Ask any true sports fan and they will tell you that a play by play announcer is the heartbeat of any event to someone listening. Their job is to put the fan at the game. To bring such a bright light of detail that who ever is listening can follow along and get the same feeling of actually being there. This is especially true for baseball as a lot of people don’t follow the game because they find it boring.
How can anyone listen to Vin Scully and find baseball boring?
Jeff Hem takes minor league baseball to another level when he’s doing play by play for the Nashville Sounds. Recently, I had a chance to ask him some questions about baseball, the Texas Rangers and of course if you have read any of my other interviews his favorite meal.
GS- Jeff, I appreciate you taking the time to answer some questions for me. Tell me, what’s the transition been like with the Sounds now the AAA affiliate of the Rangers from the A’s?
Jeff- It’s been exciting for the Sounds organization. The Rangers have really wrapped their arms around the Sounds. They sent a number of attendees to the press conference announcing the affiliation, they supported us at our rebrand unveiling, including sending Pudge Rodriguez, and they and the Sounds management and ownership worked together very quickly to make an exhibition game happen, which is not easy to coordinate. And that was all before the start of the regular season! It’s also been fun to see the response from so many people around Middle Tennessee who are excited about the affiliation and have some connection to Texas and/or have always followed the Rangers.
GS- So far in 2019 the Sounds have got off to a rough start. With that said, what positives have you seen with the team in 2019?
Jeff-There have been a lot of positives, and hopefully the win-loss record is starting to turn too (the team has won three of their last four as I type). The fun part about covering a Triple-A team is that it’s so tied to the major league club and you often get to see players who are close to having an impact. Willie Calhoun is off to a good start at the plate, and he’s going to start playing a little second base again to keep that part of his game fresh. Patrick Wisdom just came back from the Rangers, but I’ve seen him play so well at Triple-A the last couple years and really believe he can have a long major league career. Brett Martin got off to a great start in the regular season after a strong spring and is now contributing in Texas. Eli White has a lot of dimensions to his game…he’s hitting well, gives great at-bats, has some speed, can play shortstop and center field. He’s fun to watch. And in the bullpen, Brady Feigl is putting himself in position for a call-up, in my opinion. A lefty who throws 94-95 mph, throws strikes and attacks.
GS- Give me 1 player to look out for that isn’t on anyone’s radar yet and why.
Jeff- See above, but I’d say Feigl at this point. He’s 28 years old and has never been to the big leagues, so he’s not going to be in any prospect rankings. But he’s fearless on the mound and throws strikes. He’s walked only one batter this year, and last night against Omaha he came in and got behind 3-0 on a hitter before coming back to get him out like it was no big deal.
GS- What keeps you busy during the off-season?
Jeff- I’m a full-time Sounds employee and part of our corporate partnerships team, so I’m in the office during the off-season working as part of our sales force. I also broadcast some high school and college football and basketball on radio and TV, and I have a wife and two young kids. So, the longer I’m in this business the more I really believe there’s no such thing as an “off-season”!
GS- What are your hobbies?
Jeff- With the length of our season and the travel involved, any family time I can get with my wife and kids during the season is gold. Beyond that, I never turn down a crossword or sudoku puzzle, coffee and a newspaper. And I love running…I don’t get in as many miles as I used to, but I try to get out a few times a week, and every day when we’re on the road. I’m also a sports broadcasting nerd…I enjoy reading about the industry and listening to Podcasts.
GS-Tell me one thing about yourself that maybe no one else knows about you.
Jeff- A lot of people outside the industry probably wouldn’t realize that I work year-round and am a full-time Sounds employee. Especially when affiliation changes happen, sometimes people are surprised that I’m not a Rangers employee or that I wouldn’t have gone to Las Vegas with the A’s.
GS-Favorite Home Cooked Meal?
Jeff- We make a lot of salmon because my kids love it. And if we have a day game or an off day at home, I love grilling steaks.
GS- In addition to writing articles for Ranger fan pages I’m the Head Pitmaster of the Compete BBQ Team here in Oklahoma City. Convince me why Nashville BBQ is better!
Jeff- We have some great barbecue places in Nashville, but something tells me you’ll be a hard guy to convince on this. And I do love our trips to OKC because there’s great food in that city, but overall no one can convince me that there’s a better food city in the Pacific Coast League than Nashville. And Nashville has hot chicken, so Music City will always win!
Challenge Accepted Jeff…….
As you can tell, Jeff is an extremely busy guy and is dedicated to Nashville and all things Sounds. He has been great to talk to and can’t wait to meet him in Oklahoma City May 7-10 when the Sounds come through.