Vin Scully memories from the media: Matt Vasgersian

matt-vasgersianThey have been Vin Scully’s colleagues in the media world, and as Scully approaches his final broadcasts this weekend in San Francisco, they have some personal stories to share:

Matt Vasgersian, the MLB Network and Fox Sports national play-by-play man who turned 49 this week, grew up in Culver City and graduated from USC before calling games for the Milwaukee Brewers (1997-2001) and San Diego Padres (2002-08). He joined the MLB Network for its 2009 launch and has a regular spot with Lauren Shehadi and Mark DeRosa from 7-to-10 a.m. on “MLB Central” each weekday during the season. And because of his role in calling the World Series for the MLB International feed, he ended up calling an inning of Game 1 of the 2015 World Series when Fox temporarily lost its power.
Vasgersian shares his thoughts on Scully:

“Growing up in L.A. and going to USC in the late 1980s, I may have listened more to Angels games because I was an American League kid. The first time I had an opportunity to meet him, I was too shy to say hello. It was my junior year at USC, the summer of 1988, and I won one of those ‘Think Blue’ contests, where you write a 25-word essay about why you want to be a grounds keeper or a scoreboard operator. I wanted to be a radio broadcaster, and the prize was doing a half inning into a tape deck with Al Downing. You got to sit in the press box in an unused booth, and at one point I saw Vin leave his booth for some reason, and he walked past me and smiled and I was star struck and too shy to respond.

“I did finally get to meet him in 1998, when I was working for the Brewers and they just joined the National League. I couldn’t get the courage up to talk to him before the first game of the series when we were at Dodger Stadium, but I knew then what I know now about how personable and down to earth he is, I wouldn’t have been so intimidated. Here’s a 29-year-old kid, I’ll just save him the trouble of pretending he’s interested in talking to me. But what happened was that during our first game broadcasting, I could kind of hear through the press box wall, through the headsets and the plaster, Vin calling the same game on TV and radio that I was calling. My God, why am I here? How did this happen? So I was trying to listen to him as I was doing my game, and it was ridiculous. I’m weaving a terrible story in between the action and then I lay out for 30 seconds, and I can hear Vin talking about the same player’s story, the same sort of material, far more eloquently, and it just reaffirmed that he’s at a level no one else is at. I’m a young guy not feeling real secure, and then hearing Vin on the same game … man.

“When I was with the Padres, I knew Vin always had a routine before games and could have been reluctant to give pregame interviews, but we would ask him, and he’d agree, and it would always make me feel pretty good when that happened. You approach him tentatively, but then he makes you feel like an idiot for even feeling that way because he was so gracious.

“I was able to visit with him recently at Dodger Stadium (when Fox Sports had a Saturday afternoon telecast that was also airing on SportsNet LA) and the first thing I couldn’t believe were all the demands on his time. It was staggering. I think it became vogue for players to go up to the press box – whether it was Bryce Harper or David Ortiz or whomever – and say hello to him, and he was always so gracious to make the time. But to get that time to say hi – he was so vibrant and loves what he’s doing.

“We talked about living in New York and New Jersey and he shared with me about how he lived across the bridge in Jersey in the Teaneck/Fort Lee area, with the cable cars and the subway era and the glory days of the boroughs. It was awesome.

Matt Vasgersian, right, with John Smoltz on an MLB Network broadcast.

Matt Vasgersian, right, with John Smoltz on an MLB Network broadcast.

“There are nuggets you pick up from Vin without him even trying to teach you. There are two of them that stand out for me. One is about the endless debate of whether or not you say on the air that a no-hitter is going on. When I find myself in an argument about this with some uneducated broadcasters, all I have to say is: Vin Scully says the same thing I’m saying. Once an announcer inserts himself into the dialogue of the game, he’s trying to steal that story and now it’s about him not calling it. You’ve made the game about you, when it’s your duty to inform the fans. That’s always stayed with me.

“I also read long ago when he was asked about who he enjoyed listening to. He never fell into that trap. His response was: I don’t listen to other broadcasters, not out of disrespect, but I want to stay true to who I am and not subconsciously steal someone else’s work. And here is the guy who we’ve all been influenced by. What a great lesson, but then, if we took that advice, he’d never have had such a positive influence on all our careers – how to love the game, remain positive and professional, how to conduct yourself. He’s influenced all of us. There are imitators out there who might not even know they’re doing it.

“There are a lot of people here at the MLB Network who have never met Vin, and I don’t claim to be close by any stretch, but when the conversation is about him, first and foremost I try to convey what a great person he is. If there was ever a broadcaster who could justifiably be snobby or stand-off, it’s him. That could be his birthright. But you always take away the genuine humanity that he has. When you’re that great, you don’t need to keep reminding people of that.”

= Previous Scully media memory stories:
= Ross Porter, Charley Steiner and Dick Enberg
= Joe Davis and a second entry later.
= Fred Claire
= Derrick Hall
= Josh Rawitch
= Joe Jareck
= Mark Langill
= Toby Zwikel
= Steve Brener
= John Olguin
= Brent Shyer
= Jon Weisman
= David Vassegh
= Jon SooHoo

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