw for him is the preparation, it is getting to know all the players and the manager, it is working through the daily stats and stories, it is about immersing himself in baseball.”
That last sentence is sure true. I found that to be the case from 2004-06 when I was the radio broadcaster for the Orioles’ short-season Single-A affiliate, the Aberdeen IronBirds.
For two of those seasons, 2005 and 2006, I was also the broadcaster for the Florida State Seminoles college program. It was quite a two years for me, broadcasting games for about nine months during the calender year. No one gets rich broadcasting minor league or college ball, but I was sure rich for the experience, the people I met, the places I saw, the games I was a part of. If I had to do it over again, I would choose those gigs 100 times out of 100.
First of all, you sure do “immerse yourself in baseball.” It is pretty all-consuming to include the travel, the preparation, handling the equipment (you don’t get help at that level), keeping up with the stats and trends and, the real fun part, broadcasting the games themselves.
I’ve always felt a good minor league announcer would do well in the majors where everything I mentioned above is easier, you have a lot more help and it is easier to get information on the players.
The clubs I worked with made me feel as much a part of the team as any player and that was really cool. The game challenges a broadcaster like it does a player, just in different ways. For instance, how will you handle that game after an all-night drive to the next city when it’s your 15th game in 15 days?
But being with a team all year and seeing every pitch puts you on the inside and provides an experience that I treasure to this day. Which prospects will live up to the hype? Which players will improve? Which make adjustments that you get to see in 5 p.m. batting practice pay off three hours later? How do these young players handle failing at baseball, some for the first time in their lives?
Not only do you get to know the young men that try to excel at this game and advance all the way to the majors, but also their mommy and daddy, their siblings and their girlfriends. They become more than someone inside a jersey. You root for them and feel for them when it doesn’t go well.
Chris Smith is known by most Orioles fans as a failed first-round draft pick from 2001. But I got to meet him and liked him very much. I was calling the game in a nearly empty ballpark in Oneonta, New York, on July 7, 2004 when Smith walked off the mound injured during the first inning. I could tell it was bad. Now I don’t even remember the exact injury but his season was done and he never made it with the Orioles.
Mr. Costas, you should take that job. It’s a no-brainer. You have all the money and fame you’ll ever need. Go find out how truly amazing the minors can be from inside the game. You’ll be challenged in ways you never have before. When it’s over, you’ll have made lifelong friends and feel like you accomplished something special.
And of that, I am all serious and not kidding.
P.S. Among some of the players I saw on those three Aberdeen teams were Nolan Reimold, Garrett Olson, Radhames Liz, Brandon Snyder, Brad Bergesen, Brandon Erbe, David Hernandez, Jim Hoey, Ryan Adams, Pedro Beato, Jason Berken and Zach Clark.
The ACC was loaded with talent during the 2005 and 2006 seasons when I broadcast for Florida State and Buster Posey was a freshman shortstop on the ‘06 Seminoles. Others I saw during my two years at FSU included Matt Wieters, Shane Robinson, Jon Jay, Ryan Braun, Ryan Zimmerman, Yonder Alonzo, Danny Valencia, Jemile Weeks, Sean Doolittle, Matt Antonelli, Daniel Bard, Andrew Miller, Brett Cecil and Berken.
A few years later, as I walked through the Orioles clubhouse wearing an FSU baseball sweatshirt, Berken asked me if I’d lost a bet. Yeah, that FSU-Clemson rivalry plays out just about anywhere.