Yesterday, on a sunny afternoon in Baltimore, Maryland, Alexi Amarista stepped to the plate. It was the top of the 7th inning and the Padres held a 5-2 lead.
After reaching on an error, Kyle Blanks stood at first base while the Orioles’ Tommy Hunter waited for the signals from his catcher. Hunter quickly got ahead of Amarista 0-1 and then delivered his second pitch of the at-bat. The little utility player opened up his hips and absolutely crushed a ball to deep left-center field.
Orioles center fielder Adam Jones scaled the fence, but to no avail, that ball was gone.
Or was it? Was this hit by Amarista a HR?
Alexi Amarista rounded the bases and to everyone watching at home the ball was clearly a home run but no official call came from the Padres booth. According to Fox Sports San Diego’s Dick Enberg the ball was not a home run until the umpire signaled it so.
Mr. Enberg claimed that the third base umpire still hadn’t given the signal that the ball was gone. I don’t know the veracity of Mr. Enberg’s claim, as Fox’s cameras were not fixed on the umpire, but instead on the little Amarista progressing through his home run trot.
Do you see that? Yes, it’s Alexi Amarista. Well done.
Do you know which base Alexi Amarista is approaching? Yes, third base. You know your geometry. Very well done.
At the moment pictured above, Dick Enberg finally told the viewers at home that this was a HR and that the Padres had extended their lead to 7-2 against the home team.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Every person at home knew this was a home run but the call was not made until the batter closed-in on third base. Third base.
Dick Enberg didn’t trust his eyes to make the call and that’s a huge problem for a man who is calling the play-by-play for a major league franchise.
People who excel in their area of expertise eventually regress. It is what we refer to simply as life and there’s no avoiding it. What I wouldn’t give to see Tony Gwynn perform his craft one more time but it’s an impossibility, as the physical tools are no longer there. This is the sad story for all of us involved in competition or who enjoy watching others compete at the highest of levels.
For those who would call a game on television or the radio father-time is much more kind. The abilities of a play-by-play man to process a game, to analyze it at the highest levels and describe it for the viewer or listener do not diminish at quite the same rate as the ball player. As the ball player enters the twilight of his career the play-by-play man is entering his prime and it is a prime that is sustainable as long as the senses remain sharp. But even the announcer’s time will come. We human beings, unfortunately, can’t remain as sharp as we once were.
Dick Enberg is 78 years old. With a career spanning decades, across an array of professional sports, Mr. Enberg is a wealth of knowledge, which he regularly imparts on his viewers. But sometimes that is not enough. A baseball park is a vast piece of real-estate and Dick Enberg’s senses are not as keen as they once were. The Amarista home run call is but one example in a long line of visual missteps by the hall of fame broadcaster. This (non) call was not an anomaly and this needs to be recognized by those at Fox Sports San Diego and the San Diego Padres.
Is there a place for Dick Enberg at FSSD? Perhaps. As Tom Krasovic pointed out last year, Enberg’s won plenty of awards for writing and producing so it is not inconceivable to think that Enberg remains employed by FSSD in another capacity. But it shouldn’t be in the booth. The time has come to pass the torch to someone younger, sharper, and in tune with today’s game. Resources like Andy Masur, who are underutilized by the Mighty 1090, should be scooped up and given a chance to take the FSSD telecast in a new direction. Whether the choice is someone like Masur, who knows the team well from his 7 years in San Diego, or it is a selection from outside of San Diego, it is a choice that must be made.
Dick Enberg has had an amazing career and there’s no shame in passing the torch to someone else so their career can begin.
I contribute to Padres Public on Thursday mornings and when I’m feeling particularly inspired. I can also be found on twitter at @AvengingJM where I discuss the merits of wearing a scarf, 7 days a week.