A familiar face and name will be back for Friday’s game between the Twins and Yankees.
Bob Costas, 67, may have left his position as NBC’s go-to host, but he is still calling games for the MLB Network, including the American League Division Series opener in New York. The Hall of Fame broadcaster took a time out Wednesday from doing his homework to talk about the matchup, which Minnesota player he’s most excited about keeping an eye on and how he would pay tribute to the Twins if they win it all.
Q What’s the proper way to describe you these days? Semiretired?
A Broadcast extraordinaire. Your majesty. For the time being I’m only calling games for the MLB Network, which I’ve been doing since they launched. I’m in a different stage of my career.
Q Does that mean you wouldn’t entertain doing something like a new version of “Later With Bob Costas”?
A If the right circumstances came along, I would. I really enjoy long-form interviewing both in and out of sports. I’m in the absolutely great position of not having to do anything unless I really want to do it.
Q There will some viewers tuning into Game 1 that haven’t watched the Twins at all this season. How much do you have to cater to them?
A Quite a bit. I have some experience with that going back to my NBC days. When I was doing the game of the week on Saturdays, a substantial amount of the audience would be made up of ardent fans. So if the Braves were playing, someone in Atlanta would complain, “Oh, I already know that about Chipper Jones.” Well, of course, you do. But someone in Tacoma might not. For the playoffs, you might have to spend time on background and lay out some broad strokes, particularly in that first game.
Q How much do you consider the viewer who doesn’t know the intricacies of the game?
A I don’t think we can act like the basic rules are foreign to the audience. That would get tedious. But if something comes up like the quirkiness of a particular ballpark or new rules about blocking the plate, you address it.
Q What about introducing these particular teams and their story lines?
A That’s part of it, especially when you’re doing the first game. But that’s the difference between calling a whole series and parachuting in. If you don’t get a note in, you can’t save it for the next night. You just have this one game. On the other hand, you can’t unload everything you know, even if the game goes 15 innings. The viewer doesn’t know what you’ve left in your briefcase. What matters most is: Does the broadcast flow? Did you have good calls? It’s not a seminar.
Q Which of the Twins players offer the most intriguing story line for newcomers to the team?
A There’s something about Willians Astudillo, “the Turtle,” that’s so enjoyable to watch. And it’s not just because he’s nimble and athletic, despite his unusual body type. He’s also an unusual player in that he hardly ever walks or strikes out.
Q Do you miss the chance to call a whole series or, going back to your early days, follow one team for the entire season?
A I always preferred doing a full series. You live through the nuances and been there every step of the way, so you can build a narrative. But the world changes. I’ve got no significant regrets. At one point, I got to know all the players when I was about their same age and was way younger than any of the managers. Now, I’m as old as the managers and twice as old as any of the players — except for Nelson Cruz.
Q You famously made “Kirby” one of your son’s middle names in honor of your old friend Kirby Puckett. What are you willing to do if the Twins win the World Series?
A If I had a pet turtle, I might consider naming it Willians. But I don’t have one. I should run to the pet store right now.