*While it might be the beginning of the Reds last home series of the 2019 season, this will be my last visit to pressbox for the year. Because of that, I had to compose one last baseball related piece before I prepare for the postseason. This was a hard one to write.
I grew up a diehard Chicago White Sox fan and was lucky enough to listen to John Rooney make the play by play calls on the radio. I did face a problem, though. Since I only had access to a limited amount of broadcasts, I wasn’t able to appreciate the styles that each commentator brought to baseball until much later in life.
During my time as a broadcaster in college, I listened to as many casts as I could that related to Major League Baseball. This allowed me to pick up a better understanding of the industry and apply it to my own work. Of all the broadcasters in the league, there was one in particular that always held my attention to longer than most. That person would be the legendary Cincinnati Reds play by play commentator, Marty Brennaman. From the minute I heard his voice I was mesmerized. His broadcast was not only entertaining, but the content he provided was incredible.
For a little bit of background, in 2013, I began working in baseball with the Birmingham Barons. To start my career, I was working within the Media Relations department. In 2014, I was hired by the Tennessee Smokies broadcaster, Mick Gillispie, to do both Media Relations and broadcasting. It was here that I got to really appreciate Marty’s work (having my own taste of professional broadcasting). One of my responsibilities was to listen to broadcasts around the Southern League and MLB [to record and cut them for highlights]. I can remember my coworker and good friend, Boomer Dangel, and I listening to Marty’s broadcasts. We were enthralled. Majority of the time we listened for enjoyment rather than recording his highlights, though we did use his calls a lot for our broadcast, maybe a little too much.
In December 2015, I went to Nashville for the Baseball Winter Meetings to find another job in the sport. One of the teams I interviewed with was the Cincinnati Reds, to work for the Reds’ Director of Media Relations Rob Butcher. I had interviewed with Rob the year before in San Diego, but ultimately was not offered the position. Flash forward to Nashville, I applied again and we talked having already been familiar with one another. He told me that he would let me know a week later. The next week, Rob called to offer me the position. Up to that point in my baseball career, I felt as if [it] was the single greatest moment. I was also told I was going to be working for one of the best media relations people in baseball, which made it more exciting. Then it hit me, I would be working with the great Marty Brennaman. As a fan of his broadcasts, I got antsy to move to Cincinnati to not only work for an MLB team, but alongside a Hall of Famer.
In January 2016, I arrived at Great American Ballpark to work for the Reds and met Marty for the first time. I arrived when Pete Rose was announced to be inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame (could my timing be any better) later that season. The managers of Media Relations, Larry Herms and Jamie Ramsey, went on to introduce me to Marty after the ceremony and the first thing Marty asks me having heard that I was from Washington D.C. was: “What did you do there?” My response? Well I couldn’t have said anything more idiotic than what I said. “Oh, well I lived there!” I replied. With a big grin, he chuckled and said back “Well, no kidding.” To this day I am reminded about that moment. It also was the moment where we would become good friends.
Over the next few months getting to know the man, he had become someone you could easily relate to. One thing that should be noted about Marty is that he might actually be the funniest person alive as there were many things he said to me and others that had us belly laughing that turned into tears. He knew that I was someone he could make fun of. He doesn’t do it maliciously, he just loves to kid around. In his tribute to Marty, MLB.com beat writer for the Reds, Mark Sheldon, mentioned that if Marty makes fun of you, it’s because he likes you even if it comes at your own expense, especially me as I am often the one he pokes fun at. He is a joy to talk to. His stories capture your attention and most importantly, he wants to get to know you. One of the things that stands out about him is no matter who you are whether you’re an intern, someone in a different department of the front office, a player, or whoever, Marty always took the time to get to know people. He actually cared who he was meeting or getting to know. Even when my aforementioned friend Boomer was hired on as the Miami Marlins’ broadcast intern working for the legendary commentator Dave Van Horne and his talented partner Glenn Geffner in 2016, Boomer went into Marty’s booth when the Reds visited Marlins Park and he took the time to get to know my friend. Boomer was a big fan of Marty before meeting him, I have no doubt he became a bigger one after that friendly encounter. However, the more I listened to his broadcasts and the more I was around Marty in person, I got to finally understand why he was so good; he broadcasts like he talks to you. As Dave “Yid” Armbruster, a WLW producer for the Reds radio broadcasts, said in a recent The Athletic article that Marty isn’t a broadcaster, he’s an entertainer, that’s what makes him so good. That rings so true. He also is one of the hardest working individuals in the business. No one, and I mean no one, will ever match his work ethic.
