World Cup fever is sweeping across America but America’s game is still baseball. For this week’s edition of Off-Season Drills, I had the special opportunity to <a href=”http://610kvnu.com/assets/podcaster/321/2014_06_25_321_23532_2867.mp3″ target=”_blank”>talk about America’s pastime with local broadcasting legend Steve Klauke</a>. Klauke began his Utah broadcasting career in 1991 with the Utah Jazz and in 1994 became the radio voice for the Salt Lake Bees. According to the Salt Lake Bees, Klauke passed legendary Utah Jazz broadcaster “Hot Rod” Hundley in 2012 for most games called with a single team in the state of Utah at 2,642 games. Klauke has described more than 162,000 outs.
On Tuesday, Klauke called his 3,000th broadcast when the Salt Lake Bees faced the Nashville Sounds at Smith’s Ballpark. He was honored by the team Tuesday by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch and leading the fans in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch.
Q: Today had to be a pretty special day for you calling your 3,000th game.
Klauke: It was a very special day at the ballpark and everyone has been so nice. It just so happened that today was my 3,000th broadcast for this franchise. Out of 3,010 games I missed only 10 along the way. It was very special. They had me throw out the ceremonial first pitch, they also had me sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” for the 7th inning stretch and the ball club won the game (5-1) so it was a perfect day from that standpoint.
Q: Missing only 10 games along that span is an impressive record, like an Iron Man. Certainly there have to be some memories and games that stand out among those 3,000 broadcasts.
Klauke: There have been a lot of fun things, a lot of crazy things and a lot of weird things. Although I couldn’t see it from my vantage point, obviously from earlier this year the Albuquerque player biting off the ear of one of his teammates, going Mike Tyson on somebody, has to rank right up there at the top. I’ll always remember the first ones. In Vancouver in 1994 the first two days were rained out so they had to play back-to-back double headers against the Canadians. Although the first two days when we were rained out, that was the last year the domed stadium in downtown Vancouver hosted a big league weekend. I believe the Seattle Mariners were involved and I think either Montreal or Toronto played Seattle up there. The stadium was in a configuration for baseball and so they had workouts out on the field for us for two hours each of the first two days and I remember the hitting coach Dan Rohn doing all he could with a Fungo bat to hit a pop up off the ceiling.
Q: The Bees have had some great seasons in the past, but what about this year?
Klauke: It’s definitely been a struggle. A lot of that has to do with injuries at the big league level, some inconsistencies from the players at this level. The Bees have had over 120 transactions on and off the roster. Normally at this time you’re looking at the 60s or 70s. The Bees have used 35 different pitchers, which ties a franchise record for an entire season, and they’ve used 61 different players altogether, and that’s four away from the franchise record for that. Because of the inconsistencies the win-loss record is the worst in the PCL. But I think the biggest thing about this team is that the coaching staff has gotten players ready to play in the big leagues.
Just about every player that has been called up by the Angels has performed well. The former University of Utah star, C.J. Cron, homered in three straight games over the weekend. He has six home runs and batting around .300 for the Angels. Efren Navarro, our franchise’s all-time leader in hits and doubles, he has hit well for the Angles as well, hitting around .300. Grant Green is hitting over .350 since his call up as well. If those guys are doing well it means the coaches here are doing their job.
Q: What can people expect to see when they come down to catch a game at Smith’s Ballpark?
Klauke: Well, obviously it’s the best view in baseball with the mountains in the background. It’s a perfect setting for a game. There’s not a bad seat in the house. There’s some pretty good food items to choose from. It’s a relaxing two-and-a-half, three hours. If you have young kids and they can’t sit still for a while there’s a playground just beyond the left field wall that they can go to and have some fun. It’s a great family atmosphere here at the ballpark. Whether you’re big into baseball or not, it’s certainly America’s game from way back when. People may not scour the standings in the paper every day to see how the Bees are doing but they do want to see them win when they do come out. It’s not live or die but you can still come out the ballpark, enjoy the game and have an still have a conversation with the people nearby and have a friendly day or night at the ballpark.
Q: You’ve broadcast 3,000 games, do you have 3,000 more in you?
Klauke: People have been saying that to me today. That would take me to age 79. I know Vin Scully has been doing it into his mid-80s. In the PCL we don’t get charter flights and he doesn’t travel out of California any more. I don’t know if that’s possible. I’d like to do it as long as I think I’m doing the job correctly and as long as the people here think I’m doing the job correctly and they still keep me in their employment. It’s still a lot of fun. Someone asked me today, ‘do you ever get tired of it?’ And I said ‘There are days I am tired, but I’m never tired of IT or the job or doing the games.’ You just never know from day-to-day what you’re going to see out on the field. You’ll see spectacular plays, you’ll see bone-head plays but you really aren’t sure. When you think you’ve seen it all something going’s to pop up that makes you say, ‘Wait a minute, I’ve never seen that before.’ It’s still enjoyable each and every day. It’s a season that’s 144 games long and I look at it like 144 nine act plays. Unlike most plays, you don’t know the outcome until the final 27th out is recorded.
Q: As a radio play-by-play announcer you act as the listener’s eyes and ears, describing everything that is happening on the field. And in baseball, there is a lot of downtime between plays and between pitches. You’ve done a great job of spinning stories during your broadcasts. How do you come up with some of those stories and what to talk about to fill time?
Klauke: Some of it is just remembering things that have happened in the past, if something happens in the game I can tie it back to. Some of it is just chatting with the players and finding out personal tidbits about them. For example, we have an outfielder, Zach Borenstein, you’ll read in the media guide that he as the of the Cal league player of the year last year and lead the league in home runs. But upon further research, thankfully the Internet is around for that, I found out that before a game, in uniform, he sang the National Anthem at his class A ballpark last year. Being able to tell stories like that.
My favorite story to tell all year is on May 17 when I can talk about the only player in Major League history to have his birthdate on the back of his uniform. The White Sox had a player named Carlos May. He had his last name May on the back. He wore the number 17 and his birthday was May 17th.