Wednesday, January 24, 2007
15 Minutes with Charlie & Dave
Bang!! ZOOM!! GO THE FIREWORKS!! Another CURLY "W" is in the books!! says one (in dramatic style, nearly depleting all his oxygen). "There's a long drive, DEEP TO LEFT FIELD!, Way back!! And, it GONE!! HOME RUN FOR RYAN ZIMMERMAN!! (in a solid--Steady Voice).
They are the RADIO VOICES of the Washington Nationals. And, for many DC area baseball fans, their game descriptions have been the only means of enjoying Nationals Baseball, while not attending, in person, a Nationals game--until the MASN/Comcast dispute was finally settled, this past August.
The very theatrical Charlie Slowes, is the lead play by play man, and has been with Our Washington Nationals since the franchise first moved to our Nation's Capital in 2005. For 2006, the strong, soothing voice, of Dave Jageler, joined Charlie in the broadcast booth on the Nationals Flagship Station--WTWP (107.7 FM). I enjoy Charlie's radio calls so much, I have actually saved some of his best calls on my Ipod, and play them back, when, I am in need of a Nationals fix. He can be very excitable, and enjoyable, to listen to on the radio.
There is NO DOUBT: "Bang!! Zoom!! Go The fireworks" and "Another CURLY "W" is in the books!!" are Signature Slogans for this Washington Franchise, in its infancy.
Fordham University Graduate, Slowes, 46, returned to Washington after 7 years being the play-by-play voice of The Tampa Bay Devil Rays (I can't resist--"SORRY CHARLIE"). Charlie was The VOICE OF THE WASHINGTON BULLETS from The Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland, and many NBA Arenas, for 11 seasons--including two years of Television simulcast, before joining the Devil Rays in their inaugural season of 1998. If you have ever heard Charlie's Post Game Nationals Roundup show, you can understand how Slowes can just zip through stat after stat for each and every Major League game for that day, seamlessly. The constant movement of NBA action taught Charlie well.
Jageler, 35, graduated, from the prestigious, S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University (to many, the broadcasting MECCA of learning). Dave worked his way up the broadcasting ranks, including stops at Florida State & The University of Texas for football, Syracuse Chiefs Baseball, Charlotte Knights Baseball, Boston Celtics Studio Host (fill-in play by play) and eventually landing in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, working the PawSox games, before joining Slowes in the Nationals Broadcast Booth for 2006.
When the Nationals are on the road, and I am watching the game on MASN or TV 20, you can bet I have the TV sound turned down and the Radio Turned UP. I find Charlie and Dave to be very entertaining, knowledgeable and interesting partners in the booth. They compliment each other well. Unlike other baseball radio broadcasts, I have heard over the years, many times the second man in the booth, is, of distinctly less quality than the lead broadcaster. I don't find that with this pairing. I am very thankful for their talents and glad for their jobs as Nationals Broadcasters. We are lucky to have such fine talent. Really, I believe that fact.
I caught up with Charlie and Dave at the ESPN Zone, in Downtown, DC, this past Monday, during the Caravan stop there. They were kind enough to give me 15 minutes of their time to chat.
My conversation with Charlie must start with how his signature calls came to be? As I have said, on more than one occasion--I wonder whether Dave is providing an oxygen tank for Slowes, when he gets very animated?
"I tend to raise the meter a little bit, when I get excited," Charlie laughed. "But, [The Bang Zoom!!] started late May during the 10 Game Winning Streak, during the first year (2005). The 20-6 Month of June (at a time when Washington, DC was in a FRENZY over The Nationals unexpected success). Curly W came about a week or so later."
"The Curly W is just perfect," Dave added, "in every way."
In 2005, Charlie's partner was another Dave--Dave Shea. Slowes retold: “We (Charlie & Dave Shea) were talking. ' If they (The Nationals) win this game, it would be 4 or 5 in a row, another win, another "W"—Or in this case—ANOTHER CURLY "W” is in the books. So, maybe, we will call all of them (Wins) that. Everytime they win, we will call it a 'Curly W'. I guess the rest is history."