Most people, especially Reds fans, know Marty the broadcaster. I know him so much more than that and for the past four seasons having been in the pressbox, I’ve seen every side of him. He’s also been incredibly generous as when I made a trip with the team back to D.C. for a series with the Nationals in 2016, he asked me if my family planned on coming down for the series and if they weren’t and were up to come to a game, he would be willing to grab some tickets for them. He eventually got two tickets for my father and a friend of mine. I guess Marty really liked me if he went out of his way to do that.
When hearing of that he would retire at the end of 2019, I made it a point to take in every opportunity I could when up in the pressbox to enjoy every moment I was around him because every story I have with him is memorable, but that’s what happens when you’re around Marty Brennaman. I didn’t think I would get emotional about his retirement, but as I sit here writing this column, I fought back the tears after I watched Matt Vasgersian’s tribute to him. I didn’t realize the type of impact Marty had on me until I saw that video. Everything Vasgersian said in that video rang true as I was able to relate to everything that was said about him. Marty is not only a great broadcaster, but an awesome human being.
My mentor from the Birmingham Barons was their broadcaster Curt Bloom. “CB” as he was known, was inducted into not only the Barons Hall of Fame (in 2013), but also the Southern League in 2018. While his work got him into those respective Hall of Fames, he wanted to be remembered as a “Hall of Fame person” as he coins it, which he strives to be every day. What he meant was that he wants to be a great individual and be remembered for that. That’s how Marty should be remembered. Marty didn’t just get into the Hall of Fame because of his broadcasting, but also for who he was as a person. That’s why I’m going to miss seeing him in the pressbox in 2020.
My nickname here in Cincinnati, that all of Cincinnati sports media members know me by, is “Preacher.” I got that name because there was a former pitcher named Preacher Roe (different spelling) and my last name sounded alike, that’s how I got it. The person who of course puts a heavy emphasis on my nickname is Marty and his call is all too iconic up here in the pressbox: “Preach! How we lookin’!?”
Of the 46 years he was in baseball, I am glad I was there for his last four. On Thursday, I have no doubt in my mind that when I listen to his last broadcast, I’m going to tear up. All the jokes, all the talks, heck all the complaining about how much our beloved and shared fandom of the Washington Redskins or University of North Carolina basketball when they underperformed or downright just stunk up the joint, that won’t happen in 2020. And even though it was joked about, I’m a bit bummed not coming on to his broadcast just once for fun and just having a chat for one half inning. It would have been comedic gold. I did, however, get to sit in his booth for a few innings in 2016, and it’s a highlight in my life that I will never forget.
Marty is one who doesn’t like being the center of attention despite being overtly extroverted, I am sure he didn’t want this goodbye tour. I don’t think what he realizes is that he deserves this. Baseball needed it. We needed it. He is beloved by so many fans, media members, coworkers, and everyone involved in baseball. That’s why Thursday is going to be so hard. I have no doubt he will be around the ballpark next season at some points of the 2020 campaign, but it just won’t be the same. Marty used to be someone I admired because of his reputation and his fame, but now after getting to know him, he’s much more than that. I’m sure that he was just as excited in meeting me as I was meeting him. That is just who Marty is.
So thank you Marty, thank you for your friendship, generosity, humor, kindness, and of course your broadcasting, but most importantly thank you for being a Hall of Fame person. I am going to miss you here in the pressbox in 2020 and beyond.
And this one belongs to you Marty Brennaman.