Arizona Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall admits he gambled a bit by hiring Steve Berthiaume to be the play-by-play announcer for the team’s broadcasts on FOX Sports Arizona before the 2013 season.
The team had just dismissed Berthiaume’s predecessor, Daron Sutton, for “philosophical differences,” and also booted color analyst Mark Grace due to Grace’s legal troubles. Hall managed to snatch broadcasting veteran and former Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly away from the Chicago Cubs to replace Grace, but paired him with a relative play-by-play newcomer in Berthiaume, a veteran of ESPN’s Baseball Tonight.
“We were definitely taking a risk,” Hall said. “The time that I spent with Steve I could tell he had tremendous knowledge about baseball. He had the background of Baseball Tonight, a deep passion for it. It was his dream to be a play-by-play announcer. So I knew he would work hard at it.”
Three years into the Brenly-Berthiaume partnership, things seem to be going swimmingly. (Regardless of what you thought about their extended selfie riff a few days ago.) Diamondbacks broadcasts have been the most-watched primetime programming in the Phoenix area all year, and ratings are up 20 percent over last year. FOX Sports Arizona’s June broadcasts were the best for that month since 2007.
It didn’t gel immediately between the pair. Chemistry takes work – Brenly thinks it takes about a year for a broadcasting duo to learn each other’s rhythms –and Berthiaume lagged far behind Brenly when it came to experience calling games.
In their first season together, Berthiaume’s instincts were still in studio-show mode, where “dead air is death.” He would cram the broadcast with too much information, and had yet to find a natural way to work in Brenly’s analysis.
“Sometimes it felt a little too forced,” Brenly said. “(Later) we got to the point where he was doing his thing, covering the play-by-play, giving the nuts and bolts and I would jump in wherever I thought it was appropriate. The times that he does lead me in now, it’s because he wants to know something. Not just to put my voice out there on the air.”
Or as Berthiaume put it: “I have tried to adjust and learn when to just shut the hell up.”
Brenly honed his craft over years, but Berthiaume has given himself a crash course. After each night’s broadcast wraps up, he heads home to watch four or five innings of it. Then he watches parts of several other games, looking for ideas on how to get better.
Now the sum of their parts equal a team that has gotten good reviews from the likes of The Sporting News and AwfulAnnouncing.com. Berthiaume is the self-described baseball geek with an endless supply of historical tidbits about the game. Brenly has a deep knowledge of how the game is played, and a million different stories from his days as a player and manager. (Many of them unfit for the airwaves, he pointed out.)
Brenly calls Berthiaume “Partner” more often than when they began.
“The two mesh so well together,” Hall said. “I think they complement each other perfectly. I think they’re a fantastic team.”
Berthiaume just had his contract extended for unspecified term, although Hall said it covers at least the next two seasons. The ESPN vet feels the risk he took leaving the East Coast, where he’d spent the first 25 years of his career, has been completely worth it.
“It’s the best job in the world,” he said.
Brenly’s deal has two more official years left on it, although it’s expected he’ll have the freedom to stick around beyond that so long as he’s interested.
There’s always the danger that a team could come sniffing around Brenly as a managerial candidate, but the 61-year-old thinks those days are behind him. The last two times he interviewed to return to the dugout – with the Cubs in 2006 and the Brewers in 2008 – he felt like he was “just filling out the dance card.”
Perhaps one of Major League Baseball’s national broadcasting partners comes calling – Brenly has plenty of experience at the national level with TBS and FOX – but he insists he prefers the pleasures of following one team all year long. (His contract does allow for occasional appearances on national broadcasts, something Hall feels only brings more exposure to the Diamondbacks.)
“I like where I’m at right now, I enjoy what I’m doing and I like the people I’m working with,” Brenly said. “I’m not looking for anything.
Credit to the Arizona Republic who originally published this article