Broadcaster talks blogging, tone of voice and the Brewers
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE — A little more than a year ago, Brian Anderson was happily working as a host for the Golf Channel and a sideline reporter for the San Antonio Spurs. Now, he’s gearing up for his second season as one of the 30 Major League television play-by-play men.
The 36-year-old joined longtime analyst Bill Schroeder on the Brewers’ broadcast team in January 2007. An eighth-generation Texan born in Austin, Anderson moved his wife, Michele, and daughter, Madeline, from Georgetown, Texas, to Milwaukee, and has been spending the winter acclimating himself to life north of the Mason-Dixon line.
Anderson also has joined the thousands with a page on MLBlogs.com, and in the spirit of the Internet, he exchanged e-mails last week with MLB.com about his return to baseball, what he sees ahead for the Brewers and what’s up with his golf game.
MLB.com: Let’s start by looking back at your first season in the booth. A lot of fans think of 2007 as a big disappointment because the team spent so much time atop the National League Central before falling back in July and August. Others take the glass-half-full approach, and view the season as a big step forward in terms of playing winning baseball and competing for the division entering the final weekend. Where do you stand on that debate?
Brian Anderson: I stand on the "bottom line" side. The 2007 Brewers came up short of their goal to compete for a pennant and a World Series title. When you’re done with all the adjectives, it still boils down to pitching. When Ben Sheets was healthy, Chris Capuano was right and the bullpen was well rested, they were one of the best teams in baseball. When Sheets got hurt, Capuano got in the quicksand and the bullpen got spent, they weren’t.
That being said, what happened in ’07 gives me great optimism for ’08. Brewers baseball is relevant again. This group played entertaining, meaningful, winning baseball until the very end. A great bunch of guys with a ton of talent and a bright future playing in front of large, passionate, energetic fans all season.
MLB.com: You spent all of 2007 Spring Training in Phoenix getting to know the team on the field while also getting to know Bill Schroeder, your new broadcast partner, during MLB.com webcasts. You obviously had broadcast events as part of a team before, including Minor League Baseball games, but how long did it take for you and Bill to hit a stride in the booth?
BA: Not long. We said we’d give it two weeks and then sit down and talk about how we could serve each other better. Well, we never really had that sit down. I never felt at any point that Rock and I had to grind to mesh in the booth. I trust him. He knew I needed feedback. Whether it was to say "back off" or "bring more" or "great call," Rock was honest and I counted on his opinions. We did a "mock" game back in December and hit it off immediately. We have great chemistry in the booth because I like him and respect him. He has great sense of perspective.
During Spring Training, I noticed how he talked to players about baseball. I could tell he was a great teacher of the game. He’s clear, to the point, and offers a simple, understandable analysis on TV. He’s also really funny. A charismatic, old school ballplayer from Jersey. As I said when I took the job, the analyst is the star. He has to drive the content. Rock is perfect in that role and it’s up to me to give him space to do that. Of course, he needs to be given space for a number of other reasons as well!
MLB.com: Do you think your game-calling style changed from Game No. 1 to, say, Game No. 160?
BA: Sure. Style is tied directly to confidence. In the beginning, everything was new. I wanted to come in understated and was pretty much in survival mode for the first few months. I tried to add layer by layer. There is no doubt there was more volume and energy as the season progressed. I’m constantly thinking of the audience. I worry that I’m talking too much, or not enough, or too loud, too soft, etc. When you’re just starting out, you’re so concerned with finding the parameters you forget to be yourself. Then, you slap yourself and get back to instincts and fundamentals.
I have a mental scale for play calling that I try to stick to. It’s hard to explain, but basically, a great play in a meaningless Spring Training game is a one. A great play in a season changing-type game is a 10. The goal is to match everything in between appropriately. Not just with calling the play but the between pitch conversation as well. Sometimes there is a lot to talk about and sometimes it’s best to stay focused on the field. I’m not a screamer and I try to keep things in perspective. If Prince Fielder hits a third-inning home run on the road in April, that’s no time to get to the end of your voice. If Corey Hart brings a home run back — at home — in the crunch of a pennant race, it is. The call and the conversation has to match the moment. You can’t plan for it. It’s instinct. More experience leads to more confidence and better perspective. Confidence and perspective lead to better instincts.
MLB.com: Do any games stand out for you as favorites from last season?
BA: Ben Sheets’ complete game on Opening Day. August 4 versus the Phillies — Fielder’s go-ahead home run in the eighth and Hart’s game-saving catch in the ninth. August 10 and 11 — comeback wins at Houston.
And, while not a "favorite," you have to put Justin Verlander’s June 12 no-hitter in there as well for its historic value.
MLB.com: In your blog, you had a really interesting — and personal — take on the performance-enhancing drugs issue in the wake of the Mitchell Report. What kind of feedback have you gotten from that post, and how do you see the issue playing out in 2008?
BA: The feedback has been great. My brother has gotten quite a few phone calls and e-mails since that was published. I love the picture. The "deer in headlights" look on his face when they snapped that shot during his first day in the Majors. He’s a great coach and role model now.
So many people were asking me to speak about PEDs. I just felt it was better to give some personal perspective on the subject. I can’t speak with authority on the issue because I don’t have all the facts. But, I can speak with authority on the subject when it involves my own brother. We all need to be careful to not jump to conclusions. I always say, "Water finds its own level." More and more players will have stories to tell and books to sell and in time, we’ll all have a much better understanding of the impact. Baseball is best defined by its eras. I think, as we’re able to better define the "steroid era," the stats will be put in their proper context. Major League Baseball, from the beginning to now, has had plenty of individuals equally adept in promoting and embarrassing the game. It’s the same now as it was in 1900. But, the game rolls on because it’s such a great form of entertainment. I think 2008 will be more successful than 2007.
MLB.com: Which of Brewers general manager Doug Melvin’s moves since the end of the ’07 season stands out to you as having the most impact?
BA: The rebuilding of the bullpen is huge. Doug and his staff did a great job plugging a giant hole from last year. But, I think many aren’t giving Doug enough credit for the moves he did NOT make. So many teams want to pry away the young stars from the Brewers. I’m sure there have been some tempting offers. Doug hasn’t budged. I love that. These young guys have formed quite a brotherhood in the clubhouse. They are so young and so talented and the opportunity to compete for a pennant is right in front of them. Doug and his staff have decided to keep the core together and surround them with complementary pieces. That’s how winning franchises are built. I saw the same thing when I covered the Spurs. Milwaukee deserves to see "their" guys stay in Brewers uniforms and win in Brewers uniforms.
MLB.com: The first question I always get from friends and family around the holidays is, "What do you do in the offseason?" So, what do you do in the offseason?
BA: Well, mostly just re-connecting with the family. I have a second grader, so I spend a lot of time at her activities. I’ve been soaking up the Wisconsin sports scene, too. A Packer game, Marquette University hoops, Badger Hockey, the Bucks. It’s been fun. I’ve also really enjoyed the old theaters and Discovery World downtown.
On the work front, it’s been a busy offseason with appearances for the Brewers. My FSN colleagues and I have been shooting a number of interviews and special features as well (you’ll get a taste during the Winter Warm-Up). I still do a handful of Big 12 basketball games for FSN and I’ve been working on a few video production projects outside sports. Other than that, I’ve developed a special bond with my new best friend — the snowblower.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.