A Chat With Bob Carpenter
With the MASN broadcast team in town on Friday to watch the Nationals take on the Cardinals at Space Coast Stadium, we sat down to chat with play-by-play man Bob Carpenter to get his perspective on Spring Training so far. Tapping into his three decades of Major League experience, we asked about his routines, the hazards of calling spring games, and his outlook as the Nationals prepare for the 2013 campaign.
Curly W Live: How much attention do you pay to Spring Training, day-to-day?
Bob Carpenter: I check it every day. And I’ll watch from afar, the box scores as games progress. The one thing I really like to do, is once the game gets into the middle innings, if I’m not (in Viera), I’ll check out a box score, look at pitching lines, see what guys have done their first couple at-bats. I would say it’s something I look at several times a day when we’re not here.
CWL: You guys have a similar ramp-up as the players do, getting more intense heading into Opening Day. How does it feel every year to prepare for the season ahead?
BC: You know, that’s a good thought. I used to have a horrible time getting ready for Spring Training games. Now that this is my eighth year (with the Nationals), you kind of know all the guys. And this is a unique spring, because we don’t have a bunch of guys battling for jobs this spring. Things are pretty well settled. So this has probably been the easiest spring to keep an eye on, to get a pulse on, and to get ready for the games. They’re just so much more settled about the ballclub right now, and that’s fantastic for us. I’ve been doing this a long time, but I keep finding that I learn something every year that maybe I didn’t know about the year before. Spring Training always has a few surprises, but I’ll be real happy this year if we head north and there’s not one surprise that came up. Now it might be something good like Anthony Rendon hitting .400, but it’s really cool to come and see this ballclub now compared to some of the springs we had a few years ago.
CWL: When you have a ton of guys taking part in one game, it can wreak havoc on a broadcast. How do you go about keeping track of everybody?
BC: We don’t get a whole lot of help in that respect, we’re kind of on our own. The most effective thing you can bring to Spring Training – which I naturally forgot for our first broadcast – is binoculars. So Dan Kolko from MASN Sports, he didn’t want to loan me his binoculars, but he did. But I’ve got them now. If you can get through the first couple spring broadcasts, you’re fine. About the middle of the month, which is about a week away, guys start getting three at-bats, four at-bats, and instead of playing four innings they’re playing six or seven innings.
So, as a broadcaster, the key is surviving those first couple of spring telecasts, letting the people in D.C. think you know what you’re talking about with all these players. Because there’s a lot of guys to keep track of. I do a huge file on the Nats. All the guys on the 40-man roster are in my file. When we get into some of the guys who don’t play much, or who are destined for minor league camp, we’ll delve into the archives a little bit and get stuff on them. So yeah, it’s kind of like the players in that we gear up for Opening Day like the team does.
CWL: Coming off the excitement of the 2012 season and with a long spring due to the World Baseball Classic, how hard is it to pace yourself heading into Opening Day?
BC: I think a lot of that comes with experience. As a Major League broadcaster, this is my 30th Spring Training. I think the first time I went to Spring Training in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1984, I didn’t really know what I was doing. You just kind of learn on the job. With experience comes the calm that you’re kind of feeling before the storm. Once the season gets going, it kind of explodes out of the gate, then you kind of settle into a little routine.
When I was a younger broadcaster, I was all charged up about Spring Training telecasts. I wanted to accomplish this and accomplish that. And I did those not only for the team I was with, but for many years, I did broadcasts for ESPN and you really half to gear up, because you have to tell the story of two teams when you do that. But I think with experience comes the feeling that, “I know what’s going on here, I’ve got a good feel for the camp.” And I think that comes from talking to the guys and talking to the coaches. So I think it’s just like the players – the more Spring Trainings that you’re involved in, the more you feel relaxed about it and you know what you have to do step-by-step to get ready for the season.
CWL: Have you ever sensed as much anticipation heading into the season as there is around this ballclub?
BC: Well I think it’s high. I think the real eye-opener for me – and everybody knew we were going to have a good team, then we pick up Denard Span, we pick up Dan Haren, we pick up Rafael Soriano – it’s like icing on a cake that already tastes pretty good. Then I went to NatsFest and I saw the excitement with our fans, with 7,000 people there on a cold afternoon in January, going crazy about this team. It was like “Wow, our fans have now taken this thing to the next level.” And now it’s up to the team to take them along for the ride. I think that’s really where it hit me, when I went to NatsFest and just saw the enthusiasm and how in love Washington is with this team now. We saw that to a certain extent for a number of years. Fans would come and say, “I hope we can do this, I hope we can do that.” Now it’s, “We’re going to do this, we’re going to do that.” And I know sometimes hopes and expectations, going from one to the other, can be kind of a dangerous thing, because there are expectations now, along with the hopes that this team is going to do great things. I think this is by far, as a Nationals broadcaster, the most anticipated Spring Training that I’ve been through, leading up to the most anticipated season. And with all those home games we have in April, like 16 of them, it’s important that this team get out of the gate well, because they have to take advantage of that time. This thing might become pretty revealing pretty quickly once the season starts.