Late last month, Cupie and I put together some questions for Angel broadcaster (and former Angel player) Rex Hudler. While we conducted this interview with Rex prior to the announcement that he would be broadcasting 100 Angel games this season (down from 150 Angel games last season), Rex's discussions of his other media ventures makes it clear that he is in demand and busy even with the abridged schedule recently arranged by Halo management.
Cupie For Halos Heaven: Growing up, what team did you follow?
Rex: I loved the Cincinnati Reds, the Big Red Machine, Bench was my idol; I always pretended I was him when playing ball with my friends.
Halos Heaven: You were drafted and signed as a Yankee in 1978. What position were you drafted for?
Rex Hudler: I was drafted as a shortstop but they moved me to second base because I couldn't make the throw to first.
HH: The Yankees beat the Dodgers in the Series that year. Did you think that you could make an impact on that team, or was it enough to get drafted?
Rex: I was just honored to be drafted by the most storied team in baseball. I was only 17 at the time so I figured it would take some time before I could make an impact. Little did I know it would take 7 years to make an impact.
HH: You spent a couple of years with the Expos. How was it to play in Montreal? Did you have to learn any French?
Rex: Wi wi, I had a great experience in Montreal. My wife and I stayed there year round and loved our time there. It was a foreign country that was just 20 miles away from the US. My wife, Jennifer, sang the Canadian national anthem in French and they loved her for that. She was more popular than I was after that.
HH: It appears as if the Expos never recovered from the strike and that, in the end, MLB did nothing to help the Expos, leaving them as a lame duck franchise. Being an ex-Expo, do you have any thoughts on how MLB handled the Expo situation?
Rex: I don't believe it was Major League Baseball's fault; the Expos were not supported by the fans. Besides, in Canada, hockey is and will always be number one.
HH: You spent some time in the Japanese baseball leagues. How different was it from MLB?
Rex: I spent one year in Japan and it was the only time in my career I won a championship at that level. One difference was the starting pitching; they did not have a starting rotation and they always wanted to surprise the other team with who was going to start that day. They would try to trick the opposition with who was starting. There were injury timeouts and strictly no retaliation for wrongdoing. They had a band in left field and they played the entire game.
HH: Your son Cade was born with Down Syndrome. I've heard many of your interviews, particularly the ones on The Jim Rome Show in which you talk about Cade and how he has impacted you and your family's lives. Could you please share with us how he has impacted your life?
Rex: Cade has brought us an unconditional love that has enhanced our family on many levels. He has given us perspective on life. He has taught us patience and he is a blessing to us. We are much better with him than without him.
HH: You and your wife started Team Up For Down Syndrome to help inform the public and also to support families who have children with Down Syndrome. Could you please tell us more about the foundation and what the Halos Heaven community can do to help?
Rex: On July 10, 2007, the night of the all-star game, we have our major fundraiser. The Halos Heaven community can help by attending our All-Star Party or by simply contacting us and give whatever they can to help these kids with special needs. People can learn more about our organization and how they can help by logging on to teamupfordownsyndrome.org. We thank you very much for your support.
HH: You only spent three years as a Halo, yet now you are best known as a former Angel. Why will the Wonder Dog always be known as a Halo?
Rex: Maybe because I had my best seasons statistically when I played for the Angels. I think it also helps that I have broadcasted for the team for the past eight years.
HH: What is your fondest memory of your days as an Angel player?
Rex: I would have to say there are two memories that stand out; one was the game that Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive game streak. It was September 6, 1995 and I was playing second base. They were using a special ball to commemorate that game and I wanted one so badly. Early in the game, Junior hit a pop-up to shallow right field and I thought I would have my ball but Tim Salmon called me off so I missed out then. I caught another ball from Junior later in the game. Being part of that game was a very special moment for me.
The other special moment was the last game in the 1995 season when we clinched a tie with Seattle. We were 3 games out of first place with a week to go in the season and we clinched a tie on the last day of the season.
