The ultimate compliment for Charlie Slowes comes after a loss, when Nats fans tell the team’s radio play-by-play announcer that they enjoyed the broadcast despite the result.
Which means for Slowes and his partner, Dave Jageler, there have been plenty of opportunities for such compliments during their six seasons together in the booth. Slowes called the team’s inaugural 2005 campaign and was joined by Jageler in 2006; the team is 148 games under .500 since their pairing.
That Slowes and Jageler have nevertheless become D.C.’s most popular radio broadcast team, at least judging from my readers’ comments, is a testament to their chemistry, humor and grace, even during losses. But with the Nats generating the most local and national buzz for any spring training since 2005, the radio dynamic might be about to change.
“I’ve always said to Dave, no matter what, we’ve got to have a good time,” Slowes told me from his offseason home in Florida last week. “If we have a good time doing the broadcast, the audience will have a good time, even if the result isn’t what they wanted. And if we’ve developed a following when the team hasn’t won, the following will get better when they win. If there are people who used to listen for us, now they’re gonna listen for us and the team.”
Slowes, if you think about it, is one of the very few public figures associated with the Nationals remaining from their first season in Washington. The team has changed its ownership, front office and manager, hired new television broadcasters, introduced new mascots, and turned over its roster entirely, but Slowes has remained. (Who else? PR guy John Dever. MLB.com writer Bill Ladson. Clubhouse manager Mike Wallace? Open to more suggestions.)
Slowes was paired with Dave Shea in 2005, before Jageler was hired shortly before the 2006 season from the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox. The latter was initially hesitant to inject humor into the broadcast, attempting to prove that he was a big-league announcer, but as the new pair settled in, that gradually changed.
“When the team started losing, I told him you know what, we can’t always do the games straight, because people aren’t going to listen,” said Slowes, who had some experience in such matters, having worked for the Bullets from 1986-1997 and then for the expansion Devil Rays. “We have to keep the audience somehow, so come with me wherever we may go, without ignoring or losing respect for the game. No matter what, that’s why we’re there. And it just worked
“You get lucky a little bit with chemistry. It either works or it doesn’t. We prepare in similar ways, we think similarly about how we should approach play-by-play, and after a while we could pretty much finish each others’ sentences. It’s a little bit of luck when that happens.”
Slowes also said they’ve been given the freedom to shape the broadcast as they like, and have never been micro-managed by Nats executives. Like just about everyone else affiliated with the team, though, the radio men would benefit from a winning team, which is why this spring holds so much promise for them as well.
They’ll broadcast 10 spring training games, starting with the March 3 opener, and with a spring squad featuring Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg and what some are calling a playoff-caliber roster, Nats fans will almost certainly be listening.
“It’s much easier to do games for a team that’s winning, there’s no doubt about that,” Slowes said. “It’s always good to be the messenger of good news. People are more apt to nitpick with your broadcast when they’re not happy with what’s going on the field. That’s just a natural thing.
“You don’t usually see teams change broadcasters when their team is winning World Series. If your team wins, your broadcasters become more popular. More people are listening, more people are following you and you become a part of the story. When the games are great, and the story line is there, and the team is playing well, it’s almost like the game does itself for you.”
(Photo via MissChatter.com .)