Here’s an introduction to Joe Block, the Dodgers’ new KABC 790 AM co-host. The one-time play-by-play man for the Dodgers’ Double-A team in Jacksonville kindly agreed to this interview:
Dodgers 2011 talkshow host. Excuse the generic question, but how does it feel?
DodgerTalk is one of those staple shows that transcends its hosts and eras. I revere it. And I’m humbled to join some legendary and talented people who have fostered baseball conversation on countless summer nights across L.A. In English, it’s very cool.
What’s it been like getting reacquainted with the players from Jacksonville who are still on the club? Do you see a big change?
These guys are all the same. Jonathan Broxton is still quiet. Chad Billingsley and I talked like it’s been weeks, not years. James Loney said hello to me by name coming off one the backfields the other day, before I could even re-introduce myself. There is a special bond you forge riding the buses in the minors. All the bad movies, breakdowns and flatulence. … Once you’re in, you’re in.
You’ve lived the life of an up-and-coming sportscaster, it appears – different jobs, different cities, different sports. What’s been the best and worst parts of that journey?
The worst part – anyone will tell you – is being apart from family and, now, my fiancee. She’ll move here after the season, thank goodness.
The best parts are the people you meet and the experiences on and away from the field. I’ve met some wonderfully kind people and unique characters all the same. I’ve been piloted in a tiny plane over Montana mountains, marched in smalltown parades, dressed up as the team mascot, watched nervous kids become big-time stars … but nothing beats the self-discovery that takes place when you encounter so many different walks of life. The journey is as good, if not even better than the destination.
What’s your craziest game you ever covered?
I figured out that I’ve called something like 900 baseball games, so, odds are there have been a few crazy ones. The one that sticks out the most: It was the front end of a day doubleheader in Jacksonville. Nineteenth inning, A.J. Ellis is on the mound. He allows a run that breaks a 1-1 tie. Who can blame him? He’s a catcher. So he comes up in the bottom of the 19th and laces a game-tying single to run his day to 6-for-6. Now he’s the hero (or still the goat, for those who remembered that we’re going to the 20th inning with another seven-inning affair to follow). Ellis ends up getting the win after the Suns hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the 20th. So, Ellis was in line for the loss, got the win and had a game-tying hit and a perfect day at the plate, after catching the first 18 innings. John Shoemaker gave him the second game off.
Do you now see studio host as your path, or is play-by-play with some team your main goal?
You know, it’s funny. Your goals change as the years go on. I recently got engaged and now the No. 1 goal is to establish stability, make a home and, in time, start a family. So I want to be in position to do that. That’s why I came to KABC. I wanted to be back covering the Dodgers, and this is a great area to start putting down some roots.
What came naturally for you as a broadcaster, and what skills did you have to develop?
The love of baseball and the inability to shut my yap came naturally. My parents were so encouraging, telling me to pursue this career. They also discouraged me from calling play-by-play of everyone eating at the dinner table. But, I still got to “entertain” their friends when they had company and goofy stuff like that, though.
I’ve had to develop numerous skills, and I still believe one can always improve. I think I’ve gotten decent at transitioning from element to element within a live show, like DodgerTalk. There is an art to it. I’ve learned from good talk hosts and from repetition, primarily.
You had experience broadcasting for the organization in Jacksonville, but that was close to five years ago. From a career-building standpoint, how did you keep yourself in the Dodgers’ mind to pave the way for getting this job?
I always see myself, I suppose, as one who is genuinely interested in people. I’ve met so many great folks within the Dodger family that it was just natural to stay in touch. I’m grateful they thought of me to join Josh Suchon on DodgerTalk.
Who were your broadcasting role models?
Which broadcaster doesn’t look up to Vin Scully? You find me one, and I’ll be astounded. But as a kid growing up in Detroit, before the days of the Internet and worldwide access, I admired Ernie Harwell. His kindness toward me – and countless others – really encouraged me to dig in and learn the craft of broadcasting and the intricacies of baseball while still being a good person and helpful to others.
Lastly, and I ask you this in preparation for your new job answering fan phone calls: Is there such a thing as a stupid question?
Not at all. Folks calling in spend their time working a job, raising kids – dealing with their lives full-time. I get access to players and coaches and spend my day watching baseball and learning from them, so, as a result, I should have a thicker knowledge base than a typical caller.
I see myself as a liaison between the busy fan and the team. I want to share my perspective in hopes it’ll give them a tidbit or idea to tell the guys at the water cooler. I often ask callers’ questions to players and coaches on their behalf. Now, sometimes, I’ll get a funny look in response, but there’s never a stupid question. I’ve often heard insight from callers that stoked a new idea for me.
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The Dodgers try to bounce back from John Ely’s rough outing Friday: