Here is the second part of my chat with Victor Rojas. If you missed the first part, here’s a link. This part is all about Victor, his family, and his very interesting start in broadcasting.
You mentioned your dad (Cookie Rojas). How is our former manager?
“He’s doing alright. He’s just hanging out in South Florida and getting the chance to watch one of his grand kids play baseball at Auburn and following up on one of his sons who is managing in the Royals AA system in northwest Arkansas. He started with the Royals organization so he’s excited about that. Mike, my brother, went back to ‘home’ if you will, as an organization because that’s kind of the way we grew up. So he’s thrilled about that.
So he’s just kind of living out the string, enjoying his golden years. As a matter of fact he called me the other day, when we were in Kansas City, and said ‘mom and I are thinking of getting the boys together, the wives too, and going to Las Vegas in October.’ So he’s got plenty of time to think about October plans for us, but I guess that goes with the territory of retirement and just chilling at home.”
That’s great. Growing up around the game, who were your favorite broadcasters?
“I never really had a favorite broadcaster, per say. I was never really interested in the business. Its not something I sought out as a young person and dreamed of doing it. So I never really paid attention, if you will, or specifically paid attention.
I grew up with Denny Matthews in Kansas City who was calling Royals games and Fred White, who has since passed away. Those were the two guys I grew up listening to, but nothing else. And the only reason I listened to them was because dad. Especially on road games because home games we were mostly at the ballpark and road games we’d hear them on the radio.
There really isn’t any one who ‘influenced’ me. I guess to a certain extent Denny did. Denny has a dry wit about him and he’s kind of sneaky funny. I guess I have a little bit of that in me. You know there’s some snark that comes out on occasion.
I didn’t come up with ‘right down the middle for a ball’ that is all Denny Matthews. And to me I just pay respects, my respects, to him for what he’s been able to accomplish now calling his 50th season for the Royals and all the little things I’ve been able to take away from him.
As for the original question as to who I grew up listening to or wanting to emulate, there’s no one just because my passion was being a baseball player. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to play the game.”
And how did you break into broadasting?
“Ha. I don’t think this interview’s long enough for me to...”
Ha ha. We can bypass it or you can give me the condensed version.
“Nah, I’ll give you the short end of it. In 2000, the fall of 2000, I had gone through some stuff personally and was bouncing back. Not really a mid life crisis, per say, but I was kind of at a crossroads. I didn’t know what it is I wanted to do or what I wanted to do to make me happy from a professional standpoint.
I’d done all of the minor league stuff. Arena football, minor league baseball, I’d worked for the Panthers hockey team. I’d worked for the arena where the Panthers play in Sunrise, Florida. I went to work for Jim McLean the golf instructor, did a little internet stuff in the late 90s. They were just jobs. I didn’t have a passion for it.
On a whim, talking to a friend of mine who happened to be the third base coach for the Newark Bears, the team Rick Cerone, the former Yankees catcher owned, he asked me to send my resume up to Rick. I thought at that point that I figured ‘let me see if I can hook on with the independent league team and I can play, make a little money, and learn the radio side of the business on the side, working for the radio station or the team.’ That’s how I was kind of looking at it.
And Cerone, I remember him calling me saying ‘look, I don’t need a 32, 33 year old player but I like your resume and I’d like to hire you as assistant GM and you can put the team together then you can go up to the booth and do color commentating during our games.’ They already had a play by play guy.
And so I said ‘sure.’ I ended up going up there. My wife got hired as the office manager. And about a month later, right before the season started, the play by play guy quit and so I became the de facto play by play guy while I’m signing Canseco and Jim Leyritz and all those guys.
I had to learn on the fly and my first broadcast was in New Hampshire and I didn’t even know anything. I’d never worked a Comrex machine before, I didn’t know you needed a code for the phone line to plug in the Comrex machine. It was like, it was a cluster. But once I got on the air and was doing it I loved what I was doing and it just kind of snowballed from there.
After my first season I hooked up with mlb.com and did a radio show with Jonathan Mayo for about two years, that was in 2001. That led to me being part of the broadcast team for the All Star game in 2002 in Milwaukee, the All Star game that ended up in a tie.
In ‘03, I’m telling you it was just pure luck. Right place, right time. Kind of like I’d paid my dues, I’d grinded it out so hard, physically, mentally, emotionally for so long its almost like God said ‘you know what, you’ve paid enough of a price’ and I got hooked up with Buck Martinez’s agent. Buck’s a family friend from the Royals. And he said ‘I can’t take you on as a client, you’re a minor league broadcaster, but I’ll mentor you.’
Well it turns out that in January of ‘03 the Diamondbacks go out looking for a radio analyst because Rod Allen had left to go to Detroit. And my now, or was, agent had Kevin Kennedy as a client. So he pitched the Diamondbacks Kevin Kennedy but Kevin was still doing Fox Saturday Baseball. They were like ‘No. Love Kevin but we want somebody that can do 162 on radio, 162 out of the chute.’
And Allen said ‘Well I’ve got a minor league guy from a baseball lineage. I think he’s pretty good and he’s going to get better. Here’s his CD.’. He sent my CD and I ended up getting hired by the Diamondbacks in January of 2003 and that’s all she wrote. This is my 15th full season now of calling MLB baseball.”
“So did I answer your question?” laughing. “It was an absolute fluke. It was a guy who didn’t know where to turn, professionally. I could have done other things. I could have floated around doing other stuff in front offices, but I just, you know, I three something on the wall and the pasta stuck.
And I fell in love with it. And here I am.”
Perfect. I think people will enjoy that story. I know I always wondered how you got into the business.
There was question I was asked after our last interview and I’m going to ask you now. Also, there was one question we ask everybody that I somehow missed last time around.
What are your favorite ballparks to visit?
“Well Kansas City is always near and dear. I’ll always be very partial to that because that’s where I grew up. I love, aside from the Kansas City thing, I love PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Its one of the worst broadcast booths because you’re up on the moon but I just love that ballpark; the look, the aesthetics the Roberto Clemente bridge, everything about it. I think its just fantastic. I think it is just a gem.
Seattle is really cool as well.
And from a broadcasting standpoint, I think its all the older ballparks, really. Ours is fantastic because we’re low and closer to home plate. Fenway you’re basically right over the catcher, you’re right on top of the action. You almost have to lean forward sometimes to look down at the home plate area because of where you sit. I like the history of it.
Wrigley’s cool, they’re changing it around quite a bit. We were there a couple years ago.
If I had to name one, outside of Kansas City, to be tops, it would probably be PNC.
And the number one question we ask everybody: In-N-Out Burger or Five Guys with Fries. Which one is better?
“(Deep breath) Man. You know, I think if you like married an In-N-Out burger with the Five Guys Fries you’d have Nirvana (chuckles). I think that’s, I think that would be the way to go.
You know what, though, you almost have to make sure that you ask that question or raise that question as far as fast food because there are a lot of really good burger joints out there right now. As you maybe heard last year on one of our broadcasts talking about burger places.”
Yeah, I heard that one.
“I guess if you have to choose between the two I’d like the...I prefer...I love In-N-Out and I love Five Guys, I just like In-N-Out’s burgers better than Five Guys but I kind of like the greasy, oily fries that Five Guys has.”
You must be getting pretty close to the stadium by now. I really appreciate the time.
“Oh, any time, and yeah I’m getting pretty close.”
Thanks for doing this again, I know the readers really appreciate it and so do I. Let’s do it again sometime.
“Again, any time. You know how to reach me.”
So there we have it. Please leave comments and questions below.