March 2008

Charades Champion

Well, it’s been an interesting week in Sunny Surprise…came down with laryngitis…and we’ve seen some good things from several Royals players down here.

Picture_006Regarding the laryngitis, I have to admit something here…and this is tough.  You see, I want to help my broadcast team.  So, yes, I can admit it now, I took…Prednisone…. yes…it’s a… steroid….the doctor told me it would shrink my vocal chords…and help me start talking that much more quickly.

You see, I didn’t take the steroid pills to gain a competitive advantage over my fellow broadcasters, I just took them to help me recover from injury faster…I just wanted to get back in the booth to help my teammates.  There, I admitted it, and I feel better.  Hopefully no fine or suspension will be forthcoming.  It’s a great relief to unburden myself in this way….

But seriously folks…interesting when you talk for a living and you suddenly can’t speak.  In order to recover more quickly, like a lot of injuries, it’s best to "stay off of it" for a few days.  So I fell completely silent for two days.  Every conversation was an email, a text message or an instant message.  I did go out to dinner one of the nights, and I literally wrote my responses on a legal pad to hold up my end of the conversation.  I also feel like I could be a championship-level charades player right now if the opportunity were to arise.

Been a fun spring.  John Bale looked just great Tuesday in Mesa against the Chicago Cubs’ imposing "A" lineup.  He was an unturned double play away from completing six innings and allowing one run.  It would appear it’ll be hard to keep him out of the starting rotation.
Can you believe the season is so close? March 31st in Detroit.  First, a trip to Milwaukee for a couple of exhibition games.  Mark Grudzielanek will see lots of family and friends as he visits his hometown.

I have family here this week…including my nine-year-old son, John.  He was my producer/engineer for a webcast on Sunday.  He’s no Don Free, but he works a lot cheaper.  Well, maybe not  I don’t have to pay for Don’s education.   Oh well.  He’s a great kid, a very good ballplayer on his little league team, and he’s now a Royals fan.  Easy for him to continue to root for the Reds as well, since the teams won’t play at all this season. 

He’s got three cousins here with him as well…here’s John with Jane, Charlie and Margaret…and some grown-up ruining the picture…

Family_lunch_2I’m tardy getting to some of the questions you I get up-to-speed on this whole blog thing…but some responses:

First of all, thanks for the nice comments.  I greatly appreciate them.  I’m working with great people and they’ve welcomed me from day one.  And we’ve gotten great email responses from listeners during both the radio broadcasts and the web exclusives.  I’m impressed by how many good Royals blogs there are out there.  As for TV, that will be handled by the very talented quartet of Ryan Lefebvre, Paul Splittorff, Frank White and Joel Goldberg.  I am greatly enjoying the radio booth, and the fact that I won’t need to apply any pancake makeup this season….

As far as pitching, I think it sort of takes care of itself.  Of course, now we’re getting down to nitty gritty time.  As I mentioned, Bale has been great, as have several others, including Luke Hochevar.  Bullpen guys have been a little up and down, but most have track records, and that should be reassuring. 

Mike Aviles has been very impressive.   Trey Hillman was talking about him the other day, saying he gives 100 percent effort all the time.  He is not "under the radar" at all within the organization  He’s had an excellent spring.  There are several very good infielders who’ve been competing for very few jobs. 


Welcome to my blog ”From the Booth," another reminder that some people are born to blog, some people achieve blogging and some have blogging thrust upon them….not sure which category describes me…but…Hey!….I’ve completed my first run-on sentence!  So we’re underway!

I am very excited about the chance to broadcast Royals baseball and work with outstanding broadcasters like Denny, Bob and Ryan.  They’ve made me feel right at home.  The Royals may not have as long a history as some other teams, but it’s a history rich with tradition and the broadcasters over the years have been some of the best in baseball.

"Hey, Steve, how’d you like to do a blog?"  I’ve heard that line before….with the Reds a couple of years ago….and here again with the Royals…I guess I must look like a blogger, or maybe it’s my accent, or how I walk….or the fact that I never shut up…so they figure I’m perfect for the job.

I’m not sure where exactly this blog will take us as we meander through the 2008 season, but I hope it conveys some of the flavor of Royals baseball.  Being new to the American League (previously did Orioles games, but with limited travel), I’ll get to see several ballparks for the first time.  I’m certainly visiting new parks here in Arizona, seeing "how the other half lives."  I’ve been to spring training seven times in Florida, but never in Arizona until this year.  I enjoyed the past four years in Sarasota with the Reds, but I really like the weather, the beautiful ballparks and the close proximity afforded by the Cactus League, which is mostly Phoenix-centric.  Next year the Dodgers and Indians move out here, very close to Surprise. Two more easy trips.

The facility the Royals share with the Rangers is spectacular, with both teams completely separate, and yet sharing the ballpark.  On the Royals side, you’d never even know the Rangers are in the vicinity, and vice versa, except when the teams play each other.  And from what they tell me, Surprise has exploded with growth in the five years since the Royals began training here.

It’s been my busiest spring training, doing virtually every game (other than Sunday vs. the Cubs…a good one to miss if I had to miss one, a 13-1 loss).  Every game is being broadcast, at least 20 on radio and the rest here on  It’s giving me the chance to get up to speed on the Royals that much more quickly. 

We’ve seen Jose Guillen and Mark Grudzielanek (did I spell that right? Broadcasters don’t usually have to worry about spelling…) get into games, two important pieces of this ball club.  Manager Trey Hillman allowed them to set their own timetable.  Their delayed debuts benefited some of the younger players, who had some extra opportunities.  Still pretty early to make to many judgments, but a few of those who have impressed down here: Luke Hochevar, David DeJesus, Damon Hollins, Gil Meche, Joakim Soria, Alberto Callaspo (playing different positions, same story with Esteban German).  OK…now I’m in trouble, many others have performed well…those were just a few names that immediately came to mind.

View_from_the_boothThis blog will be interactive, so if you want to ask a question, I’ll try to answer it or find someone who can.  If you want to chime in, you’re welcome to do so.  Just remember, my mother reads this, so watch your manners and be kind…
I’ll also be posting some photos as we travel around the country.  Here are a couple to get things started:

This is my view out of the broadcast booth.  Not bad, eh?  Weather’s been perfect since I got here February 25, and it’s a great park.  Of course, since the Royals and Rangers share it, there’s a game here every day in March.  Those grass berms in the outfield are very popular.Ribs

This is "the other" Brian Williams, producer/engineer for 610 Sports, assisting Don Free down here. At Dillon’s Restaurant the other night, he ordered the "Brontosaurus Ribs."  For the record, Brian could not slay the giant beast.  He got through about half, with Ryan Lefebvre helping him out.  The staff gave Brian the biggest take-home box they could find, we strapped it to the top of the car, and headed for home (ok, it did fit inside the car).