“The real activity was done with the radio–not the all-seeing, all-falsifying television–and was the playing of the game in the only place it will last, the enclosed green field of the mind.” – Bart Giamatti, The Green Fields of the Mind
The lineups are posted as I’m making breakfast. Bacon and eggs with a side of Vogelbach. Coffee and Wade. The only sounds right now are our Sunday morning Beatles playlist, the sizzle of bacon grease filling the kitchen, and the pitter patter of my 2-year-old son’s feet running through the hallway. It’s three hours until game time.
Around 10:30 am, I log on to my trusty (hahahahaha) MLB At Bat App. The pregame show is starting. The routine begins in earnest. A recap of yesterday’s game, the Clubhouse Insider, the Roundtable, Blowers on Baseball, Clicks to Pick…none of the particulars matter. It’s all about settling into the rhythm of the season. It’s game 11 out of 162, only 7% of the way through the season, yet it’s as comforting as your childhood blanket or your favorite hoodie. You could probably stand to upgrade, but would it really be the same?
The game begins. I’m not watching. I rarely watch anymore. I listen. Aaron Goldsmith, as is his routine, gets things started with the same phrase he uses at the start of every game. “And now, here’s the voice of the Seattle Mariners, Rick Rizzs.” Rizzs, Seattle’s Great Uncle, is now going through his routine. Weather report, short recap of yesterday’s game, umpires, scouting report on the starting pitchers. I’m all caught up. Is some of this information repeated from the pregame show? Of course it is. But you weren’t paying attention to the pregame show, were you? It faded into the background, the way baseball is designed to.
Unlike radio, TV forces you to pay attention. It requires your attention. Full attention has a way of lulling you into a false sense of ‘knowing’ that radio doesn’t. When you were young, a Derek Jeter a jump throw looked great. But we have so many stats today that have helped us to understand how much our eyes lie. Analytics tell us he’s doing that because he’s out of position, slow to the ball, and needs to look spectacular to make the routine happen. TV announcers can’t tell you your eyes are wrong. The images and sounds must match, or the viewer will be thrown off. Radio gives you freedom.
We leave the house and make a quick Target run. I’m going to miss probably a good inning and a half, but it’s OK. I can look online instantly to see what I’ve missed. Plus, Rizzs will be sure to get me caught up at some point.
After leaving Target, I get into the car and Aaron Goldsmith is still detailing the top of the third. I’m very confused. It seems the M’s are good, offensively? We get home, and I start up the At Bat app again. The bases are juiced for Daniel Vogelbach. But it’s lunchtime, so I start making a sandwich for my son. If you have kids, you know that you can’t delay prepping food for them while you pay attention to the game. Prepping food for them takes your attention. The radio becomes background noise again, until I hear Goldsmith’s voice begin to rise. I can tell by the tenor of his voice this is not a grand slam, but it’s good news. The ball bounces off the base of the wall, and Vogelbach, who (we have been told numerous times) just needs opportunity, makes the most of this one, standing on second base having cleared the bases and given the M’s a 7-1 lead. I hand my child his sandwich, peel some mandarines, and sit down for lunch. The radio becomes background noise again.
There’s a rhythm to baseball on the radio. There’s a conversation happening and you can choose how to listen. You can listen intently, and you can gain incredible insight and details into the game. Or you can listen passively and only pay attention when the voice on the radio tells you to. And no one is better at this than Rick Rizzs.
You see, Rick Rizzs is the Platonic ideal of a radio broadcaster. (Put down your pitchforks. Dave is, and will always be, the greatest Mariner. Being the Platonic ideal is great, but not as fulfilling as being the GOAT.) Everything Rizzs says is purposeful. With intent. After finishing lunch, I begin cleaning the office, and my brain wanders away from the game. Rizzs is engaged in friendly conversation with Aaron Goldsmith, casually keeping us aware of the on-field activities. Suddenly, Rizzs’ voice rises and grabs my attention. I would be lying to you if I told you this was transcribed precisely, but what I remember is “…this one is…gone! Goodbye baseball! A line drive laser of a home run to left field, off the bat of Edwin Encarnación. He’s rounding the bases, carrying the parrot, after a 2-run home run here in the 4th, to give the M’s a 9-2 lead, and how about the day Eddie Encarnación is having with 4 RBI already.”
I know so much of it because Rizzs has a rhythm, a routine. There’s a purpose behind this rhythm. Every time. “Swing and a drive! Deep to [direction]! Going and going…goodbye baseball! [Player X] with a [x amount of RBI]-run homerun to [direction] to make the score [x-x]. His [xth] of the year, and the Mariners now [lead/trail] by [x] runs.” If you’ve heard Rizzs announce one home run, you’ve heard him announce all of them.
So much repetition. But when you’re listening to the radio, there’s no rewind button. You don’t have the visuals to help you. The rise in Rizzs’ voice alerts you to pay attention, and the repetition is there for what you missed. It’s OK to relax while listening to baseball on the radio. Uncle Rico’s there to help you.
At this point, the M’s lead 11-2, and the only drama left (besides how many runs the bullpen would let up) is whether the game can be finished before it’s rained out. I look outside. I have a softball game later tonight. I hope the rain will hold off both here, where I spent my childhood, and 2,000 miles away, where Rick Rizzs spent his childhood in, say it with me, the south side of Chicago. I begin thinking about what I need to do for dinner, cleaning the house, prepping for the week. I decide it’s time for baseball to firmly fade into the background. Rizzs will let me know if I need to check in.
(he let me know when Vogdor crushed his second dinger of the day, please continue to give that man ABs, Servais, plz and thank you)
See Hear you tomorrow, M’s.