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A Conversation With Red Sox Voice Dave OBrien

Dave O’Brien has a voice that should be familiar to Capital Region sports fans.

A Syracuse graduate who is among the busiest play-by-play announcers in the industry, O’Brien calls Major League Baseball, usually on Monday nights, for ESPN. For the past nine years he has been a radio voice of the Boston Red Sox, whose games are carried in this market on WOFX (980 AM). He also worked the NCAA Women’s Basketball regional, with Doris Burke, from Times Union Center.

O’Brien, 52, will get more face time with area viewers Friday night, when he and Burke broadcast Siena’s college basketball opener against reigning NCAA Tournament champion Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium (7 p.m., ESPNU).

He will be heard often this winter with various analysts on ESPN’s coverage of college basketball. O’Brien, a Boston-area native who lives in New Hampshire, is changing his role with the Red Sox, taking over as TV play-by-play announcer for the New England Sports Network, a job that will cut into his ESPN baseball work.

Before heading to Durham, O’Brien chatted about the Friday night assignment and other aspects of his career.

Q: You’re working Friday night with Doris Burke, and I know that you and Doris worked together here in Albany last March for the NCAA Women’s regional. How is it to work with Doris?

A: Doris is sensational. She’s one of the best analysts not just in college basketball, but in all of sports, because she can do so many things. She can do men’s basketball, women’s basketball, the NBA. She can analyze both. She’s done sidelines for years. She probably could do play-by-play if she wanted to. I’m not going to advise her to do that any time soon.

She’s just flat out one of the best in the business because it’s never about Doris. It’s about the teams; it’s about the players; it’s about the game we’re calling. It’s not about her. She’s one of the smartest analysts and best-prepared you’re going to find anywhere. She’s phenomenal.

The athletes, the players, just adore her. She walks into a gym for practice, and they migrate toward her. They watch her on the NBA Finals, and they see her college basketball season, doing big men’s and women’s games. They know she’s legit. She also has her resume as a player behind her. She was a heck of a player at Providence. She doesn’t really talk about it much, but she certainly has street cred.

Q: You’ve spent a lot of time at Fenway Park, and now you’re getting a chance to do TV for the Red Sox. Will the priority be NESN? Will you be doing much with ESPN baseball-wise?

A: My baseball schedule on ESPN will be reduced. It won’t go away entirely, but I’ll do about 10 games, 10 Mondays. My NESN commitment means I’ll do every game on television that the Red Sox play for NESN. It won’t reduce my basketball schedule at all. I’ll still have a very heavy hoops schedule. That was part of the arrangement to make this happen.

My Saturday games are the ACC with Dickie V (Dick Vitale). Occasionally I’ll work with Doris and Jay Bilas and a few other folks. Doris and I will do a lot of the major women’s games, and the (Women’s) Final Four and the national championship together. I’ll get to see her a lot, but she’s going to be on Big Monday this year.

Q: Are you excited about the NESN gig? It probably was handled awkwardly by the network (the revelation came out in the middle of a game incumbent Don Orsillo was calling), but are you excited to be working with Jerry Remy?

A: I’m very excited to be working with Jerry Remy. Jerry’s a Hall of Fame analyst who’s doing his 28th season with the Red Sox. It’s pretty amazing. I’m excited about being able to do television. It’s the best job in baseball, doing the Red Sox. I’m not impartial on that, as a Quincy boy who was raised in New England, but I think it’s the best place in the world to call baseball. It was an opportunity I didn’t feel I could turn down.

A lot of the lure to me was that Jerry Remy’s going to be my partner. Jerry’s a legend in New England. It’s very exciting, and the club, under Dave Dombrowski, is going to improve dramatically. David’s not afraid to deal, he’s not afraid to spend. The owners want to get better, to get back to being a competitive team, and by that I mean postseason competitive, immediately after two consecutive losing seasons. They’re tired of them. That part of it is exciting, too. I don’t think we’re going to be watching a subpar product.

Q: Is it a little easier for you not to have to make the in-season transition from doing radio to doing TV?

A: It can be. I’m going to miss radio a great deal because those are different muscles, a different discipline. I came up doing radio. My first baseball job in Atlanta was on the radio. My next baseball job with the Marlins was on the radio. In the last nine years of calling the Red Sox on radio, I felt like I had almost gotten it right finally.

Television is a challenge, as well, and I’m up for that, doing the same team every night. I’ve done it before, but it has been a while. The funny thing is, in New England and the Boston market, I’m not sure everybody realizes that I’ve been on the radio for nine years, that I’ve been right next door calling games every night. In one way or another, I’ve called the last three Red Sox championships.

It caught me a bit by surprise that a lot television viewers watch TV, and a lot of radio listeners listen to the radio, and there’s not that much crossover. That caught me a little bit off guard when we made the announcement. I’ve been there for almost a decade.

One thing that will be easier is that I don’t have to be introduced to the market. I’m not coming from Kansas City or Chicago. I’m a New England kid, this is where I was raised, the Red Sox are my team. I’ve been right next door nearly a decade.

Q: In this market you’re probably known because of your radio because the games are carried here, and we can’t get NESN unless we have the “Extra Innings” package.

A: That’s exactly right. Radio audiences tend to be very loyal to the radio call, and probably that’s true of television, as well. There’s not as much swinging back and forth between the two as you might expect in this day and age. Radio audiences tend to be very devoted, and the TV audience on NESN is incredibly devoted to watching the Red Sox. A lot of it is attributed to the product that they put on the air. They do a great job.

To read the entire interview visit the Times Union where it was originally published

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