On June 21st, I had the pleasure of sitting down and interviewing Dave Jageler. You might know him from the Nationals radio broadcasts on 106.7 The Fan or player interviews at occasions such as NatsFest. He had a lot of interesting things to say and knows lots about the Nats, and is also a pretty funny guy. So without any further ado…
Will K: Can you tell me a little about yourself, personally and professionally?
Dave Jageler: I am 42 years old, I was born in 1972, and grew up in Windsor, CT, which is right on the dividing line between Red Sox fans and Yankee fans. I was on the Red Sox side of the line, so I grew up a Red Sox fan. I really followed baseball closely starting at seven years old, and I knew I wanted to go into broadcasting around twelve or thirteen years old. My first broadcasting work was in my hometown while I was in high school. We had a little cable access television station, and I used to broadcast high school basketball games, and they would show them on tape delay a month after the fact. I went to Syracuse University for four years studying broadcast journalism, and I got to broadcast S.U. football, basketball and lacrosse. My first baseball opportunity there was with the Syracuse Chiefs, who were a Triple A affiliate of the Blue Jays back then, but are now owned by the Nationals. My first job out of college was in Morganstown, West Virginia, then moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where I did sports talk, sports updates, basketball play-by-play and baseball play-by-play for the Charlotte Knights. From there I moved to Boston and worked at a sports radio station, 1510 The Zone, and did fill-in play-by-play for the Celtics. I did full-time play-by-play for the Pawtucket Red Sox, and in 2006, I joined Charlie with the Nationals.
WK: What would you say your favorite part of the job is?
DJ: I would say my favorite part of the job is just coming to the ballpark every day and just not knowing what’s going to happen. In the game you watch every day, you might see a no-hitter, you might see someone hit four home runs, you might see a crazy, wacky play you’ve never seen before. And usually about three or four times a year, we’ll say on the air, “Huh, I’ve never seen that”. Baseball, and sports in particular, have no script. You can have all your numbers and stats and predictions, but when a round ball meets a round bat, and you try to square it up, strange things can happen. So just watching the game unfold and seeing something unusual or amazing happen or not knowing when it’s going to happen, there’s just a certain level of uncertainty, and it’s exciting coming to the ballpark and seeing what will happen every day.
WK: What would you say the toughest part about being a broadcaster is?
DJ: Well, it’s hard to really complain about anything at all. Certain people complain about the travel, but having worked in the minors, I will never once complain about the travel – I have taken nine to ten hour bus rides from Pawtucket, Rhode Island to Ottawa, Canada, and trying to sleep on a bus is no fun. So charter planes and beautiful hotels – the travel is fine. The only little stress in the job is sometimes trying to find a pre-game interview. Every other day, Charlie and I will alternate interviewing Matt Williams. But the other day, when you aren’t interviewing Matt, you have to fill space. And you don’t want to interview the same guy every time, and sometimes guys are playing well, and it’s easy to find them, but other times they’re busy or don’t want to do it, if they’re playing very well, they don’t want to talk about it. That is the only small challenge that I have – there’s not really anything to complain about.
Above: Dave (Left) and Charlie (Right) have been working together at Nats games since 2006.
WK: You and Charlie seem to work so well together and seem to be having a great time. How has that partnership developed throughout the years?
DJ: Well, I think it started the first year, in 2006, at what was known as the Winter Caravan, which is now the Fan Fest. I had just gotten hired. And before we ever did a game together, I met him there, and I don’t know, but we just kind of hit it off, and developed a relationship off the air. The first spring training in 2006, we did ten games, and it just took off. I think we have a similar philosophy on how to broadcast a game, certain teams with two people will have one guy do the play-by-play and the other guy will just sit out. Then they switch, and the first guy talks. We’ve always felt that the better broadcasts are us together and interacting, and if the game is dragging or dull, you have to give people a reason to keep listening, so that’s when you want to insert an interesting story, or talk about something else in baseball, and if it gets really bad, you want to have a little fun, so if the Nats are down 9-1, you have to give people a reason to keep listening.
WK: What would you say that some of the favorite calls that you’ve made are?
