Possibly the best thing about watching sports live is the connection you feel to the players. You can almost feel like you’re part of the team. My current seats at Southampton football games (for when I am actually back down south) are no more than 10 yards from the edge of the pitch. When I shout, the players (and the referee/linesmen!) can hear. I mean sure, I know that they’re not going to take any notice of me, but they can hear. And when you’re that close, watching them all season long, you get to know them. Not in a personal, go and have a chat way, but you get a feel for their personality, their style – basically of who they are.
Its something you just don’t get from watching on TV. And thats what I find sometimes about the Rays. As much as I love watching them, and as badly as I want them to do well, I don’t have that connection to the team that comes with seeing them live.
The wonderful thing though about watching baseball on TV is that you can get a connection. Not to the players or the manager, but, thanks to local TV stations showing virtually every game, to the broadcasters. And for me – and no doubt many other Rays fans – that link has always been Todd Kalas, Dewayne Staats and Joe Magrane.
To me, they are as big a part of Rays baseball as anyone who puts on their glove and takes the field.
And as far as I’m concerned, not only are they Rays institutions, they’re among the very best in the business.
Which is why I’m doubly saddened with the news announced earlier this week that in 2009, for the first time ever, Joe Magrane will not be calling the Rays.
Its sadness on an entirely selfish level of course – Joe has been hired by MLB network, a fantastic opportunity for him to put his outstanding analytical and personable skills to use in front of a far larger audience (potentially) than he has for Rays games. I’m sure he will do fantastically – he is a brilliant broadcaster – and I do of course wish him the best of luck.
But, at the risk of sounding incredibly cliched, it does make me want to cry out, “say it ain’t so, Joe?”
I know from experience, from the time (a few months? It seems more) before MLB.tv offered both the home and away feed, that not all broadcasters are created equal. Some can be patronising, some can be ignorant and ill-informed, and some can be just downright annoying. But Dewayne Staats and Joe Magrane are none of those things. They are entertaining, informative and – something that is too easily overlooked – talk to the viewers, and not at them. I’m piling up the cliches at a rapid rate now, but watching the Rays with them is honestly like inviting a couple of friends into your house.
Now, as far as I know, the legend that is Dewayne Staats is staying on. As is “the strapping young lad” Todd Kalas. And no doubt a new man will come in, and in his own way be entertaining and informative. And we’ll still have Staats’ to guide us through the action.
But Rays baseball without Dewayne and Joe in the booth – well, for me at least, its never going to be the same again.