Sounding Out Matt Vasgersian, Voice Of The Toros.
By Tom Danehy
Q: WHAT HAPPENS when you mix baseball with rock and roll? A. Oh, I don't know. A Hootie and the Blowfish video breaks out, maybe.
Actually, in these parts, you get a Tucson Toros radio broadcast on KTKT-AM, an odd hybrid of traditional play-by-play and banter that runs the gamut from the ridiculous to...well...let's just stay with ridiculous.
In this day and age where baseball is about to slip below tractor pulls in the American consciousness, ridiculous might well be either the final nail or a much-needed breath of fresh air.
When things can't get much worse, the ridiculous becomes sublime.
On this particular July night, the homestanding Toros are being beaten like a rented mule. But up in the broadcast booth, Voice of the Toros Matt Vasgersian and trusty sidekick Dave Brady are on a roll. In the span of one inning (which admittedly, with the Toros' pitching of late, might stretch on a bit), the two announcers touch on palindromic baseball names, Sammy Hagar's departure from Van Halen, Eddie Haskell's real name and the size of mosquitoes in southeast Texas.
Along the way, they manage to sneak in a few scores of big-league games, discuss the drop in Dave Hajek's per diem meal money since he got sent back down from the Astros and--almost as an afterthought--let their listeners know how the Toros have given up another two runs.
This is gonzo announcing and in relative terms (with the notable exception of Vin Scully, who is a veritable god unto himself), it's wildly entertaining.
For an inveterate car-radio button-pusher such as myself, it was surprising to find myself wandering onto the AM dial one night in May and lingering on the broadcast of a minor-league baseball game. That night the topics were Pink Floyd, body hair and the Las Vegas night life. I have no idea who won the game, but I listened for two or three innings.
And I continued to listen, off and on, as the disappointing-working-on-dismal season wore on. Finally, I had to go see these two.
Up in the radio booth at Hi Corbett, seated side-by-side in front of an open window which lets in the crowd noise along with the oppressively heavy July air, the two are surveying the wreckage of another Toros game. This one was over quickly; the Toros gave up four runs in the first, before most of the 5,000 who came for 25-cent Hot Dog Night had found their seats.
Vasgersian looks just like what he is--a former USC student. Young-looking enough to be a frat guy and just swarthy enough to have served as that fraternity's token ethnic guy, he's got a perpetual smile and a lightly cynical tone.
Brady, on the other hand, looks like somebody, somewhere once called him "Bubba"--and meant it as a compliment.
Without actually coming out and saying it, they've given up on this one, so they've got to keep the audience hooked. Neither is certain where they're headed, but you can bet there won't be a whole lot of Baseball involved.
Vasgersian neither takes credit nor apologizes for the format. It's just something that he and Brady feel comfortable with.
"Hey," he says, "this is about entertainment. You're going to get your diehard baseball fan who will listen to a game out of a sense of tradition or loyalty to baseball. We want to draw in that non-traditional fan, hook 'em with whatever we can, without losing our core audience. I think we can do that."
He must be doing something right, because his rise in the ranks of baseball announcers has been quick and impressive. After graduating high school in Berkeley, he moved on to USC, where just about every degree isn't worth the paper it's printed on, and the ones in Communications (like his) are printed on extra-thin, recycled, the-only-watermark-comes-from-its-having-been-in-the-toilet kind of paper.
"What a joke," he laughs at himself. After (ahem) earning his degree, he got a job as a tour guide at Universal Studios, a job he says he liked except for the fact that every other guide at the place was a frustrated actor, comic, juggler, writer/director/auteur ad nauseum.
"You should have seen the employees' lounge on rainy days," he remembers. "Sixty desperate people working on their comedy routines or whatever. Very strange."
He moved on to become a production assistant for the TV show Charles In Charge. He explains that "Basically, that means that I made coffee for Scott Baio."
How would you like that on your headstone?
When he finally decided to chase his dream, he started in Huntington, West Virginia. This is the equivalent of asking a football coach why you're seventh string and getting the reply, "Because there's no eighth string."
From there he went to High Desert, California (which is just as appealing as it sounds), then two years in El Paso ("a class act all the way," he says), then up to the Toronto Blue Jays' AAA affiliate in Syracuse, New York. That last stop reeked. Syracuse, he says is one of the worst of the 200 or so minor-league operations in the country.
Which had to have made his coming to Tucson that much sweeter.
"I love it here. The weather, the people, the ballpark, the organization, everything."
But that doesn't mean he won't move on if and when the right offer comes along.
"I want to be in the major leagues. It's no secret," he says.
Which, with Vasgersian and Brady on the mikes, could lead to a discussion of the song "Secret Lover," or "I've Got A Secret" with Durward Kirby, or maybe even Secret anti-perspirant. Listen to 'em long enough and they'll probably get around to all three.
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