Matt's Bats readers know Dave Jageler as one-half of the Voice of the Nationals, along with Charlie Slowes. His voice is very familiar to Nationals fans who listen to the games on the radio at WJFK, 106.7 the Fan, but people may not know a lot about him and what goes on behind the scenes in the broadcast booth. That is why I asked him a bunch of questions about these topics for this Matt's Bats Chat with Dave Jageler.
Matt’s Bats: Thanks for answering some questions for me. First of all, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Dave Jageler: I am 41 years old, married with 2 kids (Jared-13 yrs old and Sarah-9). I was born in Hartford, CT in 1971 and grew up in Windsor Connecticut as a die-hard and suffering Boston Red Sox fan. I went to college at Syracuse University from 1989-1993 as part of the well-known Newhouse School of Public Communications that has turned out many great sportscasters like Bob Costas, Marv Albert, Mike Tirico and many more.
MB: How did you get into broadcasting?
DJ: My broadcast career as a professional started in Morgantown, WV. I worked there before moving to Charlotte, NC. There I broadcast college basketball, hosted talk shows and did my first baseball for the AAA Charlotte Knights (then a Marlins affiliate). I even called Livan Hernandez's first professional outing after he came from Cuba. After 7 years there, I moved to Boston and did a talk show and fill-in play by play for the Boston Celtics. I then shifted back to baseball in 2005 as I worked for the Pawtucket Red Sox. Then, I joined the Nationals in 2006 and have been with the Nats for the last 8 seasons. I split the year living in Barrington, RI in the offseason (I moved there while doing Pawtucket) and Reston, VA during the baseball season.
MB: Did you know what you wanted to be when you were my age?
DJ: I started being interested in broadcasting when I was in high school. I had a friend who talked about it a lot and I thought it was really cool. So I joined a cable access channel in our town and broadcast my high school's basketball games. That was my first on air work. When I was your age, I really wanted to be an MLB player more than a broadcaster. But I watched all kinds of games and memorized stats which helped me later in my career.
MB: When did you become a baseball fan?
DJ: My first memory is when I was 7 and the Red Sox lost a 14 game lead to the Yankees and then a 1 game playoff in 1978, back when there was no wild card. So the Red Sox won 99 games and didn't make the playoffs. Ouch.
MB: Are you a Nats fan? The reason I am asking that question is because journalists aren’t allowed to be fans when they cover the team. Are you allowed to be a Nats fan?
DJ: I am a Nats fan. I am not a journalist like if I worked for the Washington Post. So I want the Nats to win and it is OK for me to want them to win. But I do need to be professional on the air. I don't openly cheer on the air like a couple announcers do, but I definitely want the Nats to win.
MB: How do you describe the job of a radio broadcaster? Are you supposed to be just the narrator of the game or are you supposed to entertain the fans too?
DJ: I describe a radio broadcaster as a painter and the broadcast is the blank canvas. My job is to paint the picture so the listener knows what is going on. You have to give the score often and details the listener can't see. You have to be the listener's eyes. But it is important to entertain too. Broadcasts are 3-4 hours long, so if you are talking 100 percent about the game only, it can get boring, especially if the game is dull. So it is a combination of all those things.
I love the way Dave described the role of a broadcaster. I never thought about some of those things before. When you are listening to a game, you do need to be reminded of the score and count a lot more than when you are watching on TV or able to look at the scoreboard at the game.
MB: What is a typical day like for you?
DJ:I get to the park 3-4 hours before the game and do an interview either with a player or the manager. Then I get the starting lineups for both teams and fill out my scorebook. That includes the starting lineups plus a few stats about each player. I may talk to a few players and watch BP and then eat dinner before the pregame show a half hour before first pitch.
MB: What is the coolest thing you get to do regularly or the coolest one time experience you have had in this job?
DJ: I think it is cool to do a game every day. So I think my whole job is pretty cool. As far as I one time experience I remember standing at the batting cage between Hall of Famers and teammates Jim Palmer and Frank Robinson and listening to them talk back and forth about old memories. It is a thrill to meet players now that I watched on TV when I was your age.
