Pujols a blast from past for radio broadcaster

Klauke recalls veteran's key homer in 2000 PCL championship

May 15th, 2016
Steve Klauke called a championship-clinching home run by Minor Leaguer Albert Pujols in 2000. (Salt Lake Bees)

SEATTLE -- AutoZone Park in Memphis, Tenn., home to the Memphis Redbirds team that has long served as the Cardinals' Triple-A affiliate, recently replaced its right-field seats with grass. But one chair remains, painted bright red and stationed in the middle of the new lawn-seating area, to commemorate the landing spot of the Albert Pujols home run that won the Pacific Coast League championship in 2000.

Steve Klauke, called up from Triple-A to serve as the Angels' radio play-by-play man in Seattle this weekend, was on the other side.

Klauke was calling games for the Redbirds' opponent, the Salt Lake Buzz. It would be their last year as the Twins' Triple-A affiliate, before spending the next 16 seasons, and counting, as the top affiliate for the Angels. Klauke's Buzz trailed that best-of-five series, 2-1, but scored three ninth-inning runs in Game 4 to force extra innings.

Then, in the bottom of the 13th, with one out and none on, a 20-year-old Pujols -- drafted in the 13th round the prior summer and crushing his way through the Cardinals' system in what would be his only Minor League season -- clinched the title with an opposite-field home run.

Klauke and his temporary color analyst on AM 830, Mark Langston, brought that up as Saturday's game unfolded.

"I haven't gotten over that yet," Klauke told Langston, to which Langston responded: "We have people who can help."

Moments later, Klauke called the biggest home run of Pujols' Angels career. It came in the top of the ninth, with two on, one out and the Angels trailing by a run. Pujols turned on a sinker from Mariners closer Steve Cishek and sent it a projected 407 feet away, according to Statcast™, to give his team a win.

Klauke's call: "Deep drive to left, Aoki back, it's up there, it's out there, and it's gone! A laser, into Edgar's section in left! A three-run homer for Albert Pujols, and the Angels regain the lead at 9-7!"

Klauke knew very little about Pujols the last time he called his game-winning home run.

"Really," Klauke said, "we knew nothing about him because he was just brought up for the postseason from the Midwest League because of callups by St. Louis. They just needed to fill the roster. He was batting seventh and playing left field."

Klauke has spent the last 23 years calling games on the radio for the Minor League team in Salt Lake City. He's currently filling in for Terry Smith, who is in his 15th season doing play-by-play for the Angels' flagship radio station and is attending his godson's wedding on the East Coast. Friday marked the first time Smith had missed a game since June 25, 2013, snapping a 452-game streak.

Aside from helping out on a handful of innings for the Blue Jays in 2004, this weekend marked Klauke's first time calling Major League games.

He'll fly to Denver after Sunday's game, to meet back with the Salt Lake Bees in Colorado Springs.

"It's been a blast," Klauke said. "[Producer Darren Chan] and Mark have made it really easy for me; everybody's been so supportive. My Twitter account and my Facebook have blown up over the last three days. … It's just been a lot of fun, and I couldn't have asked for two better games to call, as far as excitement is concerned."

Worth noting

• Tyler Skaggs, a product of Tommy John surgery in August 2014, will have his strength re-evaluated on Monday and the Angels hope he can resume playing catch shortly thereafter. Skaggs hasn't thrown in more than three weeks due to a bout with biceps tendinitis, according to the team.

• C.J. Wilson, battling shoulder issues since Spring Training, is set to throw a three-inning simulated game from Dodger Stadium on Monday. If it goes well, he'll probably start a rehab assignment. Wilson is aiming to return by mid-June.

• Angels manager Mike Scioscia has kept Kole Calhoun in front of Mike Trout and continues to hit Daniel Nava behind Pujols against righties, flip-flopping the two in the lineup. Gregorio Petit, a right-handed hitter, will seemingly continue to get starts at shortstop against righties.

• Asked about removing Jhoulys Chacin after only 90 pitches on Saturday, Scioscia reaffirmed his stance on not putting starters "at risk," saying: "Until we see where he is, we don't want to overextend him. He has a history with his shoulder."