Rev Halofan: Rex, my all-time favorite quote of yours was during the regular season on a road game to Seattle. After a commercial break there was a camera shot of Safeco Field from the outside, and after Steve Physioc described the architecture in all its majesty, you said "built courtesy of the 1995 Angels." There was a bittersweet pride in your voice, knowing that the failure of the Angels that season had pretty much saved baseball in the Northwest. Does 1995 still sting?
Rex: No because I have made a career out of turning negatives into positives. Seattle needed to win that year because they were going to be shipped off to Tampa. Their franchise was going to move. Instead they went deep into the playoffs that year and baseball in Seattle was saved.
RevHF: Over the years you have mentioned your faith. Many people argue that after ballplayer has a religious conversion he loses that "fire in the belly" that drives him to achieve in sports. Is this unfair or accurate in your experience?
Rex: Totally false in my case because my faith conversion came when I was a boy. It drove me even harder to play at the major league level. I wanted to please my heavenly father by going all out on the baseball field. I played hard for my employer and for the fans that came to watch. I knew there were guys in the stands that would love to have played at the major league level and were not able to. I always wanted to leave everything out on the field whether I hit a home run or grounded out to second.
RevHF: I met you at Fan Fest two years ago and was, frankly, shocked at how buff and in-shape you were. The stereotype is that ballplayers get fat and out-of-shape when their playing days are over. What percentage of ballplayers continue to keep themselves in top shape and what is your workout regimen these days?
Rex: I would say, depending on a player's metabolism, about half the players stay in good shape. I have four young kids who keep me in shape and I swim to keep in shape.
Cupie for Halos Heaven: On Halos Heaven, there has been a lot criticism of your analysis/broadcasting for the Angels -- some fair and some not-so-fair. How difficult is it to remain objective when you are honestly fired up about the team? At the beginning of the season, how long does it take for you and Phys to feel comfortable and hit your stride as a broadcast team?
Rex: You can never make everyone happy as a broadcaster. I try to temper my enthusiasm for the team that pays my salary but I also am an analyst and they pay me to analyze the game and the players on both sides. Phys and I have worked together for eight years now so it only takes us about two weeks to hit our stride.
HH: What is your favorite stadium on the road, from a purely broadcasting point of view? Which stadium's broadcast booth is the most state-of-the-art?
Rex: Seattle's broadcast booth is the most state-of-the-art. I like Fenway Park and the old Tiger stadium because you were so close to home plate.
HH: Is there any difference in preparation, whether it is a national versus local broadcast?
Rex: Yes, believe it or not, there is more work and preparation for local broadcast. With national broadcasts, there are a lot of preplanned elements by the network so our work is less.
HH: Which city on the road do the players seem to like the most?
Rex: San Francisco ranks high along with Chicago and New York.
HH: Is there any Angel player who can fill the role of Erstad and Kennedy as a clubhouse leader? If so, who?
Rex: Look for Chone Figgins and John Lackey to step up. It will be hard to replace Erstad because he is such a hard working player. Lackey and Figgins have been around for a while so they are the ones to likely try to fill the void. GA and Vlad are also leaders in the clubhouse.
HH: Lastly, outside your broadcasting duties and your foundation; what else are working on?
Rex: The thing that is my main focus is my family. More than anything, I want to be a good husband to my wife and a good father to my kids. Aside from that, I enjoy doing motivational talks with businesses and other organizations. I really enjoy being with people and encouraging them in the work they do. People can go to REX HUDLER.com for more information.
I was recently approached with an idea for a TV show that I am very excited about. You know, I spent 10 years in the minor leagues and 10 years in the major leagues and this show interests me very much. The show will be called The Road to the Show with Rex Hudler and Friends. It is a show that will take a look inside the world of Triple A baseball. The show will feature memories of yesterday's and today's baseball greats and their journeys through Triple-A Baseball. We will also feature current players at the Triple A level who are emerging as tomorrow's baseball stars. The show will feature topical highlights from both the International and Pacific Coast Leagues.
HH: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
Rex: Thank you very much for the opportunity to share with the Halos Heaven community. Let's hope that 2007 is a championship one for the Angels.
(editor's note: scroll thru and check out some of the amazing baseball memorabilia that was auctioned off at Rex's midsummer Team Up For Downs Syndrome fundraiser last season.)
... ... ...