No matter how many salads I ate for lunch, one bite of a hot dog and my body forgot that salad faster than the Cardinals got swept in the 2004 World Series. Being a minor league broadcaster for 2 seasons right out of college had me waking up in places like Altoona, Erie, and Binghamton while my friends toured Amsterdam, London, and Paris – but I wouldn’t have traded one of those hot dogs for a slice of brie followed by steak frites near the Louvre. During a homestand, I’d go to the grocery store in Reading, Pa – pick up a salad for 18 cents a pound (kidding – but something absurdly inexpensive) – and eat it in the press box at First Energy Stadium before the guys came out for BP. So at this point, I’m feeling good about myself – I may have even gone for a run in the morning – but after the salad, came a soda (usually a mountain due to make it to the pregame show). That soda came with me down to the field to hang around the cage and absorb all the baseball knowledge I was blessed to be exposed to. In 2005, our manager was Steve Swisher – Cubs All-Star catcher in 1976 – and now better known as Nick’s dad. Swish was a no-nonsense manager, but at the same time, always willing to talk – the right way to handle a rundown, which pitchers responded the best to his mound visits, and of course he was quick to talk about Nick and the rest of his family. His mother grew very ill that summer – Nick was very close to his grandmother – which made some folks avoid him, but it brought the two of us closer since just being there to listen truly builds a friendship.
So – the Mountain Dew is long gone and that taste was replaced by a few pieces of Double Bubble – and after hanging by the cage, doing a pregame interview with one of the players (Papelbon’s cow milking rivalry story will be told another time – just remind me), catching up with a few fans and trying to explain how the pitching would improve, I headed up the steps to the Broadway Charlie Wagner Press Box (a full blog on Charlie coming this season – he was Ted Williams roommate on the road with the Red Sox). Working in a press box is like working in a pizza shop in the sense that all you smell in a pizza shop is the pizza – all you smell in the press box is hot dogs. Berkshire Hot Dogs are right up there with Hebrew National, but after eating at least 1 per night at every home game between the 2004 and the all-star break of 2005, I called it quits. I went cold turkey on hot dogs. Actually, I went grilled chicken. And thanks to our scoreboard operations gentleman John Magala – the homemade hot pepper mustard made that chicken make me forget all about the doggies, but I still couldn’t escape the smell. I took hot dogs off my menu for almost 2 years, until Mom grilled them up (nice and burnt, the way they should be) – and who can turn down a meal from Mom.
The days of 2 Mountain Dews plus hot dogs at the ballpark are over – which is a good thing. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy the press meals across the country – and it’s not to say that I don’t miss Charlie’s press box in Reading – it’s just that when I go back to Reading once a summer now, I enjoy hamburgers, Manny’s fries, funnel cake, and DIET Coke.
From the Phillies 7-1 victory over the Nationals on Tuesday night – the Pedro Feliz HR call of ShronkDaddy will live all season as we honor all those close to Justin Shronk who passed away earlier this month. http://philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=4345919&c_id=phi
“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.” – John Wooden
It was July, 2005 and I was broadcasting for the Reading Phillies – we were in Erie, PA at Jerry Uht Park playing the Seawolves (AA – Detroit Tigers). Erie’s starting rotation that season featured Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya, and Humberto Sanchez who all hit 100 on the gun. Earlier in the day prior to his start, Verlander got the call to the majors to make his big league debut that week – but just to get his work in, he would pitch the first inning against Reading. I’ll never forget – and I’m not sure Michael Bourn has either – the 97 mph fastball followed by the true knee-buckling hook that froze our leadoff hitter.
Despite the insane amount of pitching talent in the Eastern League that season: Portland (Red Sox) – Lester, Papelbon, Delcarmen / New Britain (Twins): Neshek, Liriano, Blackburn / New Hampshire (Blue Jays): Marcum, Casey Janssen / Binghamton (Mets): Bannister, Petit / Akron (Indians): Carmona, Sowers / Altoona (Pirates): Gorzellany, Maholm / Bowie (Orioles): Hayden Penn, Chris Ray / Harrisburg (Nationals): Darrell Rasner, Saul Rivera – No one was talked about more in the clubhouse than Liriano after his performance in New Britain. Next time I get back to my parents house, I’ll grab my scorebook from that season and look at his exact line – but his fastball, slider, changeup combination had our guys and broadcasters floored. I was fortunate to share the booth in Reading for 2 seasons with Steve Degler who called that performance one of the best he had witnessed in his 15 years in the league. Degs also said that the best player to come through the league was Vlad.
I’ll share stories of the minors and majors with you throughout the season – and of course I’ll give you my thoughts on what’s going on the bigs (right now I’m watching what seems to be a throwback start at The Cell from Bartolo Colon – his fastball that got Ichiro staring at strike three in the 6th started inside and didn’t drift back over the heart of the plate, it took an 80 degree right turn getting Ichiro who’s a career .333 hitter against the White Sox).
Probably once or twice a week, I’ll post some highlights from the studio so feel free to comment on a home run call, a missed play in the outfield, or even a bad tie/shirt/jacket combination!