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The Victor Rojas chat part 2: Broadcasting

We continue our interview with Angels play by play man Victor Rojas and turn our attentions from the playing field to the broadcast booth.

Last week, Victor shared his thoughts on Mike Trout, the Angels, and baseball in general.  But I wanted to know more about Victor's domain, the broadcast booth.  He talks about Trout and the Angels all the time, after all.

Here is the second part of our interview and I have to say I enjoyed it tremendously.  I hope you agree.

Q: With Vin Scully retiring, you are now the grizzled vet of SoCal baseball.  How does that feel?

"Certainly doesn't make me feel like a gizzled veteran, that's for sure.  For perspective, I'm 49 and Vin flew by his 49th year of broadcasting moons ago.  So I still feel like a kid fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to not only call games in the same area as Vin, but also to have spent time just shooting the breeze with him.

Amazingly, for the last couple of years, not only was Vin to the north but Dick Enberg was to the south and if you really sit back and start thinking about it, that in itself can be somewhat intimidating.  You have these two legends of our industry working close by with all the accolades in the world and oh, by the way, there's some dude named Rojas calling games for the of Dick's original teams.

Fortunately, I'm not bright enough to have worried about it all too much.  You can't or you'll drive yourself crazy trying to 'live up' to these unrealistic expectations.  I know I'm not either guy and never will be.  But then again, I've never tried to be and I think that's why I've been able to settle into my job and do it the way I see fit and not worry about what anyone has to say."

Q: You are calling some significant pieces of baseball history (Pujols 500 and 600 home runs, Trout's historic run), do you ever think about the fact your calls will be heard with those plays for all time?

"The short answer is no.  I'm not a believer of scripting anything out...whether it is a show open, questions for Gubi or a historic moment.  I call the game in the moment and if something pops into my head, I'm usually going to say it.  Fortunately, and somewhat miraculously, I've had this incredible ability to filter some thoughts that have crept into my head during the tough stretches, but that's for another time.

I had the chance to call Sammy Sosa's 600th home run while he was with the Rangers and in that case it wasn't about a specific signature call.  To me it was about the moment.  The Cubs were in town, Jason Maquis was on the mound and to tie it all together, Marquis was wearing Sosa's old #21.  The setting was perfect and Sosa obliged with a shot to right-centerfield.

I think if you try to script something in those moments, you lose the sincerity of the call.

We were in Washington a couple of years ago and Albert was sitting at 498 and all of a sudden he hits 499 in the first inning.  I make the call and then look to Gubi and with my finger on the cough button I say 'Holy shit, he might do this tonight!'  It wasn't that I didn't think he was capable it's just that I like to take the game one pitch at a time and not cloud my judgement or game calling with how or what I may or may not say.

As for the actual calling of number 600 home runs, I'd have to do some research but I wonder if I may be one of the few that have actually called multiple 600 HR games between Sosa and soon to be Pujols."

Q: That is really cool and I'm also curious.  You are broadcasting at a time when the common fan is getting more and more in tune with advanced statistics.  How do you balance bringing them into the broadcast while not losing viewers who haven't yet bought in?

"I think the use of some advanced metrics is good for the game as it relates to broadcasting.  I'm all for using all of the information out there when it comes to player and team evaluations.  But when it comes to calling a game, you worry about confusing viewers.

It is going to be a gradual process of introducing new metrics to viewers at home.  As much as I like some of the new stuff, there's a number of them I don't like because of it's confusing nature or subjectivity.  I've been around the game my entire life and if I'm still having a difficult time wrapping my arms around some of these, imagine the casual fan sitting at home.

I think most viewers could be categorized as casual fans.  They love the game, their team, etc but aren't hard-core baseball fans and don't usually want to delve into it.  There's definitely a percentage of fans that do fit into the hard-core stats and to me, those are usually the ones clamoring for us to use more advanced metrics.

How do we educate the casual fans on advanced metrics without having them zone out?  It's a question that comes up every year and its not just us, it is every broadcast. I think the way to do it is to break in one or two in a season early and continue talking about it throughout the year so viewers get used to the terminology and its meaning.  You slide OBP/OPS/WAR into someone's line every time they come to the plate, people will get accustomed to seeing and accepting it just like they would AVG/HR/RBI and the same can be said with pitchers.  After a while it becomes part of an every day broadcast but I think the days of solely talking BABIP/FIP/ISO etc. are still down the road.

Q: How much more research goes into each series now that fans have all the stats at their fingertips?

"I don't know that I do any more research now than I did before.  I think my research today is just a bit more refined.  You look for more specific items than just the general numbers especially if there's a match up that looks interesting.

Research, like canned calls, can be too much at times.  There has to be a place for a certain number or set of numbers to really have an impact on the game.  I watch baseball games and see all of these graphic boards with numbers ad the like and after awhile, it's just static to me.  I can't imagine what it's like for the viewer at home.

I know there are play by play guys (and some analysts) that write down every little thing about every guy for every game.  That's awesome, more power to you for getting 'prepared.'  But here's the issue with that thought process: what about the game?  What if that specific situation doesn't ever come up and you spend time thinking about trying to get certain numbers or stats in just because you have them?  Then what?

I think you're doing the viewer at home a disservice and the worst is when you have someone that constantly talks advanced metrics without ever explaining it.  They say baseball is boring but imagine the casual fan at home that already thinks that and in addition has to retrieve their abacus and go to Google and try to decipher what you just said.

The game is played on the field, so my eyes are on the field.  If there's a time when a match up or other situation arises where, after having done my research, I can insert said numbers/stat and it ENHANCES the broadcast by giving the viewer at home a new perspective on the game/player, then I do it."

Q: Do you have fellow broadcasters you meet up with throughout the year, maybe grab a bite during a series?

"Before going to the ballpark is pretty tough since we're all on weird schedules.  There's no doubt we get together in the booth or on the field during series and exchange notes.  Its invaluable to get the other team's perspective from someone that is covering them daily.  Some of the best nuggets of information are those provided by fellow broadcasters and even some of the stuff that's 'off the record' or private still gives us context during the game/series when a manager makes his decisions.

I've been able to cultivate friendships with a number of fellow broadcasters away from the ballpark and with those I may be able to get a little more information than others.  Everyone in our industry like to talk about their team and provide information.  It is, after all, what we get paid to do."

Q: If you could call a big game or event outside of baseball, what would it be?

"I've solely been a baseball guy, so I've never really had the desire to call another sport let alone a major event.  I guess if I had to chose something, it would be cool to call a Jayhawks basketball game at Allen Field House since I'm a KU fan.  I also love golf so maybe one day we can bump Jim Nantz out of the way and let me call The Masters.  Might as well dream big."

Yet again, Victor knocks it out of the park.  Let's help him out a bit and find out how many broadcasters have called multiple 600 home run games.

We have one more segment coming soon speaking about family life and the life lessons of baseball.

Beyond that, what was your favorite part of this interview?