I don't want this to sound like sour grapes. I really don't. The Marysville Gold Sox are on a new radio station this year. That station gets to decide who their broadcasters are, and went with their own guys. I get that. It's how it works. I'd be lying, though, if I said it doesn't hurt a little, but I'll get over it.
The reason for this little dissertation is to thank all of the people who made my last 15 years behind the microphone an absolute blast. There are so many to thank, but the best part has been the listeners and the rapport with all of the coaches, players, and fans. I got this job in 2002 when the fledgling Yuba-Sutter Gold Sox were a pro team in the independent Western League. An old friend and colleague Tim O'Sullivan recommended me to general manager Scott Blackwood. From as far away as Washington state, Bob Bavasi saw my penchant for compiling game notes and statistics, and turned that into the game programs that started the following year. The long bus rides to Yuma and Long Beach with manager Tim Gloyd, coaches Darren Bush and Erik Bennett, and trainer Jason Kirkman turned into all kinds of lessons about baseball and life itself, even though I'd done one season of minor league ball before.
The WeBL was done after 2002, but Bavasi told me and anyone else who would listen that there were “other otions” for baseball in Marysville the next year. I had never heard of collegiate summer ball before, but leave it to him to put together a minor league style form of baseball, where players weren't paid, the team hardly traveled, and the quality of baseball was such that few people couldn't tell the difference between the amateur team of '03 and the professional club it replaced. Brad Peek was the manager, knew more baseball than a lot of former major leaguers I had been around, and was always eager to learn more, share his knowledge, and make the Gold Sox a reputable ball club, and not just in Marysville and Yuba City.
Jack Johnson and Chris Terry were his coaches. Terry was the head high school coach in Elk Grove, and we watched him get a tiny college job, then a bigger college job, and then an even bigger one. Johnson, of course, became the manager in 2006, and stayed until new ownership and the Great West League came in last year. Jack will tell you that he didn't make it to the majors because he couldn't hit a curve ball, but everything else about him is major league. He can teach, he can coach, he can relate to people of all ages, especially college kids, and can tell a hell of a story. It was weird not having him around the ball park last year, probably as strange for me not going to the ball park this summer. Again, I'll be fine.
About a week before the start of the season, I got a text from a season ticket holder, asking me if the change in radio stations would be good for the Gold Sox. My answer was, and is, yes. KUBA broadcast Gold Sox games from the beginning, and also carried pro games in 2000, but never had a long term commitment to the team or the community. It was a year to year thing, based on sales and advertising, but again, that's how the business works.
The new station, KETQ, is a low-power, non-commercial FM station. It's public radio, listener-supported, how ever you want to put it. As long as they have underwriters (think PBS, but radio) to stay in business, they don't have to worry about the number of commercials. You might get sick of “this program made possible by a grant from Rideout Health” every inning, but that's not much different than hearing the same commercials over and over again like in years past on KUBA.
Many of you know the history of the team, but after owner Don McCullough died in 2005, Bob Bavasi and his brother Peter ran the club, while at the same time looking for new owners. Some people had their run-ins with Peter (I had one but it was cleared up and is all good), but he kept his promise by selling to someone who would keep the team part of the community. Enter Tom Lininger and his family in 2007. Tom and Karyn were great for the club and this town, and were great to me. I (with the rest of you) got to watch their sons Tommy and Spencer grow up, and both play for the team. Even though the business model for the club at the time was to play all home games, Lininger would schedule one road trip a year, which actually became a highlight for everyone (and who can say that about playing on the road?).
With the Lininger boys grown, Tom and Karyn got an offer they couldn't refuse, and sold to the current owners who put together the Great West League. Unfortunately (my opinion), the new group seems to be more about corporate and the league and less about community, but at least the front office people don't seem to be that way, and that's where the new radio station comes in. KETQ goes by the moniker '93-Q', and better yet, 'Q-munity radio'. I'm not sure if the radio announcers are paid, but they seem to be having fun, even though they know very little about the teams they are broadcasting.
This is where the perception of sour grapes comes in, but I will try to make this the only time that I write something negative about the new station or announcers. Radio broadcasting isn't rocket science, but it is a job, and whether you get paid or not, you should know, or at least portray to the audience, that you know what you are talking about. During an almost hour-long delay Saturday night prior to the Gold Sox-Yuba City Bears game, play-by-play broadcaster Ty Kuhn admitted that he didn't know the Great West League was a collegiate league, had no idea how many games they played, or that the Portland Pickles were from the Portland in Oregon. I mean a little preparation wouldn't kill you, ya know?
In addition to describing the action as accurately as I possibly could, I prided myself on providing the public the most information I could gather without burying people in statistics, to try to help them get to know the players. There are really two audiences—the baseball fan in the community that listens on the radio, and the parents and friends of the players who listen online, and don't know a whole lot about their son's new teammates or the organization he plays for. I tried to cater to both, and it was certainly fun to keep trying. The new on-air guys will get better, though, and already have during the course of the first week.
There's a lot to miss about doing Gold Sox games. From the coaches and players to guys like Erik Lambert who was the trainer for almost as long as I was there, to the guys in the press box, the producers back at the station, the writers, the occasional visiting broadcaster, umpires, and visiting coaches. I made a lot of friends over the last decade and a half, and even over just the last few days, it's been weird to listen to a game instead of going to it. The fans of the team have made it the best, though. Trust me, the new radio station will be a good thing for the Gold Sox in the long run. The transition might be a bumpy one (it certainly will be for me) but keeping the teams on the air is what is important.
Thank you again, I love you all, and, for me, suddenly the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” has new meaning.
On the field: The Gold Sox are off to a rocky 1-4 start. They dropped their first four before defeating the new-rival Yuba City Bears on Saturday. The Bears lost their first three, but won tonight. They are 2-4.
Trivia Time: When I was a kid, there were three guys who had more than 600 major league home runs, and we all knew the numbers. Henry Aaron passed Babe Ruth and wound up with 755, Ruth had 714, and Willie Mays was a distant third with 660. Now, with Albert Pujols hitting the milestone on Saturday, there are nine. Name them and how many each of them hit.
What a great game: How cool was it that Albert Pujols hit a grand slam for career homer number 600, and how much cooler still was it that there was a no-hitter (by Edinson Volquez) in the same day? And how bizarre is it that Volquez started this year 0-7, and then had no-hit stuff? Volquez, who pitches for Miami, dedicated the no-no to his late friends Jose Fernandez and Yordano Ventura, who both lost their lives during the off-season. Fernandez pitched for the Marlins, and Ventura would have celebrated his 26th birthday on the day of the no-hitter.
Answer: Here's the list...Barry Bonds 762 (Did you know the number? I had to look it to be sure. And he said his record isn't tainted), Aaron 755, Ruth 714, Alex Rodriguez 696 (He would get a bonus if he hit 700 with the Yankees, and they released him. No other club wanted him.), Mays 660, Ken Griffey, Jr. 630, Jim Thome 612 (mega kudos if you got that one), Sammy Sosa 609, and Pujols with 600. Asterisks for Bonds, Rodriguez, and Sosa for performance enhancing drugs. Thome is Hall of Fame eligible next year. And go win a bar bet with this, tenth on the home run list is Frank Robinson with 586.