Twins eye Royals' Ryan Lefebvre for play-by-play job

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 28, 2011 - 6:23 AM

Former Twins broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre is the front-runner to take over play-by-play duties for the retiring John Gordon.

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A former All-Big Ten outfielder for the Gophers, Ryan Lefebvre spent four years working with the Twins before taking a job with the Royals.

When John Gordon announced that 2011 would be his final season as radio voice of the Twins, the team began hearing from interested applicants almost immediately.

A comprehensive search for a replacement now is nearing an end, and a voice familiar to longtime Twins fans has emerged as the clear favorite.

Ryan Lefebvre, who worked on Twins radio and television broadcasts from 1995 to 1998 before spending the past 13 years as a Royals broadcaster, could get an offer from the Twins soon, according to people familiar with the search.

Others under consideration include Kris Atteberry from the current Twins broadcast team, Class AAA Rochester broadcaster Josh Wetzel and Brewers broadcaster Cory Provus.

The Twins officially posted the job in early August, and more than 120 people, including about 18 current major league broadcasters and dozens more with minor league experience, sent résumés, references and audio clips.

Andy Price, the Twins' senior director of broadcasting and game presentation, said the team has narrowed its original list to seven or eight names.

"It could be done in a week to 10 days if everything goes exactly as we've got planned," Price said.

Price declined to discuss specific candidates but detailed a process the Twins have taken very seriously. The last time they hired someone with an eye toward making them the team's lead radio voice was 1987, when they hired Gordon from the Yankees to join Hall of Fame broadcaster Herb Carneal.

"The simple philosophy is to find the best broadcaster out there," Price said. "You close your eyes and find a voice that jumps out at you, that calls an intelligent game but yet shows his personality and can have some fun while doing that."

As the applications arrived, Price and other Twins officials listened to their audio clips but also looked for chances to hear them live on the Internet or XM Radio.

The Twins whittled their original list to 12 names and played audio samples for focus groups -- some made up of Twins employees and others with people from outside the organization.

"In every focus group, we had what I would call expert baseball listeners and novice baseball listeners, trying to get a good feel of the entire realm," Price said. "And in both the internal and external focus groups, a lot of what we were believing was borne out."

The Twins know this voice will become an everyday companion for their fans, playing on car rides and lingering in the background at summer barbecues.

"I wanted somebody who could call the game so that when you're at home scoring it, you don't have to guess what happened on the play," Price said. "This guy has to be the eyes of the radio listener. I wanted somebody who's going to make me laugh during the broadcast, somebody who's going to bring the best out of Danny [Gladden], as an analyst and as a partner. I was listening for the entire package."

Gladden will be entering his 13th year in the Twins broadcast booth next season and his ninth as a full-time analyst. His fondness for Gordon was evident Sept. 28, when the Twins honored him before his final broadcast. Gladden had a tough time composing himself as he gave his remarks.

"The teamwork and the chemistry are important up there in the radio booth," Gladden said. "I think the Twins have taken that into consideration."

The Royals were at Target Field on Sept. 28, and the Twins asked the 40-year-old Lefebvre to speak during Gordon's tribute. Lefebvre praised Gordon for being such a strong mentor during the mid-1990s.

Gladden and Lefebvre haven't worked together in the broadcast booth, but Gladden came through the Giants' minor league system in the early 1980s, when Lefebvre's father, Jim, was working as San Francisco's hitting coach.

Jim Lefebvre was the 1965 National League Rookie of the Year with the Dodgers and went on to manage the Mariners, Cubs and Brewers. Growing up, Ryan spent his summers tagging along in big league clubhouses with his dad. The younger Lefebvre was a three-time All-Big Ten outfielder for the Gophers.

After graduating, he played one season in the Indians farm system before going to work for WCCO Radio and Midwest Sports Channel, broadcasting the Twins along with Gophers football, hockey and volleyball.

The Royals lured Lefebvre away from the Twins in 1999 with their No. 2 radio job, behind Hall of Famer Denny Matthews. In 2003, Lefebvre started doing about 25 to 40 games per year on the TV side, and he has been their lead TV play-by-play man for the past four years.

It hasn't been all sunshine and lollipops. In 2006, Lefebvre went public about his battle with depression and later wrote a book called, "The Shame of Me: One Man's Journey to Depression and Back."

Lefebvre -- whose wife, Sarah, is expecting the couple's second child -- has told people he would be happy returning to full-time radio work. By next season, he might be back where his career started, as the lead radio voice for the Twins.

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