Nadel a true renaissance man
Rangers broadcaster has many interests beyond the baseball field
ARLINGTON -- Mookie was a black Lab-Husky dog who loved to run, but there was no place in Dallas where she could go wild.
So where does a dog that lives in Texas go so that she can run free without a leash? Carmel, Calif., of course.
"We drove her to Carmel, where the whole town is dog friendly and she could run on the beach and swim in the ocean," Rangers broadcaster Eric Nadel said. "On the way, we discovered that all the California cities had leash-free dog parks. When we got home, we called the Dallas Park Department and learned there was a citizens group working to get a dog park in Dallas."
That citizens group suddenly found itself with a valuable ally in the Rangers' Hall of Fame broadcaster.
"I joined up with them and we raised the money for the park and got the Dallas City Council to change the leash law to establish the park," Nadel said. "And the Park Department generously provided a great location at White Rock Lake. Now, there are dog parks all over North Texas. But ours got the ball rolling."
On Saturday, Nadel will not be in Carmel but in Cooperstown, N.Y., where he will receive the 2014 Ford C. Frick Award. The award is given for excellence in baseball broadcasting and is a fitting tribute to the redoubtable "Voice of the Rangers," who is in his 36th season with the club and is highly respected within the industry for his abilities as a broadcaster, as well as his profound understanding of the game.
Hall of Fame coverage begins at noon ET with MLB Tonight live from Cooperstown on MLB Network and simulcast on MLB.com and the At Bat app, with the induction ceremony beginning at 1:30 p.m.
There are those who have listened to Nadel for these many years all across Texas who would probably come to the conclusion that baseball and broadcasting is an all-consuming passion for Nadel -- to the point where he has little interest in anything else.
That is hardly the case for Nadel and his wife, Jeannie. Those who have had the pleasure of getting to know Nadel -- even casually -- away from the baseball microphone have come to learn that broadcasting is only one of many things that consume his time.
"What I think impresses me most about Eric is how passionate he is about everything in his life -- his work, his family, his friends, his love for music, his quest for knowledge," said Matt Hicks, his current broadcasting partner. "He's a treasure, and so much more than just a baseball broadcaster."
The 2014 Ford C. Frick winner is actually a true renaissance man. His list of interests range from the Canadian rock group Barenaked Ladies to hiking across the state of Colorado and Yosemite National Park, to whitewater rafting in the Cascade Mountains.
One of the latest books he has read is the Art of Racing in the Rain, a best-selling novel by Garth Stein about a dog preparing to be reincarnated as a human.
"If the definition of renaissance man is 'a present-day man who has acquired profound knowledge or proficiency in more than one field,' then I would possibly qualify," Nadel said. "I don't know if I have reached proficiency in any other field, but I have some interests that I am passionate about and I am trying to learn more."
He has a list of live-music venues all through the American League that he regularly attends -- including Yoshi's in San Francisco, the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, Club Passim in Cambridge, Mass., the Fine Line Music Café in Minneapolis and the Crocodile in Seattle.
"But none of them compares to the Kessler Theater in Dallas," Nadel said. "It is my all-time favorite. It moves me. I love the physical and emotional lift I get from hearing music live on great sound systems. All types of music.
"My mom was always playing records in the house ... mostly Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and show tunes. My sister Laurie [who is three years older] brought home Elvis Presley records on 78 rpm and I loved them. And when the Beatles came to the U.S. when I was 12, I was totally smitten."
That's probably why a guy who has spent 36 years broadcasting baseball has also become involved as music director of the new Vagabond Club in Dallas.
"The creator of the Vagabond, John Kenyon, used to own my favorite music venue in Dallas, Nick's Uptown, in the '80s," Nadel said. "When I heard he was opening a new club, I got invited to a pre-opening party and met him. He asked if I would be interested in being involved, and I dove right in.
"Then, when he asked me to book the bands, it was right up my alley. I love getting turned on to new bands and spreading the word about them to other music lovers. DFW is full of incredible talent and the Vagabond is an ideal place for them to play."
If Nadel is a renaissance man, then Dallas is his Paris -- the city where he lives, plays and works hard to make a better place. The breakthrough in dog parks is only part of what the Brooklyn native has done away from baseball in his devotion to his adopted city.
He and Jeannie are actively involved in the CONTACT Crisis Line -- which provides a venue for people to talk to someone, no matter how serious or seemingly insignificant their life crisis.
Nadel served a year on the board of the Dallas Park Foundation and is a volunteer as a reader at Reading and Radio Resource, which records books for the blind and dyslexic and provides them to schools and individuals all over the community.
"Dallas has been wonderful to me, and I love living there," Nadel said. "It's the least I can do for the city that has been so good to me. I also love the idea of making Dallas an even greater place to live."
Perhaps the ultimate achievement of the renaissance man is that he not only learned Spanish fluently, but can also broadcast a game in a second language. There aren't many broadcasters who can make that claim -- especially someone who grew up in Brooklyn as the son of a Jewish dentist.
"When Ruben Sierra came up and was an instant star, he didn't speak English and it was very frustrating," Nadel said. "I knew we had more Spanish-speaking players on the way, so I started taking lessons and listening to tapes. I got a lot of help from our Spanish broadcasters, trainers and players. And I wanted to travel to the players' countries and learn about their cultures.
"I try to speak some Spanish every day, if I can, and I email friends in Latin America almost every day. But the key is total immersion, and I make sure I do that for at least a couple of weeks a year. I wish I could spend a whole offseason in Latin America some year. Maybe someday I will."
Nadel gets around there pretty good. Although last year he finally made a long-awaited trip to Alaska, he has traveled extensively throughout Latin America to 25 different countries, from Venezuela and Chile to Nicaragua and Guatemala. He has also retained a particular fascination with baseball-mad Cuba.
"It's a bizarre society because of communism," Nadel said. "The average salary is $20 per month, whether you are a factory worker, a doctor or a baseball player or announcer. But the people want to share everything they have.
"I got to cover baseball there for a few different media outlets, and the baseball fever is fascinating. In December, I am leading a group which will study Cuban baseball with a license to do so from the U.S. government. We are signing people up right now."
Apparently one's resume as a renaissance man is not complete without an all-inclusive trip to Havana. Nadel has quite the resume, both as a broadcaster and an all-around person who enjoys life with his family and friends away from the ballpark, and is devoted to making his community a better place for everybody.