Growing up in & around the game of baseball has been a thrill. From shagging fly balls during batting practice on the scorching turf of Royals Stadium to watching my dad hit a pinch-hit homerun in an All-Star Game to sitting high above a perfectly manicured diamond calling a game. It’s all been very special to me and it’s moments like last night that makes what I do for a living even more worthwhile.
I’m now in my 12th year calling Major League Baseball and I’m still amazed at what I get a chance to witness on a nightly basis. On any given day, something special can happen and even though I haven’t been doing this for a long time, I have been fortunate enough to be a part of some memorable moments already: Three no-hitters (Mark Buehrle vs. Texas; Ervin Santana vs. Cleveland; Jered Weaver vs. Minnesota), Sammy Sosa’s 600th HR and now Albert Pujols’ 500th. All very special moments and all very unique.
As special as last night was for me personally, Sosa’s 600th HR in Texas meant a little bit more to me not because of the number or because it was a home game, it was because of a little exchange I had with my partner at the time, Eric Nadel, leading up to the monumental moment.
It was 2007 and we were in Cincinnati to take on the Reds & Sammy had been stuck at 598 HR’s for some time (17 games). I remember talking with him at the time and like most who perform at this level and on the verge of a milestone, he played off the notion that media attention was beginning to weigh on him & I believed him. On June 15th at Great American Ballpark, the 5th inning happened upon us. The Rangers were trailing 4-2 and with the bases loaded, Sosa came to the plate.
In those days, I was doing radio with Nadel. He would handle the 1st three innings of play-by-play while I handled analyst duties. In innings 4-6, we would reverse roles. So I was at the mic when Sosa came to the plate that June evening and with one swing of the bat, he not only put the Rangers ahead with a grand slam, he put himself on the doorstep of 600.
The next day, while on the bus headed to the ballpark, I came to the decision that Nadel should have the call of Sosa’s 600th. I was in my 4th year with Texas and Nadel had been there for over 30 years. Who was I to have my voice on such a milestone? So I quietly leaned over to Nadel and told him that I really wanted him to call Sosa’s next HR and I stated my reasons why. I mentioned to him that if Sosa were to come up while I was doing play-by-play, I would just simply say, “With Sammy coming to the plate, here’s Eric Nadel.” Nadel, as meticulous a craftsman as I’ve ever witnessed, leaned right back and said, “Absolutely not. Whenever it happens, it happens.”
Five days later, we were back in Arlington, Texas. This time the Chicago Cubs were in town. You couldn’t have asked for a better situation. After going 0 for 4 in the opening game of the series and already 0 for 2 in game 2, Sosa once again came to the plate in the 5th inning. There were 2 outs and no one on base. Jason Marquis, who had been given Sosa’s old #21, was on the mound and I, once again, was behind the mic.
As the flashes went off on cameras, Sosa’s drive to right-center field sailed into the night. Sosa’s patented ‘hop’ out of the box was followed by his trot around the bases. I called the home run while I was jumping out of my chair. I immediately looked out my window to my right where my family and friends were sitting and pointed to them and I then looked at Nadel. His grin was ear to ear and it wasn’t so much about the milestone we had both just witnessed, rather his joy came from watching the reaction I had in the booth that night. It’s a memory I’ll cherish forever.
Congratulations to Albert and his family. In the same ballpark in which he hit his 400th HR off Jordan Zimmerman, he hit his 499th & 500th off Taylor Jordan. I’m not sure if the Pujols’ are planning on adding to their family any time soon but if they do, they may want to consider the name Jordan.
Just livin’ the dream…
As always, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org