Some time between a fly ball whizzing over my head and another trudge back to the bench after striking out, I knew I wouldn't grow up to be a Major League Baseball player.
That was OK. After all, other aspects of the game intrigued me more. Maybe I'd be an umpire. Managing seemed like a good gig, too. But growing up in the Bay Area, I could never shake the wonder of what it would be like to be Kruk & Kuip.
The San Francisco Giants television broadcasters, Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow are not mentioned individually. They're a package deal. And for more than 25 years the duo has exemplified the unmatched bond baseball fans can have with their team's announcers. I'll unapologetically romanticize this relationship because it's my favorite part about the sport.
Local broadcasters become extended family, their voices filling living rooms and kitchens, cars and garages, ear buds and ballparks for months on end. They bridge the perspective gap between fans and whatever fans think it's like to be a player. Your team's broadcaster feels like someone who is in the trenches with you, the fan, through the epic walk-offs and sluggish blowouts. Better said: They're one of us. Perhaps the best part about local broadcasters is that they, like baseball from April to October, are always there. Death, taxes and Kuiper belting OUTTA HERE, as the saying goes.
Baseball's historic moments wouldn't be the same if not for the voices narrating them. Vin Scully bellowing SHE IS GONE on Kirk Gibson's walk-off in Game 1 of the '88 World Series. Jack Buck's encouragement to GO CRAZY, FOLKS, GO CRAZY after Ozzie Smith won an NLCS game for the Cardinals. Milo Hamilton's proclamation that THERE'S A NEW HOME RUN CHAMPION OF ALL TIME, AND IT'S HENRY AARON. Those phrases are forever stamped on baseball history.
The big moments would never arrive if not for the innumerable little moments, which for fans and broadcasters amounts to four-hour rain delays, extra-inning matinees and the 12-2 duds. Or in other words, the games that exist every year but for no reason should ever occupy a brain cell. SI's Emma Baccellieri wrote a wonderful appreciation of a meaningless Tigers-Orioles game in September that underscores this point:
"When I miss baseball in the winter, I do not miss the postseason. I do not miss the highlights, I do not miss the debates over who will deserve the Cy Young, I do not miss anything that seems as if it is meant to be remembered. I miss the cadence of games. I miss MLB’s copyright disclaimer on broadcasts. I miss background noise. I miss the Orioles versus the Tigers on September 16."
And as I sit here writing in late November, knowing there are many cold, baseball-less weeks still ahead as fall gives way to winter, all I want to hear is the soundtrack of summer. Even the copyright disclaimer. (We can skip the commercials, though.)
With a little back-of-the-envelope math it's easy to see why fans have an attachment to their local broadcasters, more so in baseball than any other sport. The average game time in 2019 was roughly three hours and six minutes. Over the course of the regular season that equates to 502.5 hours, or about 21 days of just baseball. Every second filled with some sort of narration, typically at its highest form when dissecting a fan's home run catch or a child's cotton candy-eating form. How could that not be the greatest job in the world?
So here's to the sight of sun-splashed ballparks and the wafting scent of garlic fries and hot dogs. But right now all I want to hear is the sponsored pregame weather, the scouting report on the starting pitcher making his initial warm-up throws and how the home team's defense lines up.
Then the first pitch will be thrown, and for the next three hours all I have to do is listen.