DJ: Oh, for me? I really cherish the first game I ever did, although the Nats lost at Shea Stadium. I don’t get to do the ninth, so I don’t have many walk-off calls, excepting extra innings, but it’s special to see some of the calls that Charlie’s had, Jayson Werth’s home run in the postseason was his. I saw Barry Bonds break the home run record, although that was Charlie’s inning, Randy Johnson won his 300th game right here at Nationals Park, and he looks to be the last 300 game winner for a long time. I’ve had some milestone calls here and there – I got to call Albert Pujols’ 400th home run, with Bryce Harper sitting in the booth next to me – he had signed his contract and had a press conference that day, and predicted in the commercial break he would hit a home run. This year Pujols hit his 500th home run, which Charlie called, so we’ve both had one memorable Pujols home run. Historic numbers are a lot of fun – I enjoyed calling Ryan Zimmerman’s thirty game hitting streak and Denard Span’s twenty nine game. Sometimes the hit would fall in my innings for play-by-play, and sometimes in Charlie’s innings. I have not called a no-hitter, maybe tonight will be the night. (It wasn’t, but we still beat Atlanta 3-0)
WK: If anyone, who did you try to model your broadcasting style after?
DJ: As far as modeling myself after anyone, I didn’t do anything consciously, but I grew up listening to Red Sox games, so listening to their announcers probably influenced me, as well as watching Vin Scully doing the game of the week, and pulling in other teams’ AM stations. However, I think it’s important to have your own style. Because if there are people who grow up listening to Vin Scully all their life, they end up trying to sound like him, but there’s only one, so you’re better off trying to create your own style than copying someone else’s. But, one great experience was meeting Vin Scully – we go out to L.A. every year, so you see him every time and hopefully for a few more years. I remember meeting Vin my first spring training at Vero Beach, the Dodgers’ spring training facility. Vin’s producer knew I was new, and he knocked on the window, and said “Would you like to meet Vin?”, and two and a half seconds later, I was in the opposite booth, and he was incredibly gentlemanly, as you would expect, and very friendly, and his first line was, “Congratulations, I hope you have a great career”. And it was almost like being welcomed into the broadcast fraternity, by the elder statesmen.
WK: With so many outlets nowadays, to listen and watch sports, where do you see radio broadcasting going in the future.
DJ: Well, the good thing is that we’re in a good place on the radio, because as long as people drive automobiles, baseball fans are going to listen. Whether radio exists twenty years from now, if you’re driving a car, you can’t watch and drive safely. There’s always going to be a market for what we do. Radio has changed so that there is more national programming and satellite radio, and it’s constantly evolving. I’m not smart enough to predict what the future is or what a TV broadcast will be like in the future, but in some way, shape or form, they’re going to need guys like us to describe the action for people doing other things.
WK: Since you travel with the team, what would you say your favorite city and ballpark to visit is?
DJ: Well, favorite city would be Chicago or San Diego – the weather in San Diego is great and there’s the chance to play golf, and Chicago is a great vibrant city. We go to those cities only once a year, so it’s more of a special trip, as opposed to going to division teams three times a year, but you have favorite things to do in every city. As far as ballparks, the best to work in are probably Baltimore and Philadelphia. Baltimore has a nice, low vantage point and you’re very close to the action, far more so than Nats Park. Philadelphia has very nice broadcast booth and location and great facilities. As far as views, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Washington are the best. In Washington, from where we are, we see the capitol dome every night, Pittsburgh has a spectacular view of the skyline, bridge and river, and San Francisco has McCovey Cove, and on a clear day, you can see all the way to Oakland.
WK: What would you say one thing about the broadcast most fans don’t know is?
DJ: Most people want to know who rings the bell when we spell something correctly. It originated about two years ago when we were spelling Kirk Nieuwenhuis of the New York Mets. Our producer in the studio got the wild idea based on the spelling bee to ring the bell if we got it right, and it just sort of took off from there. So if there’s ever a name that’s questionable, we’ll try to spell it correctly, and as long as the producer is paying attention, he’ll ring or not ring the bell depending on if we get it right, but he probably doesn’t know. We now spell Saltalamacchia every time we see him. We kind of made the bell into a character, and that it’s in a bell-box, and if it hasn’t been used in a while, it’s getting pretty dusty, but in reality, it’s just a sound effect, that’s generated by some program somewhere. Unfortunately, to break the myth, it is not a real bell, just a sound effect of a bell.
You can listen to Dave Jageler and Charlie Slowes every night on 106.7 the Fan or a local station. I’d like to thank him again for his time, and wish him the best for the rest of the season.