Charlie went on to state: : “I should have copyrighted it (laughing, half seriously)" (Dave Jageler chides in,—'You should have!). Yeah, maybe I should run down to the Patent Office right now, my condo is right down the street from there. Then, I could get something, if they ever put the slogan on a shirt. But, technically, the team (Nationals) own everything I say."
Of course, Slowes realized the importance of his "Curly W" comment in 2006, when--"One of the club executives late last year, started asking me--'What's the origin of Curly W is in the Books? Whose idea was it' And, I knew where this was going. The team was trying to see, if anyone had a claim, if they (The Nationals) did something."
As Stan Kasten told me two weeks ago, The Nationals are going to EMPHASIZE "Curly W" over the "DC" Logo.
While Slowes reinforced his signature calls during the 2006 Season, Jageler was working through his ROOKIE SEASON in the Major Leagues--learning the ropes, dealing with Major League Players and Major League Exepectations.
"It was a learning experience certainly," Dave commented, "And, it helped to work with a guy (Slowes) with Big League Experience for many years, to keep me from getting, too out of line. Charlie was very helpful to get through the first year."
“I didn’t have anything to do with it", joked Charlie (laughing).
Slowes continued: "We met at the (Nationals) Winter Caravan last year (3 stops throughout the greater DC area--I remember meeting them at a restaurant in Pentagon City). We talked on the phone a few times before that," Charlie said, "Then, we had all of Spring Training, together. Its was in Spring Training, where we built our routine. We talked about, what we would do, try to have fun and make it light. Its worked well, and we enjoy each others company."
As excitable as Charlie can be, you can clearly tell that Dave Jageler is having the time of his young life.
"I love going to the ballpark every day," beams Dave, "It’s a dream job. I grew up a Red Sox Fan, huge baseball fan. I dreamed of doing this, since I was a kid. It’s a blast!! The only stress in my job is trying to find a player to interview for my pre-game show. After the (broadcast) door closes and the game is on, its fun. I can’t call it a job. I prepare; I work hard before the game; do preparation of the other teams, reading articles, to get up to speed on everything. But, I couldn’t tell you it’s a job, it wouldn’t be fair."
In my experience, I have found sports figures, in general, not to be the best at providing decent quotes on a daily basis. Jageler finds, that's not necessarily the case?
"Its not that (players being able to give good answers), its you interrupting their routine, you sometimes go into an opposing locker room, they don’t know you, the game is getting ready to start, that's the only stress, I have, to try to find an interview, on a daily basis. That’s minimal stress, believe me."
But, how tough are opposing players on you?
Dave responded: "I had some good success last year, —Ryan Howard (Phillies Star Slugger and NL MVP), right after he set the Phillies Home Run Record, here at RFK. I talked with John Smoltz (Atlanta Braves Pitcher, potential Hall of Famer), after he pitched a complete game, against the Nationals. I was able to get some pretty good visiting players. But, sometimes you swing and miss. But, you have to realize, you are not going to get the interview, unless you ask."
We got into a conversation about what are the best ballparks to broadcast a game. Philadelphia's Citizen Bank Park is the clear winner for its proximity and angle to the field. RFK a close second--according to Jageler. But, Dave did say, that many of the New Parks, like PNC Park in Pittsburgh, have the broadcasters why up in the sky, near the roof, behind home plate, and that makes both his, and Charlie Slowes, job more difficult.
'One thing that Charlie and I try to do is describe pitches. Anyone can say ball one, but, was it a fastball?; curveball or change up? Was it inside or outside; high or low? So, the further you are from the game, the harder it is for us to do that correctly."
Of course, when The Nationals new ballpark is finished on South Capitol Street, all broadcasters will be near the roof, behind home plate.
" No, that is not good." Jageler responded, "We are in the ballpark, what can I say? (I believe--SBF TALKING HERE-- I will be closer to the field than you guys?) Laughing, Dave said, "Maybe you guys can call the games!!??"
Confidently, many baseball announcers will not only tell you whether that pitch you just heard was a ball, or a strike, but also whether that call was a fastball, slider, change up, etc. What gives you two that confidence?
