I recently interviewed my godmother’s husband Mark Neely, over e-mail. He recently got a job as the San Diego Padres announcer on TV.
Q-What was your favorite team growing up as a kid?
A-I grew up in St. Louis and a Cardinals fan.
Q-What is your favorite team today?
A-My new favorite team is the San Diego Padres. The Cardinals are now #2.
Q-What inspired you to be a play by play announcer?
A-I always thought announcing games on radio and television would be fun and for the most part it is. The constant travel is really the only downside. Being an announcer in the major leagues is something I’ve wanted to do from a young age.
Q-Other than baseball what is your favorite sport?
A-Besides MLB, my next favorite sports are college football and college basketball.
Q-What was your carer highlight in your athletics carer? (little league, college, high school, etc.)
A-My own athletic career is nothing to write home about. I had moderate success as a 3B/RHP through high school age.
Q-Besides working with the Padres what other teams have you worked with?
A-The Padres will be the first Major League Baseball team I’ll work with exclusively. All the other individual teams I’ve worked for have been in the minor leagues cities such as Boise, Louisville, Springfield (IL), Salem (VA),and most recently Tulsa.
Q-What MLB stars did you see in the minors?
A-I have seen really too many to mention since entering pro baseball in 1990. Just in Tulsa in my time here since 1996 the Tulsa Drillers have featured current MLB players such as Mark Texiera, Michael Young, Hank Blalock, Matt Holliday, Troy Tulowitzki, and Jeff Francis just to name a few.
Q-What is your favorite player today and all-time?
A-Favorite player of all time is Lou Gehrig. I don’t really have a favorite current player. I tend to root for guys I’ve had on teams I’ve worked for over the years.
Q-What team would you love to work for?
A-I’ve waited for a chance to call MLB games for many years. The Padres have given me that chance so they own my loyalties from this point forward.
Q-Who do want to win the Super Bowl and who do you think will win?
A-I think the Steelers will win but I’d like to see Arizona. The team was originally in St. Louis and was the first NFL team I rooted for. And I have a lot of respect for Kurt Warner who also played in St. Louis for the Rams.
Q-Do you have a blog? If not would you like to start one?
A-I do not currently have a blog. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens now in San Diego.
Q-Do you travel with the team? If you do what city are you most and least excited to go to and what are you most and least excited to do?
A-I will indeed travel on the Padres charter plane for road trips. My favorite MLB city to visit is New York. I don’t have a least favorite because each city has elements I enjoy about it.
Q-What are some of your award predictions for MLB this year? (AL/NL pennate, MVP, manager of the year, GM of the year, etc)
A-I usually don’t like to make predictions at least publicly on something as long as a 162 game baseball season because so much can happen in that time. That’s the great thing about sports is their unpredictability. At this time a year ago I guarantee nobody had Tampa Bay making the World Series.
Q-Where do you think/want Manny Ramirez to go?
A-Manny would like to go wherever the payday is the highest. I eventually think that will be back with the Dodgers.
Q-Who else announces the Padre games with you?
A-There are two color analysts on the TV telecasts with me. The primary one is former MLB pitcher Mark Grant. And about a dozen or so times a year Tony Gwynn joins the booth.
Q-What advice do you have for people who might want to be announcers?
A-My advice for young announcers is to do as many games in as many sports as you can early on. It’s all about experience. And also do as much public speaking as you can.
Q-How do you think the Padres will do this year?
A-Expectation are low for the Padres entering the 2009 season after 99 losses a year ago. I believe they will exceed expectations due to the uncertainty surrounding the other teams in the division.
Q-Who will win the World Baseball Classic?
A-I’ll root for the USA squad but I believe the Dominican Republic will win.
Q-What did you want to be growing up?
A-At first I wanted to play in the major leagues. After that it was broadcasting the games instead.
Q-What is your take on Mark McGwire (will he get into the hall of fame, should he be in the hall of fame, etc.) and steroids in baseball
A-I don’t believe Mark McGwire will get into the Hall of Fame at least not anytime soon. I think the baseball writers who vote on the Hall of Fame selections are still trying to put the whole steroid era and its inflated statistics in perspective. That may take awhile.
Q-Which current Padre play is most likely to go into the baseball hall of fame?
A-If you would have asked me that a year ago it would have been easy to answer with both Greg Maddux and Trevor Hoffman on the Padres roster. Now there’s no likely candidate but if Adrian Gonzalez can duplicate what he’s done the past couple of years for the next 10-12 years he’d have a decent chance. But that’s a lot to ask and a long way off.
Q-What is your favorite baseball movie?
A-My favorite baseball movies are Bull Durham and Field of Dreams.
Q-Which one is better ESPN or the MLB Network?
A-For now I’ll say ESPN. When the season starts we’ll have a better idea of how the MLB Network will do on a nightly basis reporting on games. ESPN’s Baseball Tonight has been a strong show for many years and will be tough to surpass. I have good friends at each network and both entities should thrive. If not for the MLB Network however I wouldn’t be in San Diego. Their lead studio host Matt Vasgersian had been the Padres TV announcer for the past seven years before leaving for the MLB Network.
Q-Do you play fantasy baseball? If you do who is your number one pick this year?
A-I have not played fantasy baseball in over ten years. If I did I would take Albert Pujols first.
Q-What one free agent should the Padres sign?
A-The Padres are in a cost cutting mode so they are reducing payroll instead of adding to it due to an impending ownership change. Their recent signing of free agent David Eckstein is I think a very sound one. His salary is reasonable and he’ll bring leadership to an increasingly younger team.
Q-Do you think Jim Rice should be in the hall of fame?
A-I think Jim Rice’s numbers and the fact that he was one of the dominate hitters of his era makes him a Hall of Famer.
Q-If you could meet one athlete who would it be?
A-Any athlete dead or alive it would be Babe Ruth. Because of his pitching career with the Red Sox as well as his home runs he is by far the greatest player to ever play the game.
Q-If the Padres could make one trade who would it be for?
A-I don’t have a specific player but like any team you can never have enough good young pitching. Any trade that provides more depth there helps.
Q-What player do you think will hurt the Padres the most this season?
A-If Manny Ramirez returns to the Dodgers (or to the Giants for that matter) he is the most likely candidate to hurt not only the Padres but every other team in the division.
Q-If you had to chose would you be a Red Sox or Yankee?
A-I greatly respect the history and tradition of the Yankees but because of the Red Sox many near misses until recently I have rooted more for them.