Also it was neat to be in person when Barry Bonds broke the HR record in 2007 and Randy Johnson won his 300th game against the Nats in 2009. We may not have another 300 game winner for a long time. So it was special to witness baseball history in person.
MB: What's your best Nats memory?
DJ: I have four--
1. Jayson Werth's HR [in Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS] 2. Ryan Zimmerman's walk off HR in first game at Nats Park 3. Zim's walk off HR to beat the Yankees in 2006 (his first walk off) 4. My first game- Opening Day 2006
MB: What are the best and worst things about your job?
DJ: The best part of the job is calling an exciting moment like a HR or a big strikeout with the bases loaded with the crowd going crazy. Not much is bad about the job except the huge amount of time away from my family.
MB: That brings up the topic of travel. I know you travel with the team. Do you like traveling? What is your favorite ballpark or city to visit?
DJ:Traveling with the team is great. We have our own plane and we stay at really nice hotels. I like San Francisco's ball park for the views but San Diego for the weather.
MBWhich ballparks have the best and worst facilities for you? The broadcast booth at Nats Park is on the 7th floor, which makes it the highest press box in MLB.
DJ:Nats Park is tough with the high press box but I am used to it now after 6 years. Philadelphia has a great facility...nice view, good booth and great press dining food. Wrigley Field is the worst because the booth is so small. I have to literally climb over Charlie to get out of the booth.
MB: I know I'm interested in what goes on in the booth during a game. What do you do during the game (when you’re not calling the game)? Do you score the game? Do you check Twitter? Do you watch on TV or talk to other people?
DJ: I always score the game. In fact I write down every pitch so I always know if someone is having a long at-bat (like Jayson Werth in Game 4). So I watch closely when Charlie is calling play by play and I will chime in if I notice something important.
MB: This is one of my biggest questions: How do you tell what kind of pitches the pitcher threw? Especially from where you sit, up high and behind the batter. Usually I need to see the replay from the centerfield camera with the radar gun and still I don’t really know them all.
DJ: I use the radar gun, but I can also tell sometimes by how the Catcher catches the ball or how the hitter swings at it whether it is a Changeup or a Slider, etc.
[Dave gave other details at the Nationals Tweet-up a few weeks ago. He said he uses the radar gun to see how fast the pitch was. He knows how fast each pitcher's pitch usually is. For example, he knows that Tyler Clippard's fastball is in the low to mid 90s. His changeup is in the 80s. His slider or curveball is in the 70s. Then he made a joke and said that even if he totally guessed, nobody would know because they are listening on the radio and can't see the pitch]
MB:What do you think will be the biggest story about the Nats 2013 season?
DJ: I hope the biggest story will be how they have a great second half comeback to repeat as NL East Champions. If they fall short, the story will be how the team ended up in the bottom of the league rankings in offense and in errors. I am surprised by both as it stands in early July.
MB: What would you say to upset Nats fans who thought the team would be in 1st place by the All Star Break, or at least well above .500?
DJ: I would say that each season is different. Just because the Nats won 98 games last season doesn't guarantee a repeat. Many teams have struggled early and rallied to win a division title or a wild card spot with a great August or September.
MB: What do you like to do in the offseason?
DJ: I do a couple college basketball games here and there. Sometimes they are on MASN or on the Big East Network. But who knows what I will do with the changes in the Big East?! I coach my kids' basketball teams and do a lot of house work, like laundry and cleaning that I am not around to do during the season.
MB: Last question: What is something not baseball-related about you?
DJ: I try to work out every day. They only days I miss are when we have a day game and then have to travel. I also love to play golf. I refuse to go on Facebook and I am stunned that I am on Twitter but thanks to you I have a decent number of followers!
Dave is talking about the time in April when I talked with him on the field before a game. He had a bunch of Twitter followers, but not a lot. I took a picture with him and then tweeted it out and all of the sudden he had like 300! Now he has over 2,000, which is a lot more than I have-- about 1,500 more!
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