Growing up as a kid in central Pennsylvania, I was a Phillies’ fan. More specifically, I was a fan of the Phillies’ radio broadcasts. I had my clock radio set to the local Phillies’ station, and went to sleep listening to Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn make the games come alive.
There is something special about baseball on the radio. The time between pitches and at bats allowed me to think along with the manager about what decisions to make, both on offense and defense.
I also liked the way Kalas and Ashburn set the scene, described the action and shared stories with me. I could visualize the action, and enjoyed Kalas’ excitement when the Phils did something truly special.
This radio romance lasted about six years, until I moved from Pennsylvania to Illinois at the start of 10th grade.
Since that time, I’ve had some flings with baseball on the radio, namely when I lived in Baltimore and Jon Miller called Orioles’ games, but nothing lasting. In fact, Miller’s being forced out as Baltimore’s lead announcer really turned me off to America’s pastime on the radio.
That baseball-on-the-radio passion, dormant for years, returned with a vengeance this season. The team: the Washington Nationals. The announcers: Charle Slowes and Dave Jageler.
The Nationals, my hometown nine, are an up-and-coming team with a lot of good young position players and pitchers, and two can’t-miss prospects in pitcher Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper.
It’s the on-air synergy between Slowes and Jageler, though, that has me tuning in night after night. Jageler is as good as any announcer I’ve heard at setting the scene, while Slowes has a few signature phrases — “bang zoom go the fireworks,” and “put another curly W in the books,” — that signify a Nationals’ victory.
They also do a good job balancing showing excitement for good Washington plays with criticizing the Nationals when it is called for. As a listener, I want to know when a player or manager messed up, took a risk or did something unconventional. The Nationals’ announcers consistently give me that insight.
Then there was the game that hooked me, a June come-from-behind win against Seattle. The Nationals trailed 5-1 going to the bottom of the ninth, but catcher Wilson Ramos’s walk-off three-rum homer gave Washington a dramatic 6-5 win.
It is fun to have baseball on the radio back in my life. I find myself thinking back to listening to Phillies games as a kid, especially those on the West Coast, and knowing how much I looked forward to them. It is a memory I’m happy to relive anew.