Tag Archives: Pacific Coast League

Calling Minor League Games Might Mean Same Team, but Different Parent Club, the Following Season

One of the oddities of working in the minor leagues is that you might end up working for completely different parent clubs from season to season, even though you continue to work for the same employer.

That’s what happened to Doug Greenwald of the Fresno Grizzlies, Johnny Doskow of the Sacramento River Cats, and several other baseball play-by-play guys when their Pacific Coast League employers went through a daisy chain of affiliate change during the past offseason.

Greenwald, a SABR member who is also a legacy baseball broadcaster (his father is Hank Greenwald, former Giants play-by-play announcer and current SABR Baseball and the Media Committee member), finds himself shilling prospects for the Houston Astros after having called players in the San Francisco Giants system for most of the past 15 years; while Doskow now broadcasts games on behalf of a now Giants affiliate which had been the long-time top farm club of the Oakland A’s.

It’s an odd mix of continuity and landscape shift, but it’s one that is not unfamiliar to long-time minor league broadcasters, many of whom accumulate plenty of stickers on their trunks if they manage to fashion long careers, anyway.  Both Greenwald and Doskow have worked in seven and four different cities, respectively, in the two or more decades they’ve each spent in the play-by-play biz.

But as with any other long-time minor league employee, including the Memphis Redbirds’ Don Wade, whom we met in yesterday’s post, all the travel, all the grind, all the effort, all of it, point toward a single goal: making it to the major leagues. And you will see within this article that they would drop their mikes in a second—no offense, various PCL clubs—to make that final move up to the top.

The article below is reproduced in full with the permission of the author, John Shea, who penned it for his own employer, the San Francisco Chronicle, and if you prefer, you can read this same article in full there:

http://www.sfchronicle.com/sports/article/They-make-the-calls-wait-for-the-call-up-6374036.php#photo-7767068

Thanks, John!


Even in the minors, it’s a special calling

Doug Greenwald

Minor league baseball announcers Doug Greenwald, (left) and Johnny Doskow up in the press box before the start of the game at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., as seen on Sat.. April 4, 2015. (Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle)

The kid went to work with his baseball-broadcasting father and always assumed he would be in the same line of work.

“I didn’t know there were other jobs out there,” said Doug Greenwald, who spent much of his childhood in the ’80s sitting in the Giants’ Candlestick Park radio booth with his dad, former play-by-play man Hank Greenwald.

This is the 20th season that Greenwald the younger, 40, has called baseball, but 2015 is providing a new twist. After calling Giants minor-league games 14 of the past 15 years, the past 12 in Triple-A, he’s the voice of the top affiliate for the Houston Astros.

But still sitting in the same seat.

While six Pacific Coast League teams played an unusual game of musical chairs in the offseason, a chain reaction of PCL relocation, Greenwald stayed with the Fresno Grizzlies because they’re his employers.

Just as Johnny Doskow, 49, stuck with the Sacramento River Cats, now the Giants’ top affiliate after 15 years under the A’s umbrella.

“The A’s were good to me. Those relationships will last forever. They gave me 34 big-league games in 2012,” Doskow said. “It’s been a fun transition. There are more Giants fans than A’s fans in the (Sacramento) area. It’s cool to cover the Giants again.”

Doskow was the original voice of the Giants-affiliated Fresno Grizzlies in 1998, the year the Giants were forced to move their Triple-A team from Phoenix after it became the territory of the expansion Diamondbacks in their first season in the big leagues. Doskow spent three years in Fresno before taking the gig in Sacramento.

He was among six play-by-play men who stayed in place while the teams they covered repositioned themselves.

Here’s the sequence:

The Giants, who helped push the circle of dominoes, moved from Fresno to Sacramento, the A’s from Sacramento to Nashville, the Brewers from Nashville to Colorado Springs, the Rockies from Colorado Springs to Albuquerque, the Dodgers from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City and the Astros from Oklahoma City to Fresno.

Whew.

Before the season, Greenwald and Doskow kept getting asked the same line of questions. “Doug, how do you feel about moving to Sacramento?” “So, Johnny, do you have your place in Nashville yet?” Over and over, they had to explain. The city’s the same, the affiliate is different.

“Now I walk in the clubhouse and see a brighter shade of orange and a lone star on the logo,” Greenwald said.

