Potomac News Online | Going … going … gone bad

A couple of weeks ago, this sportswriter turned on his laptop and decided to listen to a playback of the previous night’s Potomac Cannons’ game.

The broadcast was, in a word, brutal. The guy barely knew all the players’ names. Once, he said, ”Fly ball to left field, and it is … .”

It took about 30 seconds for him to say a) that it was caught and b) the name of the Winston-Salem left fielder. By the eighth inning, you’d think he’d know who was in the outfield, wouldn’t you?

He tried to talk over the public-address announcer and it took the better part of an inning before I was sure of the score. And I’ve come up with another word — boring.

Don’t worry, Cannons announcer Dan Laing, this column’s not about you. You may well have a future in this business; in fact, first-time listeners even say you sound like Charlie Sheen. Your backup, though, certainly needs a little work.

On Aug. 3, for the fourth of a four-game series between Potomac and Winston-Salem, Laing came down with a case of laryngitis. For the last 4? innings, I got my big break in broadcasting. Didn’t necessarily make the most of it, but a three-plus hour game has never gone by so quickly.

Secretly (don’t tell my wife), my master plan is to write sports until I’m about 65 and then to spend a year or two as the broadcaster of say, the Missoula Osprey. Head out to the Pioneer League or the Northwest League and enjoy another part of the country. Broadcasting classes and part-time experience would be required, but boy would that be the life.

Baseball’s pace, for better or worse (better if you ask me), was made for radio. In no other sport do announcers have such an opportunity for storytelling. Unfortunately, the next story I tell on the radio will be my first.

With mlb.com’s radio package, a seamhead in Prince William County can now listen to Jon Miller or Vin Scully any night. Our office alone features huge fans of Marty Brennaman, John Sterling, Harry Kalas, Tom Hamilton and Ron Menschine — all either formerly or currently available during drives home from work late at night.

Moving here from Durham, N.C., one of the biggest drawbacks has been the lack of minor league baseball on the radio. A two-hour stretch of road in North Carolina includes baseball in Triple-A, Double-A, high Class A, low Class A and Rookie levels. In this area, especially on a Friday, you’re lucky if a two-hour stretch of road gets you 20 miles from work.

The Frederick Keys are the Carolina League’s only team without a broadcaster, much to the chagrin of Kevin Maine, the father of ex-North Stafford star and new Keys ace John Maine. Just about any other team in the minors and Maine could hear his son pitch, but less than an hour from Washington, D.C., major league sports dominate the air waves. Mr. Maine couldn’t believe it when he heard the Keys had no radio deal.

Potomac’s just a step above Frederick’s broadcast level, as Laing’s games are available only on the Web — he says he gets about 150 clicks onto his broadcast a night. A hundred fifty listeners a night may be enough for an overmatched backup announcer, but there have to be more than a few fans who wouldn’t mind hearing the Cannons while they’re stuck in traffic.

Then instead of complaining about bonehead drivers, some of us could complain about the broadcasters. It’ll be a while before I do that again, having seen the gizmos in the booth and the constant changes within the game that announcers have to conquer. But as jobs go, it still looks like it ranks somewhere near this one. Missoula, here I come.

Lacy Lusk is a staff writer for the News & Messenger. Reach him at [email protected]

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