Jim Hunter has been calling Orioles games on radio and television for over 13 years, and has become a ubiquitous voice for any O’s fan. A lifelong journalist, he came to Baltimore by way of 14 years with CBS Radio. This week we were able to catch up with the great baseball broadcaster and get his views on Baltimore, broadcasting, and baseball in Charm City
You have been in Baltimore for a long time now….. Who do you think has the best crab cakes?
I haven’t had a bad crab cake anywhere in Baltimore but my favorite at the moment is at Libertore’s on Bel Air Rd. in Bel Air. Everything at Libertore’s is fabulous but the chef has a way with crab meat. It’s exceptional
You have called games for tv and radio. What’s the difference? Do you have a preference?
Calling baseball games on Radio vs TV is very different. On radio it’s just you and your partner. You each have your assigned play-by-play innings and while you are on you are the broadcast. You call the plays, you set the scene, you drop in notes about the players and the game. You do it all. On radio you are the eyes for the audience. It is a definite challenge, especially keeping up with the action as it happens. But radio and baseball seem meant for each other.
Calling games on TV is much more involved because there are so many more people involved. The producer runs the show. MASN has in my opinion the best producer in the business with Dawn D’Agastino. She has to balance everything that will get on the broadcast without getting in the way of the game. She is a master at multi tasking and with working with the announcers. The best way to describe the roles of the TV booth is the play by play man is the “What Guy” and the analyst is the “Why Guy”. A good play by play announcer understands how to set up his analyst and then get out of the way.
At this stage of my career I prefer the TV broadcasts because I enjoy the challenge of working with so many people to bring a network quality telecast to the Orioles fans for 162 games each season. There is nothing better than to have an idea for a topic, talk about it on the air, and then watch it develop on the field.
You have worked with some legends in the broadcasting and baseball world over the years. Highlight a few of your favorite moments.
Before coming to the Orioles I worked at the CBS Radio Network calling games on national radio. I had some great moments with Ernie Harwell and Jerry Coleman (both hall of fame announcers) . But my best memory from those years is when I was partnered with Johnny Bench. Johnny not only was one of the best catchers in baseball history but he’s the smartest guy I ever worked with and he was a natural at explaining the game and what happened. It was also interesting that we often had differing opinions and that made for a great listen. (There’s no doubt he was a master at taking sides) I did my best to try to top him but I rarely did. But it made me a better broadcaster because I learned how to gel with a partner.
My favorite call since coming to the Orioles was the final out in the game in Toronto in 1997 when the O’s clinched the AL East title. It’s an honor to be a broadcaster for a team. You live with them all season long and it takes to win. It was an amazing feeling to call the final out and see the completion of a playoff season.
When you cover the same team for as long as you have, how do you keep the distinction between broadcaster and fan of the team you’re covering?
It’s easier than you would think to keep that distinction. The simple answer is I’m a professional broadcaster and it’s my job. It’s no secret I want the Orioles to win. But the key is to be honest and not make excuses. I think it’s a skill to be able to balance being the “Home Town announcer” with telling it like it is. Errors are a part of the game and when misplays are made we need to talk about them and I do. The distinction the public has to understand is we are not doing a talk show, we are calling a baseball game. The game is the focus, not the announcers. And as I noted before MASN does an outstanding job day in and day out with the product we bring to the fans
We are now in year 3 in the McPhail plan. Last year, it fun watching the new talent. Which young player are you looking at to make the biggest impact this season?
Since Andy MacPhail took over the organization things have been on the rise. It took a lot for Andy to understand what had to be done and then have the guts to stick with a real, top to bottom rebuilding plan to create a strong foundation. That plan is now on the verge of producing results at the big league level.
For this season I am looking at two impact young players. I think Matt Wieters is a superstar in the making. I was impressed that his best month last season was September when he was tired. He had never played that deep into a season and he had his best production at the end. I expect he will continue to grow and learn and be a break out player.
The other impact player in Brian Matusz. He’s had only one professional season but he won 5 games and showed a tremendous ability to adjust. That is a key to success in the majors. He is smart, he is talented and he is grounded. Matusz will some day be regarded as one of the top pitches in baseball.
Is there any young player or new addition who is flying under the radar who you think could be a difference maker?
I wouldn’t say flying under the radar but I think Nolan Reimold is a player to watch. He has legitimate power. And if he stays healthy he could emerge as the 30-plus home run hitter the O’s have been waiting for
Now that Buck Martinez has defected up North, will you be calling more games this year?
I am going to miss Buck. He is a true professional and a good friend. He is one of the top analysts in the game. His departure won’t alter my schedule since we held different roles. My schedule should be pretty much the same as it has been since I moved to TV full time.