By Melissa Verge
Canadian Baseball Network
Jerry Howarth is a jolly looking man.
He is a skinny version of Santa Claus.
Either the photographers who took pictures of him and put him up on Google images caught him at all the right moments, or he is constantly in a happy state.
I’ve only ever heard good things said about Jerry. I don’t recognize him by his face, but by the voice I have listened to calling the play by play on the radio for Blue Jays games. He’s coming up on his 35th season as the Blue Jays broadcaster. I would recognize his voice anywhere.
Howarth has talked to many people around the world-although it is a one sided conversation-through the radio.
I’m sure his voice has filled many homes, bringing the game to people who can’t be in Toronto to watch them live.
He has called the games when the Blue Jays won the World Series in 1992 and 1993, and in 2015 when they made their playoff run. And the in-between.
Howarth says he enjoys broadcasting every game, win or lose, and he’s called more than 5,000 games in his career. “I enjoy each broadcast and I stay and enjoy the game, and the love I have for baseball rather than “oh they lost,” he says.
He looks at each game as a fresh start.
“There’s 162 games every season, and I look at each broadcast as a blank canvas. I paint it to the best of my ability, and when the game is over I initial down at the bottom right hand corner.”
Howarth doesn’t appear to have many fears, he approaches players and coaches from around the MLB all the time, for 34 seasons.
“I remember my first interview with the Blue Jays, Tom Cheek gave me the microphone and the tape recorder and said ‘go get anybody you want.’ Lucky for me, Roy Lee Howell who was the Blue Jays third basemen at the time, I had known him in the coast league and I interviewed him so that made it a little bit easier.”
Howarth is fine around people but he doesn’t like big dogs.
“I’m not real fond of them, in fact I try to steer clear of big dogs,” he says. “One time a big dog came on our front lawn when one of my sons Ben was about five years old. I took on that dog and got him down to his house. Then the adrenaline is flowing, I’m yelling at the dog, ‘Get off my property’ trying to protect my five year old son.
“After that I probably looked at big dogs a little bit differently and said ‘You stay where you are and I’ll stay where I am.’”
It’s hard to picture friendly looking Howarth taking on a dog. I wonder if when he yelled at the dog, it recognized his voice from hearing it on the radio.
Howarth however is moving on and looking towards April that will mark his 35th season as play-by-play announcer for the Blue Jays.
He says the Blue Jays will be better out of the gate than last season.
“This is a very good team. This is a team that’s better right now out of spring training, should be better than last year’s team.”
“Now they’re starting with a strong nucleus already, everybody on the field is coming back except Ben Revere. They’ve got Drew Storen who really strengthens the bullpen with Roberto Osuna, Aaron Sanchez, and Brett Cecil. That’s one of the best bullpens in baseball.”
Howarth see’s Sanchez as coming out of the bullpen again this season, as he pitched 131 innings last season, and the Blue Jays may want to protect his arm.
“If he is a starter and he is young, and he piles up let’s say 150, 160 innings, now you’re starting September or even October… how do you protect his arm? Well, you have to pull him back and say you’ve had enough innings from where you were last year. I think overall this year he might end up in the bullpen to make him stronger. And after that maybe become an established starter with years to come.”
As for the future of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, Howarth says it would be wise to offer them a short term contract.
“I think a two or three year contract at their age, if they take it great,” said the veteran announcer. “But you don’t want to get saddled with something that’s five, six, seven years, and tens of millions of dollars, when it might not be that productive after a few years.”
Bautista and Encarnacion, although both have been with the team since 2008 and 2009, still have a while before they reach that milestone.
You can hear Jerry on the Fan 590 throughout the season. The beauty of baseball on the radio is, you can listen to him wherever you want to in the house.
TV’s aren’t portable, but Jerry is. You can bring him with you when you cook dinner, and you can listen to him when you’re eating dinner too.
If you’re a lonely university student, this is a great way to catch the game, and feel like you’re not eating dinner by yourself.
If you’re lucky enough to be at the game in Toronto, you can probably spot Jerry on the field before first pitch. He is like Santa Claus, only beardless and missing the belly.