‘I’m a Giant guy’

Not that he’s complaining:

“Everybody knows I’m a Giant guy” — a Greenwald has been associated with Giants-affiliated broadcasts for 30 of the past 35 years — “and I look at it like this: I have a very good relationship with the Giants, and if I go work for another major-league team, there’s no penalty in that.

“Our goal, and I’m speaking for all minor-league broadcasters here, is like the players’ goals in the minor leagues. We play for all 30 teams essentially. If any major-league team swoops into a minor-league broadcast booth and taps you on the shoulder and says, ‘Do you want to broadcast for us?’ … you’d be out of there.

“We all want to be in the major leagues, but when the Baseball America directory comes out, and it shows all the teams and you see how many people are behind you, it’s like, ‘OK, I’d rather be here than other places in the minor leagues.’”

Ditto for Doskow.

“We keep it in perspective,” he said. “Obviously, we think about the big leagues all the time. I also think there are a lot of guys who would kill for a Triple-A job. The concept of getting paid to call baseball is pretty wild. I try not to take that for granted. We’re fortunate to have the jobs we have.”

If Greenwald, who has called five Giants regular-season games in his career, including one last month, or Doskow got a full-time major-league radio gig tomorrow, they wouldn’t miss a beat. They’re considered that good. Meanwhile, they’ve kept the passion and dream alive despite accommodations, working conditions and salary far inferior to their major-league brethren.

They’re the play-by-play guy, producer and roadie all in one. They never go “on assignment” — they usually work every inning of 144 games over 154 days. They stay at second-tier hotels and get to games in hotel courtesy vans, not luxury buses or limos.

When they fly, it’s commercial, not a charter with first-class seats throughout. Greenwald has done his team’s game notes — in the majors, PR staffs spew gobs of information. Doskow spends his offseason in the River Cats’ sales department. In the bigs, the offseason is off.

“I enjoy it,” Doskow said. “My office is the broadcast booth, so I have the best view in Sacramento.”

The biggest change for Doskow is the National League style of play. He’s describing pitchers hitting for the first time since 2000, his last season with the Grizzlies. In the minors, there’s no designated hitter when two NL-affiliated teams meet. AL-affiliated teams always use a DH even when playing NL-affiliated teams.

“I’m loving that,” Doskow said. “The double-switches, the strategy. It’s a crisp game.”

While Doskow got a kick out of chronicling the rehab assignments of Hunter Pence, Jake Peavy and Matt Cain and hard-throwing relievers Hunter Strickland and Mike Broadway before their promotions to San Francisco, Greenwald is associated with an organization rising in power and deep in prospects.

The Astros called up Fresno outfielder Preston Tucker, who was leading all minor-leaguers in homers and RBIs when promoted, and shortstop Carlos Correa, the top overall draft pick in 2012 who had seven homers and 19 RBIs in his first 25 big-league games. Pitcher Mark Appel, the No. 1 overall pick out of Stanford in 2013, is in Triple-A waiting his turn after a recent promotion from Double-A.

Posey on the rise

Greenwald called Buster Posey’s games at Fresno in 2009 and 2010, drawing parallels between Posey and Correa: “Both highly touted, very smooth, not flamboyant, similar personalities, very humble, a lot of buzz. (Derek) Jeter is Correa’s idol, and he can go deep in the hole, leap and get the ball to first like Jeter.”

A minor-league broadcaster can have a resume that reads like the old country hit “I’ve Been Everywhere.” While Doskow, in his 23rd year, has had stops in Cedar Rapids, High Desert, Fresno and Sacramento, Greenwald’s laundry list includes Bend, Lafayette, Burlington, Shreveport, Stockton, Modesto and Fresno.

Giants webcasts

Greenwald continued his Giants webcast games in spring training. In the past, it was a productive learning tool because he studied players who opened the season at Fresno. This year was odd, considering he jumped from the Giants’ training camp to a team of Astros prospects, who had trained in Florida.

Greenwald graduated from San Francisco’s Wallenberg High School and got a broadcast journalism degree at Boston University. He learned the trade from his dad and Bill King — “my American League father” — among others.

“I got to know and pester probably every National League broadcaster in the late ’80s and early ’90s,” Greenwald said.

Doskow grew up in Los Angeles listening to Chick Hearn (“my guy”) and Vin Scully and was inspired by his father, Chuck, a law professor and baseball junkie who had a library of baseball books in the house. Doskow got a communications degree (radio/TV emphasis) from the University of La Verne (Los Angeles County).

“When I was 7 years old, I used to turn down the TV set and broadcast the game,” Doskow said.

