Monday, February 25, 2008

Our Conversation With Charlie Slowes

The site of Our Washington Nationals Radio Broadcaster Charlie Slowes in Viera, Florida this morning brought a big smile to our faces. The African Queen and I have enjoyed his work for the past three years so much, we sometimes turn down the MASN Broadcast Audio and listen to the radio call. Gamers that reached a new level when Dave Jageler joined Charlie beginning in 2006. Together, they have combined to form one of the best broadcast teams in the sport. Others may not agree, but Sohna and I believe we are fortunate in DC to have two such fine talents in the booth.

Additionally, in just a short period of time, Mr. Slowes has coined such well known phrases as "Bang!! Zoom!! Go The Fireworks!!"--and, "Another Curly 'W' Is In The Books!!" Signature calls now well known throughout the sport. For spice--not many raise the level of their voices and calls more so than Charlie with the game on the line. In fact, as Sohna well knows, I could probably repeat word for word--many of his best game ending calls in the first three seasons since baseball returned to Our Nation's Capital. As Sohna told Charlie Slowes once: "I'll be seeing you on the radio." And we do, for most of the 81 away games each year (Remember, The African Queen and I attend each home game in person).

For quite some time this morning, Charlie Slowes, Sohna and I chatted about many different topics. And Mr. Bang!! Zoom!! agreed to a Nats320 Interview. A discussion that became far reaching about the broadcasts coming this season on Our Washington Nationals Flagship Station--3WT.

With that, here we go.

Are you as excited to be back as Sohna and I feel for you? (SBF)

“I am always excited when Spring Training Starts, it’s the best time of the season. You get a lot of hellos and a few hugs—everyone is greeted (chuckling) nicely. (At that very moment—someone yells out to Charlie—‘How Are You!!’) “Well, there you go. (all of us laughing, the timing was perfect).”

So, what brings you here today to Viera, just a time to get familiar with the 2008 squad? (SBF)

“This is my scheduled day to start. I will be here for the next nine days. We start doing games on Friday—The Grapefruit League Home Opener. So, I am here to watch workouts, Wednesday, we (Charlie & Dave Jageler) will go to Jupiter to see the first exhibition game. Thursday, we will watch the game against Georgetown here at Space Coast Stadium. Friday, we rock and roll. We have Friday, Saturday, Monday and Tuesday. Then, I will go home for about a week, come back and do three straight days of games—the 13th, 14th & 15th. Then, I will go home on Saturday Afternoon and come back the following Wednesday—then do Thursday, Friday, Saturday of the next week—21st and 22nd and we are done in Florida. Then, I need to go back home, load my life into my car and drive it to the AutoTrain (Amtrak Service from Sanford, Florida to Lorton, Virginia).”

Since you and Dave have been together for a couple of years—is it easier to start it all up again? (SBF)

“Should be—we can pretty much complete all our sentences. We know when something funny is coming before it gets there. Sometimes we don’t get there before we start laughing. (all of us busting out with smiles—understanding the moments)

There are many times listening when I can hear the snickering going on, well before the punchline. (SBF)

“Yes, its true. But, I have to work harder now because the people out there—their main critique is giving the score. I will score them to death right now. They are going to hear the score every four seconds (again all of us laughing). It will be like: ‘No score in the game—pitch outside ball one. No score, 1-0 count (more chuckling).

You must have been reading the commentary in the blogs? (SBF)

“Or people sending the their remarks to me. People send them to me, or someone says: ‘Have you seen this comment’ and tell me to go look at it. And then there are people defending me saying its not a big deal.”

Jon Miller supposedly uses a little egg timer. (SBF)

“He does not use that anymore. But, its something (telling the score) that we all must be conscious of. We (broadcasters) get to talking about other things. And you know the score, but you get out of the habit of saying (this batter) is a right handed hitter. Everyone knows that Ryan Zimmerman is a right handed hitter. But, some person that tunes in that does not know our team or is a new fan—doesn’t know right-left or whatever. So, there are really times you must remember its radio and there is no graphic on the screen with the score. In fact, the only people who don’t complain are the folks with XM (Satellite Radio) because if they are near their receiver—it constantly has the score as soon as they click into the game on the dial.”

Does that make it difficult sometimes broadcasting knowing that most people probably understand what’s going on—but you have to be more detailed because someone out there may not understand? (SBF)

“Its a lot of words, and we do tend to get away from it. I try to do it (describe the detail) the very first time a player comes up or appears in the game, in the lineup. The more information the better, off the bat. Some people don’t like that. They would rather hear how blue the sky is. How blue the seats are. How green the grass is. They do not wish to hear numbers. They want to hear if the guy is tall and thin, or big and bulky. Bottom line, you are never going to please everyone. So, you have to find a happy medium to get through all of that.”

How about this new Press Box situation at Nationals Park? A lot different than RFK, you are going to be much higher, does that affect your calls of the game? (SBF)

“It probably will until we get adjusted to it.”

