Editor's Note: The following post is a part of the 2013 Purple Row Writer Search -- our quest to find some great new contributors to Purple Row.
One of the more polarizing components to any major league team is not the players on the field, but often the men presenting the game to us through our radios and televisions. Everyone who watches games has announcers they really like or don't like and most of them seem to hate Joe Buck.
I bring this up because I happen to be a broadcaster myself, covering high school sports for a radio station in northwest Nebraska. My station is a Rockies affiliate, so for nearly 150 days a year my job includes making sure the right commercials get run while listening to Jerry Schemmel and Jack Corrigan describe the game to me. Today I'd like to look at these men in the booth and how they do their jobs from the perspective of someone who does a similar job, albeit at a much lower level. For this article I'm largely going to ignore George Frazier and Jeff Huson because they don't do any play-by-play.
The first thing pretty much all of us will notice about a broadcaster is his or her voice. Some are very distinctive and can be instantly recognized within a word or two. Most are pleasant enough to listen to but not terribly memorable. One common misconception among young broadcasters is to think they need that distinctive voice. We all have that one guy we'd love to trade voices with - for me it's Kevin Harlan - but there's much more to it than that. As the late great Harry Kalas once said, "To a certain point voice is important, but you don't have to be blessed with mellifluous tones. You have to be knowledgable and conversational."
On the other hand, an announcer with an annoying voice likely isn't going very far in this business. People don't like to listen to a high, squeaky voice for three hours, nor an overly nasal one. A really bad one can really distract from the game that's being played. In a lot of ways broadcasting is a lot like singing. It's important to learn proper breathing and voice control to sound good.
It's important to be conversational. Listeners and viewers tend to respond better to announcers who come off as if we're sitting on the couch next to them talking to you rather than just reciting what's happening like a robot. A common way we put it is to pretend you're telling your mom what's happening while she's cooking dinner. At the same time, it's important to come off as credible. If people don't believe you know what you're talking about you're in big trouble. This often happens to people who try to be over the top and excited. It can work for some, such as Gus Johnson and Dick Vitale, but even those two are polarizing among fans. At the same time it's important to have fun, because if you're not it's hard to expect the listener to. A little humor here and there is a good thing as long as you're not as unfunny as George Frazier.
This is especially important in radio, where listeners don't have the benefit of pictures like television viewers. It's more than just the outcome of the play as well. What's the weather like? What's the mood of the crowd? What do the uniforms look like? When the runner slides into second does he kick up a plume of dirt? You don't want to overdo it, but these little details can go a long way toward helping the listener build a mental picture of the action and feel more like he's at the park with you.
Tell me a story
Sports aren't played in a vacuum. Every game has a story line. Maybe a win today would put a team into first place in the division for the first time in months. Maybe a bad team is evaluating talent and figuring out who will be around next season. It's good to have one in mind at the start of each game and refer back to it if it holds true. Sometimes events in the game will change the story halfway through, such as if someone is throwing a no hitter. It's important to be able to adjust and not try to force the game into the original story if it doesn't fit anymore.
"All Sportscasters share one thing in common if they're going to be good--they're willing to prepare." - Bob Costas
Probably the most important aspect of any broadcast. In the pros and major college programs it's a lot easier because media relations people will prepare pages and pages of game notes full of stats and information on the team and players, most of which will never get used. But it's still good to have as much information as possible available. In baseball, it's especially important because of the large amount of down time to fill between actual action. This is where an announcer can take time to analyze a player's mechanics, break down his stats or just tell an anecdote about something funny that happened on the way to the ballpark. Most of the best material comes from chatting with players and coaches around the cage during batting practice.
That brings us to the men who do these jobs for the Rockies:
The TV voice of the Rockies is a New York native and graduated from Ithaca College in 1985. He has been with Fox Sports Rocky Mountain (now Root Sports) since it was created in 1988. He has extensive experience calling NFL and college football for Fox and NBC, as well as hosting KOA's Broncos postgame show from 2000-02. He was the TV voice of the Nuggets from 1994-2004 and became one of the few people calling games for two professional teams at the same time when he took over the Rockies play-by-play in 2002.
If we were to rank Drew against the other TV announcers around MLB, I'm betting he would fall somewhere around the middle. He's not someone who will ever become a legend like Vin Scully or Ernie Harwell, but he's not terrible either. He knows his stuff and doesn't try to do to much.
The Rockies primary radio announcer is the consumate professional and someone I have tremendous respect for as a broadcaster. The South Dakota native is one of the few announcers in baseball who also holds a law degree. In 1989 he survived a plane crash that killed 112 of the 296 people on board. After escaping he went back to the wreckage to rescue an 11 month old baby.
Before joining the Rockies, he was best known as the voice of the Nuggets from 1992-2009. He also spent one season each covering CSU football, the Billings Mustangs of the Pioneer League and occasional Sky Sox TV broadcasts. He also spent one year as Deputy Commissioner of the Continental Basketball Association.
I was a fan of Jeff Kingery and was disappointed when he left the Rockies booth, but you would be hard pressed to come up with a better replacement. Jerry might never gain the notoriety of the big names in the business, but he's every bit as good as most of them.
The most distinctive voice of the bunch is primarily the color man for radio but I include him because he does trade off with Jerry and do play for a few innings of each game. This will be his ninth season with the Rockies after 17 years doing TV for the Indians. Prior to doing baseball, Jack covered the Cleveland Cavaliers and college sports in the ACC, MAC and Patriot League. He was behind the mic for Michael Jordan's final game in Chapel Hill. Jack is a native of Cleveland who played football at Cornell and has a master's of speech from Kent State. He had his first novel published in 2005. His second is due out sometime this year and he's begun working on his third.
There's not much Jack Corrigan hasn't seen in this business by now. He's unflappable and does a solid job day in and day out providing color to Jerry's play by play. The two have excellent chemistry together.
While the Rockies television crew leaves plenty to be desired, you would be hard pressed to get a better pairing for the radio broadcasts and I look forward to another season of Jerry and Jack.
I haven't had a chance to check the site the last couple of days so this may have been posted and I just missed it, but ROOT Sports has announced which Spring Training games it will broadcast. Radio tends to do a few weekend Spring Training games, but it will vary from one affiliate to the next. Many of the spring games will be streamed online at RockiesRadioNetwork.com.
Jhoulys Chacin's new two year deal became official yesterday.