Mike Saeger: View from the Catbird Seat, Part 2

By Mike Saeger

In Part 1, Mike discussed his radio broadcasting background, misperceptions about what he actually does, and long bus rides through West Texas. Now for the rest of the story…

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Most of my days during the season are a page right out of Groundhog Day. I’m a prep junkie so I usually start prepping for a game around 11 AM or noon at the absolute latest, and I don’t stop until close to game time, except to pop into the manager’s office for a few minutes or to occasionally hang out by the batting cage for a little bit. You do your game, wrap up, and then head home or back to the hotel. Bedtime is usually around 1 AM on the early side because you’re normally still pretty amped. I suppose downing copious amounts of coffee during the game doesn’t help much.

Thanks to modern technology it’s pretty easy nowadays to get information on players from any team. Google has become my best friend, but it also takes a long time. It’s worth it, though, because you can come up with some great background info that you’d otherwise have no idea to ask a player. For instance, Midland got a guy late last year named Matt Rizzotti. Pretty good hitter who had been originally signed by the Phillies. In doing some Googling I found an old newspaper story about how he found out he had something like 20/10 vision during an eye exam. There was a little more to the story but that was the gist of it. I would have never known that had I not spent some time trying to find some info on him.

That sort of dedication does provide some satisfaction when a fan will stop you in the concourse and comment on how much they enjoy listening to the games. Most of the time someone will say something like, “I can’t believe how much you know.” In reality, it’s not like I’m Rainman. It’s no different than studying for a final exam. If you put in the work you’ll reap what you sow. It just sounds like I somehow have this vast amount of useless knowledge. There, now you know my secret.

Funny story about that, though the name will be changed to protect the innocent, or lazy. Many years ago when I was in A-ball, it wasn’t uncommon for many teams to not have any media notes. I was one of the few guys in the Cal League to do media notes. Because of that I was forced to have to do notes on the other team as well. There’s only so many times you can talk about a guy’s height, weight, birthplace, etc. One day I’m chatting with another club’s radio guy in my booth. We’ll call him Bob. Bob notices some notes on my desk that are on his team. He asks about them and I tell them I always put together my own notes on the team’s we play. So Bob says, “Wow, you think there’s any way I could get a copy of those?” I think I obliged that time but the next time he asked I lied and said that I didn’t do any for that night. I don’t recall if he ever asked again. Last I heard Bob was calling games for a D-I baseball program.

As for family life during the season, that’s merely a rumor. I know I have a family. I just don’t get much of chance to see them. You try to sneak in some late morning time at the pool during summer or grab an early lunch with the wife and kids, but that’s usually about it. Off days and evenings that follow a day game are golden. Every broadcaster has his own way of prepping that works for their style. Some guys I’ve know spend maybe an hour to two at the most doing prep work, so they usually have a little more free time before they have to head to the ballpark.

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of what I do is that it’s akin to being a kid sitting on the curb and watching the parade go by. I’ve been very fortunate to have been part of six league championship teams, including the 2011 Missions team which, by the way, is easily the best team I’ve ever been associated with in all my years. I’ve been behind the mic for five no-hitters and one perfect game and even called an unassisted triple play, one of the real rarities. I’ve seen guys who would go on to have superstar careers, including Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Miguel Tejada, Paul Konerko, and the list goes on. In fact, the year I saw Chipper was his first full season in the minors. He had been a bit of surprise #1 pick of the Braves the year prior. Well, frankly, Chipper wasn’t very good through most of the first half. I remember thinking to myself that the Braves really blew that pick. Shows you what I knew. Come the second half the light bulb went on and he destroyed the league. I was wrong with my early assumption and he’s going to Cooperstown. Good thing I didn’t go into scouting.

Being part of a team peripherally also gives you a greater appreciation of the players who do make it to The Show and even those who don’t.

Most fans probably don’t really think about the amount of work behind the scenes, but someone like me sees it on a daily basis. All of the early work and drills performed in an empty ballpark well before the lights turn on; a lonely individual figure running laps around the ballpark at two in the afternoon or a hitter in need of extra work occupying the batting cage by himself and hitting balls off a tee, with only the hitting coach out there keeping a watchful eye. Broadcasters get to experience all of that in their own way.

All in all, I wouldn’t trade a minute of any of my 22 years. It’s what I dreamt of doing as far back as seven or eight. To put it in perspective, there are 180 affiliated minor-league teams and 30 big league clubs. The Gulf Coast and Arizona League teams don’t do radio, so there’s 30 right there. You figure there are probably another 10 clubs who don’t do any sort of radio broadcasting or almost none, so now you’re talking about roughly 170 teams in the country who air their games. If you discount color commentators or #2 pbp guys, that means there are about 170 lead radio positions in the country, not including some of the independent-league teams that do radio. Those teams do not have any affiliation with a major-league organization. I’m lucky enough to have one of those 170 or so jobs.

So, yes, there are sacrifices you pay when you choose to make a career of broadcasting but I subscribe to a quote attributed to the late, great Willie Stargell, when he once said of playing baseball, “The man behind the plate says ‘play ball’, not ‘work ball.’

There’s so much more I could talk about but I’m afraid I’ve already pirated enough of this blog. Thanks again to Padres Public for the space. If any of you should ever make a trip to San Antonio to catch the Missions please be sure to look me up and say hello. I’d love to meet you.

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Follow Mike Saeger on Twitter at @SAMissionsRadio or visit his blog.

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