Are there similar ballparks that you have worked around the leagues? (SBF)

“Pittsburgh is not only high, its pretty far back from home plate. The one problem I have had going in there and we only go there for three games each year—is if it’s a day game and a guy is up. You are so high you almost have to be a split second behind what you normally might say. Because I have had plays where some guy smashed the ball to the third baseman and the third baseman dove and caught it. Well, I could not tell if the ball bounced or was caught. He might have chopped the ball in front of the plate. So, you have to wait to see what the fielder does.”

“Once, I had one go up the middle and I thought it was a chopper. From that angle, that height, you can’t see if it bounces in front of the hitter or not. The guy runs over to field it and makes the catch. He was done, batter out. I was waiting for the throw to first (chuckling). And there was one the other way—it was a blooper and the guy threw to first—and I say ‘He made the catch!!—now he throws to first and he’s out!!’”

“You have to change what you are doing. ‘There is a smash to third’ (pausing) and see what he (the fielder) does. Until we get there (Nationals Park) and do it, I just don’t know for sure. But someone will say: ‘You got a (TV) monitor.’ But, I don’t want to do the game from a monitor. The other thing is that if you do the game off the monitor—its great if the guy doesn’t swing. He takes the pitch and you see where it is. But, as soon as he hits the ball—that split second you are looking at the monitor—now you have to find the ball—and maybe the fielder caught the ball already on a line drive. Or, you know how on a centerfield shot—it looks like he crushed it and (Charlie mimics an easy catch). So, I don’t want to be dependent on the monitor. But, unfortunately, we will probably be more dependent on it—because we will not be able to watch the guy wind up, deliver a pitch. We might be able to differentiate between fastball and breaking ball—but instead of an angle at RFK where you are looking like this (using his hand nearly straight out to show low angle), now we are melting ants with magnifying glasses (laughing—so true—SBF).”

It’s going to be a huge adjustment, no doubt. (SBF)

“I was up there in January (Washington,DC). I had already expected it (The Press Box at New Nationals Park) to be high. So, it did not phase me. But, its not as far back from the field as Pittsburgh. In Pittsburgh (PNC Park) you have a whole upper deck filled with seats and the press box is back there (on a sloped curve farther up) at the top. At ours, it’s a steeper grade and there are only 14 rows in the Infield Gallery. Then, The Press Box is straight up. It’s a two story building instead of sloping back. We may be higher than any seat in the ballpark (on South Capitol Street), but we are forward of the back of the upper deck. The concourse runs behind us. I was told we were higher than Pittsburgh, but we are fifty feet closer. If that is true and we are 50 feet closer—that is a big difference.”

“At an angle looking down—we should feel closer to the field. The other thing is the trajectory of the ball. Normally, you watch the outfielder when you are higher than the pop up. You are looking at the ball. At Fenway Park (Boston), I had to get use to saying ‘Hit in the air’—‘Here is the swing and it’s hit in the air.’ Now, you just bought yourself a second and a half to figure out where the ball actually went. You can now concentrate on the infielders and outfielders. You have got to give yourself a second to determine its actual flight. Its like being an outfielder, that second before he moves—that split second before he moves to make the play.”

With that, Our Conversation With Charlie Slowes ends. Sohna and I would have liked to have addressed his impression on the upcoming 2008 roster, but this being his very first moments in camp--that would not have been fair. Right after concluding our chat, Charlie headed off to check out Our Washington Nationals. What he did notice right away--while talking with Sohna and I--was Nick Johnson taking batting practice on the adjacent field. "He looks great!! What a difference from last spring."


paul said...

SBF, did you ask Charlie why it took so long to sign him?

I also feel like Charlie and Dave could take up two seats somewhere downstairs and call the game. That's the way they did it back in Red Barber's day!

By the way, we are all really jealous of your daily routine these days. Don't you have to be back at work reporting on the history of the Clintons' commentary on NAFTA?

Anonymous said...

SBF and Sohna - thanks so much for all of your efforts!

re: Charlie - I was so glad to hear that he'll be back this season. Spouse and I will not make it to as many games in person this year - 2 reasons: 1) we're expecting a baby in June and 2) Spouse switched jobs to one that doesn't hand out the occasional tickets (alas.) So we'll be really dependent on the radio (we almost always prefer to have the radio on, even when watching games on the tv.., although I do like to hear what Sutton has to say..)

We were joking around just the other day that chances are there'll be a game during labor.. so the kid might be born to "bang zoom!" Only partially joking, really.. and in any event once the kid is here, he'll be hearing lots of Charlie and Dave this summer... molding young minds!

Screech's Best Friend said...

Paul: Yes, we did ask Charlie about the contract negotiations. Basically, he said it was business, nothing more.

Oxhead said...

I know a lot of people who like to turn down the TV and turn up the radio for a game. Me? I prefer to turn the TV OFF and listen to Charlie and Dave on my front porch. To me, that's the only way to follow a game if you're not actually at the park.

(I did actually turn on the TV once last season, during an Orioles game. I wanted to watch them get creamed 30 to 3 by the Rangers. That was...interesting.)