Castiglione, O'Brien longing to call Sox games

April 22nd, 2020

BOSTON -- They are the voices of spring and summer in New England.

Joe Castiglione has been calling Red Sox games on radio since 1983, which was Carl Yastrzemski's final Major League season. Dave O'Brien, going into his 30th year as a baseball broadcaster, has been doing Boston games since 2007.

More than ever, fans miss those familiar voices these days. And you can be sure Castiglione and O'Brien miss the opportunity to be the soundtrack of cars, backyards and living rooms in the six New England states every bit as much.

With baseball -- and most of the sports world -- on an indefinite stoppage due to the coronavirus pandemic, Castiglione and O'Brien find ways to fill the time usually spent around the ballpark and on air.

It isn't easy.

"It's very strange. It's been a month and 11 days since our last Spring Training game. Today would have been Patriots' Day," Castiglione said by phone on Monday.

Patriots' Day is the annual day that Red Sox play at 11 a.m. at Fenway Park in conjunction with the Boston Marathon.

But not this year. Instead, Castiglione spent the day taking a long bike ride, which is what he's been doing every day for nearly six weeks.

"I don't know how many miles I've gone on my bicycle. It's been a lot. It's all flat here at least," Castiglione said from Fort Myers, Fla. "It's been a heatwave here, it's been in the 90s almost every day. I'm not complaining. We were just debating whether to come home, and right now does not look like the right time to come home."

Castiglione then noted that even if he did go back to Massachusetts, he wouldn't be able to spend time with his children or grandchildren due to the need for quarantining.

But he does take pride in knowing his son Tom, a doctor, is providing a vital service back home, treating COVID-19 patients at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, Mass.

If Castiglione feels like he is training for the Tour de France these days, O'Brien -- NESN's Red Sox play-by-play voice -- suddenly feels like the master of home improvement projects at his property in New Hampshire.

"I've got to continue to believe and I am optimistic that baseball will come back, but in the meantime, it's a whole lot of finding stuff to do around the house," O'Brien said. "Every morning, I wake up, and it's like, today's the garage. You wake up the next day and it's the mud room. We try to attack something every day, or every couple of days, but we're going to run out of stuff to do pretty soon."

Both broadcasters are finding ways to keep their baseball minds and their voices sharp.

"I'm muting the sound on some of these replay games and at least in my head [calling the game], and every once in a while, a home run call might come out and my wife runs in and finds out what's going on, especially if it's a David Ortiz home run," O'Brien said.

For Castiglione, he has been doing some podcasts with broadcast partner Will Fleming, who lives down the street from him in Fort Myers. There are also some fantasy broadcasts he tapes for clients.

But there is just no replacing the real thing.

"I miss seeing all of my friends in baseball and just the vibes you get being at the ballpark and seeing baseball people, talking baseball," Castiglione said. "I do talk to a lot of baseball people via phone or FaceTime, but it's not the same as when you're around the game."

O'Brien has similar sentiments.

"The other day, we had a little conference call at NESN. I was hearing everyone chime in and talk about what they would be doing at that particular time," said O'Brien. "My thought was, 'Man, I miss these people.' I miss working with Jerry [Remy] and Eck [Dennis Eckersley] and Mike Narracci, our director, Dan Aspen, our producer.

"I miss these folks because they're so much fun to be around and they're so good at what they do. That's what it is you miss is the interaction with the people you consider your second family."

And for a broadcaster, there's no way to substitute the adrenaline that kicks in at 7:05 p.m. ET on a near nightly basis from April through October.

"Calling the games is such a blast. There's a huge void there," O'Brien said. "What is the most fun thing about your job that you're missing? For me, the biggest kick I get is calling Red Sox games."

So Castiglione will keep riding his bike and O'Brien will keep puttering around the house until one day they get that call to savor -- the one that says it's time to go back to work.

"I missed it even more than I thought when we started quarantining, and I bet everyone feels that way," O'Brien said. "It's going to be wonderful when sports does return, even if there aren't fans in the stands initially, just to get that sense of normalcy again and that wonderful distraction that sports can provide."