No one likes to replace a legend. That job becomes doubly difficult when that legend passes away suddenly, leaving the fans little time to say good-bye. When Bill King passed away this off-season, the A’s knew it would be a tall task to replace him. While one can never replace a legend like Bill King completely, the A’s have turned to a veteran broadcaster to give the A’s their next voice. We caught up with the A’s newest radio broadcaster, Vince Cotroneo, as he prepares for the upcoming season.
Vince Cotroneo may be a rookie to the A’s broadcast booth, but he is no rookie to the major league airwaves. Cotroneo has spent 13 seasons as the number two broadcaster for the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers. He was with Houston from 1991-1998 and with Texas from 1998 through 2003. He also spent seven years as a minor league broadcaster, winning the 1988 National Association’s Announcer of the Year award when he was with the AAA-Iowa Cubs. He brings that wealth of experience with him to the Oakland booth this season. On Monday, he was kind enough to answer a few of our questions, which we are presenting in two parts.
In part one of the interview, we discuss his background, his relationship with current A’s number one radio broadcaster Ken Korach and current A’s color-man Ray Fosse, and how he became interested in the A’s job. In part two, we discuss his broadcast style, how he prepares for a game and his respect for Bill King.
OC: What was it about the Oakland A’s job that drew you to it? I know that you had explored other opportunities before.
Cotroneo: I certainly had inquired about other openings. The thing that drew me to the A’s job was that I knew Ken [Korach]. For a broadcaster, it is tough enough to make a transition from team to team on your own, but it is even tougher when you have to fit in with new people and learn your partner and how you fit in with his style, and I think that that is something that will come very quickly with Ken because I have known him since 1985. From that point of view, this was the best situation because it was with somebody that I had known and someone who had a vision I have known, so all of those aspects looked really good on paper. Of course, that was go guarantee that I was going to get the job, so I feel very fortunate to be in the position that I am in today.
OC: What was the interview process like?
Cotroneo: I had to submit my work to Ken Pries [Oakland A’s, Vice President of Broadcasting and Communications] sometime in October, I think, and then Ken Pries called me around Thanksgiving and said, ‘hey, we’ve whittled it down and we will be bringing in some folks to interview in early December’ and that I was in that group. I flew up and back in one day. I had a three or four hour session with Ken Pries and then dropped by and spoke with a couple of people that I knew around the office. Basically, we just talked about things in general, the untimeliness of Bill’s [King] death and Ken Pries told me about the great memorial that they had had for Bill at the Coliseum Arena and we talked about the expectations of the situation and just kind of general conversation.
It wasn’t necessarily a hard-core interview, and I think part of it was that maybe Ken Korach had known enough about me. In addition, my ex-partner here in Dallas, Eric Nadel, was very positive about me and could vouch for why I had been on the outside looking in and that it wasn’t because of integrity or performance or getting along with people. It was just one of those situations. So I think by the time I had an opportunity to sit down with Ken Pries, he had enough background on the kind of person I was and the kind of work I was capable of, it was more like a get-to-know-you session. But, even with all that, I never felt like I got this job. I didn’t know that I had this position until Ken Pries offered it to me.
You know, we had the interview and he said that he was going to try to wrap it up around Christmas, and then he called to say that they had narrowed it down to three and they hadn’t made a decision yet and that they were going to have to go through the holidays. When you are on the outside looking in like I was, it was like a lifetime to wait through the holidays. The one thing about Ken Pries was that every time he said he was going to do something -- return a phone call or give me an update -- he did it every time at the exact moment he said he would. So when I got that phone call from Ken and it was early January, I knew what it was about. And he’s going ‘hey, I’ve seen that you’ve had a lot of wildfires’ and I was like ‘I see you guys have gotten a lot of rain in Northern California’ and I’m saying to myself ‘small-talk is nice, but let’s get on with it, am I in or am I out’. (laughing)
Luckily, the next thing he said was that I had the job. I was so excited I just about drove off the road. When you’ve been out for two years, for whatever reason, you wonder if you are ever going to be fortunate enough to hear those words again. I’m just incredibly thankful that it has come together and that it has come together with a situation with an organization that I have some familiarity with and I hope to be a part of for a long-time.
OC: You met Ken Korach when you were both in the Pacific Coast League, right?
Cotroneo: Yes, I was in Tucson, where I met my wife, and Ken was in Vegas.
OC: What was the experience like going up through the minor leagues and finally getting a big league position?
Cotroneo: I knew when I was 13, 14 years old that [baseball broadcasting] was what I wanted to do. I went to college for it, got a radio/television degree from Central Florida, and then get my first minor league job in A-ball, when I was 23. I told myself that I wanted to get to the big leagues by 30, and that was seven years. It ended up being one year of A-ball, three years of AA and three years at AAA. I got the call with the Houston Astros one month after my 30th birthday.
[Despite all of those years of experience] it is still very much a learning process to broadcast at the major league level. Everything is different about the big leagues in every way shape and form. I’m not just talking about the travel or the hotel or finances. But the level of the play, the people that you become in contact with, are different. You have to show up and do your best work everyday. Everyday, you’ve got to earn the right to be there another day and I think I’ve understood that all along. One thing I know that I will give Oakland is a complete effort every day.
One of the things that I’ve always done, one of my Linus’ blankets, is the way that I kept track of every team in the six years I was in the American League. I put together a starting pitcher log that I kept for every start. I set it aside when I wasn’t in the game, but literally today I am reconstructing the 2005 A’s season. When I’m done with that, I’m going to go back and reconstruct 2004, and eventually I’ll go back and do that for all of the American League teams to get them up to speed for how I have them up through 2003.
I had every start for every team and notes about every game and, whether or not you use all of it or whether it can give me stories to tell, isn’t certain. But it gives me background on the season and context for when I start seeing these people face-to-face. Every season has its own chapters and its own pace, and I know I’ll be a part of that next season, but I still need some background.