They’re both still doing it, embracing it and flourishing at it, and the proof is on 1320 ESPN Radio in Sacramento and 1430 KYNO in Fresno.

A Minor League Broadcaster Still Loves the Game After 30 Years on the Job

Usually, when we contemplate long-time baseball broadcasters, we think of the major league greats: Allen, Barber, Scully, Harwell, Uecker, Kalas, Buck (Jack). The guys we all know and, mostly, love.

There is another class of baseball broadcast “lifer”, though: the long-time minor league play by play announcers.  These are the guys who, for love of the game (and need of the less-than-major-league paycheck), toil in the tiny booths of low-capacity ballparks that dot the small and mid-size cities of this great country of ours. There are probably not too many of those minor-league broadcasters that any of us can name, at least off the tops of our heads.

Steve Selby is probably one of those guys we should know.

Having done minor league games all over the south for 30 seasons now, Selby still dreams of making the big leagues someday. Everyone who’s a lifer in the minors does. But even while he continues to harbor the dream, he still hunkers down and does the job day after day for 144 games a year, currently for the Memphis Redbirds of the Pacific Coast League (the latter point a laughable notion given that AutoZone Park is some 1,300 miles from the closest point in the Pacific Ocean).

Don Wade of the Memphis Daily News, which serves as the source for daily news and information on business and commerce for the Memphis metro area, penned a nice biographical piece of this long-time broadcaster, which is shared with you, below. The original piece can also be read online at:

http://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2015/jul/9/after-all-these-years-redbirds-broadcaster-steve-selby-still-loves-the-game-and-the-job/

Big thanks for Don for permission to reproduce the piece here.


 

A Baseball Guy

After all these years, Redbirds broadcaster Steve Selby still loves the game and the job

By Don Wade

Bottom of the first inning at AutoZone Park, and Redbirds first baseman Dan Johnson is in the batter’s box. Oklahoma City’s pitcher winds and delivers and Johnson, a left-handed hitter, swings and makes contact. Loud contact.

steve selby
Steve Selby, the radio voice of the Memphis Redbirds, broadcasts during a recent home game at AutoZone Park. Selby has been a minor league baseball play-by-play announcer for more than 30 years. (Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Up in the Redbirds’ broadcast booth behind home plate, Steve Selby’s ears know what that sound means. He’s heard it so many times before, at little Class A ballparks in the Carolina League to not-quite big-league venues in Memphis and Nashville. The baseball’s trajectory off the bat confirms what he just heard, but he almost didn’t even need to see it.

“Say goodbye to that one!” Selby tells his radio audience. “High and deep and onto the concourse in right field, headed to the barbecue shack. Dan Johnson, one day out of the lineup, says, `put me in, coach!’”

In more than three decades of doing minor league baseball radio play-by-play, Selby, 59, has called more than 3,500 games and probably more than 1,000 home runs. He has seen a good 32,000 innings and, oh, maybe 1 million pitches. So you’ll understand if he cannot summon a Greatest Hits list of his favorite calls.

Besides, the rhythms of the game don’t work like that. He’s describing every pitch, every play – from the tape-measure home runs to the routine groundballs to the second baseman – through 144 minor league games each season.

His career is a tip of the cap to Americana and can be followed with an atlas: Kinston (N.C.) Eagles (1986), Durham (N.C.) Bulls (1987-90), Sumter (S.C.) Flyers (1991), Huntsville (Ala.) Stars (1992-95), Nashville Sounds (1996-1999), and since 2000 the Memphis Redbirds.

He has carried the big-league dream around to all those places. In the last few years he has even had a couple of interviews for major-league jobs, one “pretty serious” and another, in retrospect, probably more of a courtesy.

Reaching the majors now is a long shot. But Selby isn’t just content; he still gets genuinely excited when a player who has been in the minors for a long time finally gets the call. During a recent home stand, the St. Louis Cardinals brought up 27-year-old pitcher Marcus Hatley, who had been in the minors since 2007 – or roughly one-third of his life.

“Congratulations to Marcus Hatley,” Selby says during that night’s pre-game show. “That is just great stuff for a good guy.”

Off air, Selby says, “I don’t feel pressure every night like I’m trying to create the perfect demo,” but he adds of getting to the majors, “It’s still a goal.”

As it is for everyone in the minors. But here’s what is forgotten: doing this for three decades isn’t automatic.

“You don’t get to hang around this long unless you have real ability and passion,” said Memphis manager Mike Shildt. “As a staff, we all respect and appreciate him.

