As the television voice of the Cubs since 2005, Len Kasper has endeared himself to many Cubs fans. His professional approach, accurate descriptions and disciplined preparation allow Len to execute his job in an efficient and successful manner.
When you invite the Cubs into your living room every day, you are inviting Len Kasper in as well. He is a major part of the Chicago Cubs organization and he took time to answer a few questions for the CCO …
Len Kasper – My off-season is really about my family. From March to September (or October), I’m basically not around. And even when we are in town, I’m at Wrigley Field more than I’m at home. So, I try to spend as much time with my wife and son as I can. I also play tennis 3-4 times a week, a sport I can’t play much in the summer unfortunately. But it’s a huge passion of mine and I squeeze in as many indoor matches as I can. I go to lots of matinee movies while my son is at school and my wife is at work. I catch up on non-baseball books and go to rock shows. And every single day, I’m on-line checking out all the hot stove league baseball news.
CCO – At the convention, you mentioned you have a strict routine during the season. Can you describe your pre-game or game day routine?
LK – I’ll give you the short version, because the long version could fill a book. Actually, that’s not totally true. It used to be that way, but every year I try to streamline it a little bit more. For a 1:20 Wrigley game, I’m up around 6:45 or 7. I get on-line and check out all the Cubs stories and articles on that day’s opponent. I will also peruse other baseball news (or game recaps from the night before). I try to be out of the house by 8 or 8:15, I usually stop at Einstein’s for a bagel sandwich and a quick Chicago Tribune crossword just to find a few minutes of relaxation before my full baseball day begins. I get to the park around 9:15 or 9:30, go up to the booth, fire up my laptop and get my media guides and pens situated. Then around 10 (the clubhouse opens at 9:50) I’ll head down to the field and clubhouse(s). I’ll get the lineups if they are available, check in with Lou Piniella, talk to our producer about any pre-game interviews, check in with Bob to see what he knows/needs in terms of game prep, talk to players, maybe go to the visitors’ clubhouse if I have any specific questions for them, then head up to the pressbox around 11:15 or so, fill out my lineups, read the game notes, grab a bite to eat in the lunchroom with Bob (depending on whether I had breakfast and how hungry I am), throw on some makeup and by 12:55, I’ve got my earpiece in and I’m ready to hit the air live at 1 pm. Probably my favorite moment of the day is around 1:22 after the national anthem when I sit down and know that the rest of the day is nothing but the baseball game. Because ultimately, all the other stuff that happens is to prepare for the game. The game is what it’s all about. That’s pure fun. It’s a great challenge, it requires a lot of focus and a clear mind, but ultimately, we’re just huge fans who get to talk about what we see on the field and there’s no better job in the world.
CCO – Throughout your time with the Chicago Cubs, you seem to have embraced the Chicago Cubs as well as the storied history of the organization. How do you separate being a broadcaster from getting ‘caught up in the moment’ and becoming a fan?
LK – Continuing my previous answer, it IS a job. It’s a great job, it’s an incredibly fun job, but you need to treat it as a job and not as a hobby because in order to do it well, it requires tons of preparation. I’ve often said, baseball, more than any other sport, necessitates passion. We’re on the air for roughly 450 hours a year, so if you don’t love the game, it can be a major grind. Fortunately, I love baseball and always have and I’m like a 10-year-old kid when I’m at the park in terms of how much I love and revere the sport. But again, the professionalism required in calling a game as objectively as possible means you have to sublimate your giddiness and make clear, concise decisions on the air. Yes, there are moments during which I’m totally nervous (9th inning, tie game, bases loaded for example), but ultimately, I’m there to do a job and over the course of time, you get better at remembering that and controlling your urge to throw a brick at the TV if/when a Cub commits a critical error.
CCO – What have you learned about being a broadcaster from Pat Hughes?
LK – I’ve learned a ton from Pat, whom I consider to be the #1 radio play-by-play announcer in the game today. He does so well what I believe to be the most important thing a radio announcer can do–he tells you where the ball is at all times. His pacing is tremendous, his baseball knowledge is vast and he has a great sense of humor. I talk to him all the time about play-by-play mechanics, game situations and what the proper tone is. We bounce stuff off each other all the time, but I’ve learned much more from him than he will ever learn from me, believe me.
CCO – With the sale of the Cubs to the Ricketts family complete, what impact do you see the new owners having in the short-term?
LK – Short-term, it remains to be seen. Long-term, I think they are the perfect group to own this franchise. They’re all diehard Cubs fans, they will be accessible to the fans, yet won’t dominate the media headlines. I just think they “get it” on every level. Again, short-term, who knows? Hopefully the Cubs win it all in their first year as the owners, but it looks like things will remain fairly consistent in 2010 with a few tweaks inside the ballpark. After their first season is when you might see them put more of their own “stamp” on the franchise.
CCO – What type of relationship, if any, do you try to build with the players?
LK – I believe building professional relationships with players is a very important part of my job. It allows me to not only get a lot of great information to use on the air, but it also gives me great background on what’s happening on a daily basis and some of that stuff I never use. I feel like I learn something new every day because I sit next to Bob, who gives brilliant analysis, plus I get to talk to managers, coaches, GMs and players who explain to me why/how things happen on the field.
CCO – The Cubs made three big acquisitions this off-season … Rudy Jaramillo, Marlon Byrd and Greg Maddux. What impact are you anticipating each addition to make?
LK – Don’t get me wrong, coaches are important, but I think any coach would tell you that the key to any championship-caliber club is talent on the field, so of the 3 guys you mentioned, Marlon Byrd should have the most impact in a tangible way. He’ll be the Cubs’ CF, a position that has been a tough one to fill the last several years. I do believe Rudy Jaramillo can make a difference. He is widely regarded as one of the elite hitting coaches in the game (maybe #1 on many people’s lists). Greg Maddux’s role is a little less-defined. I think he will be a terrific addition to the front office, but honestly, until I see him at spring training, I don’t know how much time he will spend with the big league pitchers. His impact may come in more subtle ways organization-wide. I’m sure he will see a lot of the Cubs’ minor league pitchers as well during the year and anyone who knows Greg will tell you that every pitcher who gets even 2 minutes of his time will benefit from it.
CCO – Lou Piniella said a few times during the convention that he thinks this team can make a 10-game improvement over last season. What areas do you think the Cubs need to improve to make that happen?
LK – The offense has to improve overall first and foremost. If you are looking for the main reason why the Cubs were they were by season’s end in 2009, look no further than the offense. They scored 707 runs, down from 855 the year before. That’s almost a run per game. They need Ted Lilly’s early-season replacement (while he’s on the DL) to pick up the slack. And they need Carlos Marmol to continue where he left off after taking over as the Cubs closer. I thought he finished strong, but he goes into spring training as THE MAN in the back-end of the bullpen for the first time in his career. Hopefully he can handle the expectations.
CCO – It is no secret that you are a music aficionado. Which bands or songs are the newest additions to your iPod?
LK – Oh, I’m always adding stuff. The latest–Band of Skulls, Two Cow Garage, Slobberbone, Sloan, Wolfmother, The Ponys, The Raveonettes. Most of it new stuff. I also will add an old Dave Clark Five song here or a Love and Rockets song there if I’m in a nostalgic mood.
Len Kasper, Bob Brenly, Pat Hughes and Ron Santo. If you’re a Cubs fan, you undoubtedly get the same feeling I get when you hear these voices for the first time every season.
I really appreciate the time Len took for the CCO … the Baseball season is just around the corner.