Jageler explained: "I can’t tell you I am 100% (correct in calling pitches). Sometimes, you can recognize the pitch and you know right away. Sometimes, you recognize the hitter is way out in front of the pitch, the batter swings, misses, and he's way out in front of the plate, —you know it’s a change up. Other times, I will delay a second or two, to wait for the Radar Gun Setting. That’s when preparation comes in, you know his (the pitchers) fastball is 92-95 MPH; you know his slider is 85; his curveball is 78. So, if the pitch ends up being 78MPH, you know it'’s a not a slider."
Dave concluded by stating: "I use my eyes, the reaction of the hitter and the catcher, and the radar gun to make an informed decision. Sometimes you get it wrong, and you as a listener (on the radio) would not know, if it was a fastball or curveball. If I was fooled, I will correct myself, because I want to get it right."
Charlie, Dave and I then began to discuss the upcoming season, both realize that 2007 may be a lean year, but are hopeful.
" I think we won 71 games, last year," said Slowes, "I believe we are heading in about the same direction. Remember, The first year teased everyone thinking you had a good team. So, in 2006, you were going to have a good team. If you had that 2005 Team with ownership, you might have been able to keep it going, sustain something. But, when they (MLB) didn’t sell the team that second year, (Charlie shrugs his shoulders, without saying: See what we ended up with?-killed momentum).
Jageler though is upbeat: "I try to look at the positives. This team is going to have a good bullpen. They lost (Alfonso) Soriano’s offense (to free agency). But, they will have speed in their lineups, hopefully an exciting offense. Maybe one or two of these pitchers the Nationals are trotting through here (minor league and six year free agents), will have career years. Maybe, they can hang around for a while, its the best case scenario."
"Everthing you read about the Marlins last year (surprisingly good season), you are going to read about The Nationals this Spring Training," Dave continued, "The Experts are going to say, we are going to lose 100 games. We start with Zero (wins), and see where you end up."
Of course, there is one former Nationals pitcher, Charlie Slowes will not miss: "I would hate to think about watching Tony Armas (Jr.), again, he was just all over the plate (and difficult to broadcast while Tony was on the mound)."
Dave immediately responded about another ex-Nats thrower: "Did you see that Ramon Ortiz got a pay raise (from Minnesota) after what he did last year, which is have an under .500 record, —by a lot, and post an ERA of almost 6.00--that's ridiculous."
"Manny (Acta--Nats Manager) said to me (after Ramon signed with The Twins)," Slowes added, “I can find 5 guys to do that right now. (for significantly less dollars). 5 nobodies that you may get the same thing out of on the mound."
Charlie also had an opinion on Ryan Church, and his inability to become a consistent performer over the first two seasons of Nationals Baseball: He (Acta) just wants to throw him out there and let him play. We were talking about it. You are not going to trade him, if people want to give you nothing for him. Right now, put him out there, don’t rush (Kory) Casto (promising young left fielder in the Minors), if he’s not ready. Put Church out there, until you find out, whether he is a player or not; whether he is just an extra outfielder, or he just gets hurt again. The Nationals have NOTHING TO LOSE. They have no one else to put out there. Give him enough at bats, put him out there, 3 months-see what Church can do."
I couldn't agree with Charlie Slowes more on that one.
Finally, we got off on a tangent about the new Curly "W" blue batting practice jersey, Our Washington Nationals will wear in 2007. The broadcasters were not aware of that fact, yet. But, Charlie did state: "I wouldn’t be surprised if the team changed the alternate jersey to the "W", instead of the "DC" Logo. (Stan) Kasten told me last year, 'ITS ALL ABOUT THE CURLY W.' Of course, the whole reason behind alternate logos, is merchandising--Buy this buy, buy that, stuff that fans want to buy." (Its all about the money--SBF) "Yes, it is."
All of us are intrigued about the "Script Nationals Logo Jersey" that Stan Kasten has hinted about, but, like me--Charlie likes the trim to the current uniforms--"I would keep the gold, its attractive. Although, I don’t know how you would do it with script Nationals."
Of course, we are all just speculating on this "Script" Uniform Change. Speculating on Charlie & Dave, definitely, something we don't have worry about, while enjoying Nationals Baseball on the radio. We are fortunate to have such a fine broadcasting team.