August 16, 2003, Saturday, BC cycle

After 25 seasons, life as baseball announcer still thrills Nadel

BYLINE: By BOBBY ROSS JR., Associated Press Writer

SECTION: State and Regional; Sports News

LENGTH: 926 words

DATELINE: ARLINGTON, Texas

Thirty minutes before welcoming listeners to “the beautiful Ballpark in Arlington,” Eric Nadel and his partner, Vince Cotroneo, swing open the windows of the Texas Rangers’ air-conditioned radio booth overlooking home plate.

A brisk, 93-degree breeze rattles stat sheets and blows open the pages of the “Complete Baseball Record Book.”

And the sounds and smells of the ballpark rush in: the voices of the gap-toothed boys begging A-Rod and company for autographs; the sweet aroma of $1 Hot Dog Night; the wind-blown smoke from the fireworks that erupt after each Ranger home run.

“You don’t have the feel of the game if you don’t open the windows,” said Nadel, 52, in his 25th season calling games for a perennial cellar dweller that has won one playoff game in its history.

Nadel’s career with the Rangers has spanned six broadcast partners, 10 managers and roughly 4,000 games. He teamed with the late Mark Holtz for 13 seasons – a duo that endeared itself to a generation of Texas fans.

“More and more, I hear from people that grew up listening to me, usually to Mark Holtz and me,” Nadel said. “To know that in some way I provided a connection between them and the Rangers, it’s a wonderful feeling because it’s the same feeling I had growing up with the announcers for the Mets and Yankees.”

Flash back to a spring day in Brooklyn, as a 7-year-old boy rides with his father in a 1955 De Soto convertible, listening to the Yankees’ game on the radio.

“Is Mel Allen getting paid?” the boy asks.

“Yeah, that’s his job,” his dad responds.

“Well, that’s what I want to do, then,” the boy replies.

Along the way, though, Nadel became a hockey fan while listening to Marv Albert call New York Rangers games. As an undergraduate, he worked on hockey broadcasts at Brown University, an Ivy League hockey power. After graduation, he spent six years broadcasting minor-league hockey in Muskegon, Mich., Oklahoma City and Dallas before his big break came – in baseball – as a No. 4 broadcaster and part-time salesman for the Rangers’ network.

“He didn’t have a baseball background when he got into this job, but he’s learned the game and knows the game as well as anyone,” said Tom Grieve, a former Rangers player and general manager in his ninth season as the team’s television analyst.

“Anytime I’ve got an interpretation of the rules or a question to ask during the game that I need to know a quick answer, I just zip right into the booth and ask Eric. He’s usually the most reliable guy.”

As Nadel took quick bites of a turkey sandwich and scanned press notes in preparation for a game against the Boston Red Sox, highlights of Nolan Ryan’s five years with the Rangers flashed on the big screen behind the Home Run Porch. The all-time strikeout king pitched two of his record seven no-hitters and won his 300th game with the Rangers.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Ryan stands out among the hundreds of players Nadel has known.

“Every time he pitched was a special night and you knew that something special might happen,” Nadel said. “I was lucky enough to call his 5,000th strikeout.”

In the Hall of Fame pitcher’s view, Texas is fortunate to call Nadel its own.

“He’s obviously well prepared when he goes on the air, and I think he’s very supportive of the players, which I think is important,” Ryan said. “He’s one of the broadcasters that I do truly enjoy listening to.”

When Nadel joined the Rangers, game preparation consisted mainly of sitting down with the opposing team’s broadcasters and manager on the first day of a series and comparing notes.

Now, he spends about two hours a day researching players and teams on the Internet and thumbing through 400-page media guides. He supplements that knowledge with his own handwritten notes.

“These are notebooks that I’ve kept on guys over the years, writing down stuff all the time as I accumulate it,” he said. “As players get traded, I move their pages from book to book.”

In a way, it’s a job – putting on earphones and describing pitch after pitch, swing after swing, night after night.

But for a broadcaster such as Nadel, it’s more like a calling.

It’s a chance to be the friend to his listeners that Allen and Red Barber, the Yankees’ announcers, were to him.

It’s the eternal hope of each new game, the possibility that the home team – no matter how far back in the standings – might win today. That lesson, too, he learned as a boy, from Ralph Kiner, Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson, who always sounded happy to be at Mets’ games, even when the team was terrible.

“Sometimes, the big picture isn’t what you want it to be … but each individual game is fun to do,” Nadel said. “I still consider all the other things I could be doing.

For Nadel, none compares to the thrill of the broadcast booth.

He never tires of drawing mental pictures for the fans – telling them exactly which direction the wind is blowing, as evidenced by the ballpark flags, or reminding them that the Rangers are wearing their home white jerseys.

And yes, his voice will rise with excitement at the crack of the bat, as Rangers rookie Mark Teixeira “swings and blasts one to deep right field!

“It’s history!” Nadel proclaims, using his trademark phrase. “What a shot by Teixeira! Gone from the moment it left the bat! A line drive several rows back in the lower deck! A three-run jimmy-jack and it’s five-nothing Texas!”

AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins contributed to this story.

On the Net:

Texas Rangers: http://www.texasrangers.com

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