As one of the younger veteran broadcasters in baseball, Josh Lewin has called almost every sport from coast to coast. These days his work has brought him back to New York, as the radio voice of the New York Mets on WFAN, the country’s first all-sports radio station. Along the way lewin has helped fans follow the Texas Rangers to the World Series, spent several years helping guide the Orioles, Tigers and Cubs faithful on the airwaves, and has built a solid following on the NFL side as the voice of the San Diego Chargers and with his work on FOX.
We caught up with Lewin to talk about his time in Texas and his other career stops.
-From your first day in Texas under the Hicks ownership to the end of your run in the World Series, what was the biggest change that you saw in the culture of the Rangers organization?
The thought that you could simply buy your way to glory is a noble capitalist sentiment, but it rarely actually works. Tom Hicks had every good intention — he wanted to win and loved owning the Rangers — but the “grown your own,” “stay the course” thing ended up being the better tactic, as sold to him passionately by a very smart GM, Jon Daniels.
-Having worked in other markets like Detroit and Baltimore, how was Dallas better or worse?
Other than hotter in August? Dallas was (and still is) a great place to live. Friendly people, although there’s definitely a sector that is wary of outsiders… and as an although to that, that’s certainly true in Detroit and Baltimore as well. Dallas is such a football town — to me that’s the biggest difference. the long snapper pulls a groin muscle and it’s on page one of the sports section. When the Rangers were irrelevant in the mid-00s, the game stories were sometimes on page 5 or 6. That was a stunner.
-You are now in New York with the Mets, do you think it is true that this market carries the weight and power that it does vs. others?
It’s been said “everything happens in New York,” and it’s tough to find fault with that statement. There are more than 20million people in the metro area, meaning 1 out of every 13 or so people in America are New Yorkers. That’s crazy. Yes, it’s a provincial city, but there are nine sports teams here in the big four sports… it’s tough to argue that New York is the most important sports city. The passion for sports here is incredible.
-You are another of the long suffering Northwestern alumni in the media, how tough was it to see the Wildcats miss the NCAA’s again this year?
It was a heart crush. I followed the Cats hoops team closely this year because I decided the bandwagon had room for one more body. The OT loss to Minnesota that bounced them from tournament consideration was viewed with considerable disappointment in my hotel room in Port St. Lucie.
-What was the worst day as a Rangers broadcasters for you, and what was the most unique memory you have?
Being on the air with George W Bush and meeting him at the White House were both unforgettable instances, regardless of my politics. The fact that he knew who I was and was conversant about the “Sonic Slam Inning” blew my mind. Worst day for me was the game the fan tumbled out of the upper deck… not Shannon Stone, who tragically died– I wasn’t working for the Rangers in 2011 — but the firefighter who miraculously lived to tell the tale in 2010. I watched him all the way down and was convinced I had just witnessed a death, and couldn’t stop thinking about what his family must be going through. That stayed with me for weeks, if not months.
-Texas is known as a football state, what can the Rangers countinue to do to stay relevant, other than the obvious success they have had on the field?
May as well use a football cliche (Al Davis): “Just win, baby.” The Mavericks quickly got relevant when they won, and now this year, as they idle near .500, the shine is quickly fading off of that star. As long as the Cowboys exist, all you can do to steal the spotlight is to keep winning. No marketing genius can make DFW a baseball-first area… all one can do is position oneself as a solid number two. And the Rangers have done that.
-Ron Washington had his own issues exposed while you were in Texas, do you think the media reaction would have been different if he were in a bigger market?
I do. Wash had built up such a great rapport with the local media, I think everyone was almost embarrassed to report what happened. To Wash’s credit, he faced the music, and to the media’s credit, they let a sleeping dog lie, for the most part.
-Josh Hamilton still is probably one of the more underexposed superstars in sport. What would it be like from a brand standpoint for him to be in NY or Chicago or LA?
I actually think Josh is right where he belongs. He’s most comfortable talking in big settings about his religion and his faith.. and in Texas, he has a great forum for that. I fear that in a “big three” or eastern market, he may get misunderstand or even lampooned. I don’t think Josh wants to be Tim Tebow, who does now have the New York market to spread his gospel. Texas is a great fit for Josh Hamilton.
-You have spent a good amount of time in other sports as well, and baseball takes probably the most out of an announcer. Why is it worth the personal sacrifice for you?
It’s a great game, first and foremost… but I guess the circadian rhythm it affords is a good fit for my little brain. The daily order of it all — wake up, get a workout in, read the papers, surf the net, go to the balllpark, talk to the guys, read the gamenotes, fill out the scorecard, pitch to pitch, inning to inning… for us creatures of habit, it’s comforting. When I didn’t have it (in 2011), it was a tough year in many ways.
-Five favorite players to have covered in your career?
In no particular order, Cal Ripken, Luis Gonzalez, Mark Grace, Mark Teixeria, and — because he jammed with me musically — Ben Broussard