“Beyond that, he’s a baseball guy.”

Do your job

The game does not suffer idle dreamers.

Selby still gets to the ballpark at 1 p.m. for a 7 p.m. game, hours before he has to be in his open-air office overlooking Memphis’ most beautiful greensward. He still looks forward to the first pitch and all the rituals that precede it, from batting practice to preparing his scorecard. He lines up the different colored pens he’ll use to track balls (black) and strikes (red), and hits (green) and errors (red). The umpires’ names, of course, he writes down in blue.

“Never any complaints sitting up here,” Selby said as he leans into the microphone to begin another broadcast.

He has always wanted to be here, even before he realized it. Selby grew up in a time when boys collected baseball cards, but he and his two older brothers were more creative than most. The cards became their players in make-believe games played in makeshift stadiums constructed out of shoeboxes.

Add sponge dice and their homemade scoring system – double-sixes for a home run, a two, three or four for a strikeout – and you had a ballgame anytime you wanted.

When Selby finally got his first play-by-play job, it came with – as all low minor-league jobs do – extra duties. In this case, driving the team bus.

“We did our own play-by-play for every roll of the dice,” Selby said. “That’s where it started, really, when I was five years old in Monterey, California.”

The family would move to the Washington D.C. area and they’d all become frustrated Senators fans – a rite of baseball passage in some ways. By his early 20s, Selby was in commercial broadcast school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He rented a cheap apartment, without air-conditioning, and because South Florida was overrun with transplanted New Yorkers one of the Miami stations carried the Yankees games.

Many an evening he’d turn off the lights, lay down with the breeze from a box fan almost keeping him cool, listen to the Yankees’ broadcast and dream.

Well, unless the Yankees’ Class A team in Fort Lauderdale was at home, and then Selby would take his $19 Radio Shack tape recorder to the ballpark, find an empty radio booth and call the game. He was making his first demo tape, describing a young Willie McGee’s slashing hits and running catches in center field and a young Steve Balboni’s majestic homeruns and helpless swings at curveballs.

When he finally got his first play-by-play job in Kinston, N.C., it came with – as all low minor-league jobs do – extra duties. In this case, driving the team bus.

“At the time, Rush Limbaugh billed himself as the most dangerous man in America,” Selby said. “He was second to me.”

Finding his voice

But he survived – survival is the name of the game in minor-league baseball – and as the years have rolled by a Steve Selby broadcast has become more like that well-broken-in glove that fits and feels just right.

In years past, Selby often had a partner in the booth. He prefers having a partner, believes he’s better with a partner and this was never truer than in the years that the late Charlie Lea, a former big-league pitcher from Memphis, shared the broadcast for home games.

These days, Selby works alone at home and on the road. It’s a tricky thing, having nine innings and more than three hours of air time by yourself. It’s, well, a lot of rope.

Selby, however, has a clock in his head the same as a good shortstop knows just how much time he has to throw a ball over to first base. A well-timed release is more important than showing off how much power you have – be it in the arm or the voice.

A foul ball hit into the stands is just that, most of the time. But when a boy who brought his glove makes a catch behind the Redbirds’ dugout, that’s worth a little more. In this instance the boy, who is wearing a red cap, doesn’t milk the moment, but returns to his seat.

“Don’t sit down,” Selby says after describing the catch for listeners. “Curtain call.”

You hear the joy and the passion in what could be a throw-away moment. It’s not overdone, but done just right. Natural, sincere, the voice of a man who called his first home run after rolling double-sixes when he was younger than the boy who caught that foul ball.

But as much as Selby loves describing the plays – even his favorites, a triple or the rare inside-the-park home run – it is no longer what gives him the most satisfaction.

“I told our coaching staff this home stand, now the best part of what I do is around the batting cage, talking hitting, or sitting in the coaches’ office talking pitching or just reflecting on last night’s game, with all these guys that are lifers,” he said.

And Selby is a lifer. He and his wife Rhonda have three grown children and six grandchildren. He’s at the stage where retirement could be only a few innings away but, then again, Baseball Hall-of-Famer Vin Scully is still going strong with the Los Angeles Dodgers at age 87 and doesn’t even need the money. He keeps on because he’s a lifer, too.

So who knows? Selby might yet call a game with players who haven’t even been born yet.

“I’ve been in minor-league baseball 30 years,” Selby said, taking in the tireless view he could once only imagine. “I have to keep working.”