BY MATT LaWELL
FRESNO, California | Doug Greenwald spent large chunks of his childhood in Major League stadiums. He walked around the fields and the press boxes, listened to his famous father, Hank Greenwald, the former radio voice of the San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees, call games broadcast out to hundreds of thousands of radios. He learned about baseball and life. He has been trying to get back ever since.
Greenwald is in his late 30s now and already in his 10th season up in the booth for the Fresno Grizzlies of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League — just one step removed from San Francisco, the Giants and a dream job. Greenwald has filled in for the Giants four times over the last few years, but has honed his reporting, delivery and storytelling during the last 17 seasons with teams from Louisiana to Hawaii. He shares his story in his own words.
I know I’m over 1,000 here. I called my 1,000th game right at the end of the ’09 season. I would say I’m getting near 2,000 total, something like that.
I was 5 when my Dad started. I guess, though, when you start to figure out what you want to do, the interest might have even started at age 8, I don’t know.
Around 17 or 18 is when you start to practice. I remember sitting in the stands, I remember the Giants were playing the Padres and it was right before the Padres had that fire sale in 1993, so Fred McGriff was still with them and Gary Sheffield was still there, Tony Gwynn was always there. The Giants had a good team that year, with Will Clark, and Barry Bonds was on that team. It wasn’t anything I could remember, a home run or a triple play, but it was dabbling in the stands.
First job? The Bend Bandits of the Western Baseball League in 1996. I was 21. I got a phone call during spring training, so I was in Arizona when they called back to my dorm and left a message on the machine. This was before the days when everyone had cell phones. The gentleman, his name was Tom Hamilton, he called and said, ‘We love your work and we want to offer you a job as a broadcaster.’ He left the job offer right there on the machine. Pretty risky, because I had a bunch of roommates who didn’t know a baseball from a football, let alone the importance of job-related phone calls, and sometimes calls were erased. It’s a good thing I got to that one. That was my first real job.
"I got a phone call during spring training. This was before the days when everyone had cell phones. The gentleman called and said, ‘We love your work and we want to offer you a job as a broadcaster.’ He left the job offer right there on the machine. Pretty risky, because I had a bunch of roommates who didn’t know a baseball from a football, let alone the importance of job-related phone calls, and sometimes calls were erased. It’s a good thing I got to that one." — Fresno Grizzlies radio broadcaster Doug Greenwald
It was March when I got the call, the season started in May and the first games were right around my graduation weekend. All I really cared about was getting the piece of paper, not walking, and graduation is — and I’m referring to the ceremonies — it’s, ‘Gee, I hope it doesn’t rain.’ It’s an all-day affair, and I’m thinking, ‘Let’s get that piece of paper. I want to get my career underway.’ As it turns out, looking back 15, 16 years, I have zero regrets about not being there for the ceremony. I got my diploma, that’s that, and I started my career.
Graduation was on a Sunday and we started our season that weekend, so yeah, I was on the air during my graduation. I wanted to get going with it. My boss said, ‘Doug, if you have to miss a couple of games to go to your graduation, go ahead.’ There was a guy who could have filled in. I said, ‘Nope, I’m going to work.’ The thing was, my Dad had never missed a broadcast in the Major Leagues. He was going to have to miss a broadcast to come to graduation. He was obviously excused to do that. The minute I said I was going to work, I said, ‘And guess what, Dad? You don’t have to worry about missing a game.’ I think he said, ‘Darn, I was looking forward to coming to Boston and having some good food there.’ That’s where his mind was.
I was hoping they would remember where to mail my diploma.
My favorite year was probably 1998, in the independent Texas-Louisiana League, in Lafayette, Louisiana. We played at the college park that still exists there — Tigue Moore Field — it’s where Louisiana-Lafayette plays its home games. We shared that field with them. Their season was done, we came in around mid-May — May 18 was our first game about 14 years ago. We were a four-person staff and we started, literally, from the ground up. We came into our office in January, new team, first game’s in May. No carpet in the office, no couch, no desks, phones on the ground — when we walked in, they were finishing hooking them up. Selfishly speaking, the radio deal was already done, which was one less headache for my general manager.
What was fun there is it was everything from selling sponsorships to hiring game day staff to doing the program. We didn’t sign the players but, being an independent league, our manager was hired and he signed them from there. Professional baseball hadn’t been in Lafayette in over 20 years. The team only lasted three years. The first year, attendance was OK, but a lot of people thought the team was an extension of the college team and, in a way, it was, because a lot of players from the Ragin’ Cajuns who weren’t drafted wound up with our team. It was pro ball, guys got paid, we had Ron Guidry as our pitching coach, we had a couple of former Major Leaguers on the team — professional baseball, absolutely.
I think a lot of it was I just loved the folks in south Louisiana. The Cajuns are nice folks, they were excited to have us that first year. That was my introduction to the South and, little did I know, that would be a springboard to a state where I lived for about 10 years. I look back on it. I miss Lafayette. It’s a fun town.
Maybe don’t jump at the first opportunity. I worked in Burlington, Iowa, for a year. That was the job between Bend, Oregon, and Lafayette, so I was 22, coming from an independent team, here’s a hot job to do 140 games in the Midwest League, and it turned out to be a very bad decision. The town was fine, just the people I worked with there could have cared less about radio. I admit, I made a mistake, but you ask about things you learn, don’t jump at the first job. I did. I learned from that. That’s the lesson I learned there.
Be prepared for anything.
You go back to any of those leagues, there are those nights thinking, ‘Who’s out there listening?’
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