DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays radio broadcaster Jerry Howarth is about to enter his 35th full season in the booth, and during that time, not only has the game changed, but also the preparation for those who cover it.Long gone are the days when Howarth would spend countless hours in
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays radio broadcaster Jerry Howarth is about to enter his 35th full season in the booth, and during that time, not only has the game changed, but also the preparation for those who cover it.
Long gone are the days when Howarth would spend countless hours in the library reading the sports sections of local newspapers to prepare for that night's game. The process became easier with the arrival of the digital age, but the concept has always remained the same.
The key to any good broadcast is a well-prepared team in the booth. It is Howarth's responsibility, along with his colleagues, to guide listeners through each game by intricately describing what's happening on the field and providing insight to which the general public might not have access.
Research and preparation play a big role in what Howarth does on the radio. This is a closer look at what a typical day looks like for the voice of the Blue Jays.
Howarth begins each morning the same way, and that's because he must. An old high school baseball injury still haunts him to this day, and to maintain it, he does back exercises every morning for 25 minutes. After that, it's a quick trip for coffee, and then the preparation for that night's game can begin.
In the early 1980s, Howarth had to dig deep for his research material, and usually, that meant a trip to the library. It's important for a broadcaster to know what's going on -- not only with the team he covers, but also the opponent -- and thankfully that has become a lot easier over the years. Now all Howarth has to do is pull out his laptop before going home for his first big meal of the day at 11 a.m., which is then followed by a 23-minute nap.
"I used to set the alarm for 23 minutes because I didn't want to go too deep under, but I wanted to just kind of go that one level down, wake up, splash water on my face, take off and go again," said Howarth, who spends his offseason coaching high school basketball. "I did that because of my love for basketball and probably my love for Michael Jordan, too. After a while, I didn't even have to set my alarm, I just close my eyes, and 23 minutes later, I get up again."
When the Blue Jays are playing at night, Howarth arrives at the ballpark around 2:30 p.m. The first step is to get everything laid out in the booth. The scorecard needs to be filled out, notes are arranged and Howarth begins to finalize the talking points he would like to go over with broadcast partner Joe Siddall.
From there, the second part of Howarth's preparation begins by heading down to the field. There is a daily interview with manager John Gibbons and time spent around the batting cage talking to players and coaches. This is where Howarth can gain valuable insight on what a particular player is working on and general stories that might interest his listeners.
"I've always enjoyed going into the clubhouse, but over time, I began to realize that the clubhouse -- not that it's sanctuary, but it's really the players', that's their time to kind of relax," Howarth said.
"I find many moments that I can then get with the players outside of their clubhouse, which made it more comfortable for me and I think for them as well. ... The bottom line is I enjoy preparing, I've always prepared and I've always enjoyed then pulling it off on the broadcast."
When Howarth became Toronto's lead play-by-play announcer in 2005, he also developed a unique way to introduce the broadcast. He starts every game by saying, "Hello, friends." And over time, the phrase became synonymous with Blue Jays baseball. But it also provides some insight into how Howarth approaches his relationship with the listeners.
Howarth frequently stops to sign autographs and have conversations with those who have been listening to him for decades. He might be from San Francisco, but he was never treated like an outsider and now finds himself as a true Torontonian.
"I began to hear so many people say, 'Hi, everybody,' or 'Hi, everyone,' and I thought, 'That's not me,'" Howarth said. "These are friends of mine, these are people I'm starting to grow with and they enjoy my friendship off the mic. As soon as I took on that role as lead broadcaster, 'Hello, friends' became just something that was very natural. And I always tell young sportscasters, 'Be true to yourself,' and that was comfortable for me."
The biggest change in Howarth's career happened when former play-by-play man Tom Cheek was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2004. Around that time, The Fan590 opted to discard the idea of going with two play-by-play broadcasters and instead settled on the now-common approach of using Howarth alongside a former player.
It started with Warren Sawkiw, and over the ensuing years, Howarth has worked with Alan Ashby, Jack Morris and Siddall. The change in personnel meant Howarth also had to completely overhaul how he approaches each broadcast.
"When you have the insight of a former player, it's up to me to orchestrate that," Howarth said. "I like that, because when you make sure it's not about me, but the other person you're with, you highlight the entire broadcast, and I think that comfortability is what people really enjoy. I changed my style, and I'm really glad I was able to do that and see the bigger picture."
According to Howarth, the beautiful thing about radio is that as soon as the game is done, his responsibilities for the night are over as well. He can make a relatively quick getaway from the ballpark, go home and do some reading about what happened earlier in the evening and make sure he checks the score of his beloved Chicago Blackhawks before going to bed.
The next day, the preparation process begins all over again.
Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.