When it comes to building trust, in business or in baseball, it’s arguably the most critical component of a team’s success. In my years of experience as a sports broadcaster, trust has consistently been the make-it-or-break-it element on the diamond. As a motivational speaker, it’s a topic my audiences always want to explore in more detail. Baseball teaches so many lessons about trust it isn’t just fun to find parallels to the corporate boardroom, it’s also incredibly rewarding.
Rounding the Bases is my podcast about leadership and culture with a baseball twist. One recent interview brought a Major League discussion about America’s pastime and the impact of the pandemic on building trust. My guest was a media legend in the making and also someone I’m fortunate enough to count among my friends.
He’s someone who – like me – aspired to become a sports broadcaster, and has also been lucky enough to make that dream his reality. In the world of sports media, he’s nothing short of a trailblazer, even if he wouldn’t tell you so himself. He has claims to fame on both ESPN and NBC, though is best known as the voice of the Chicago White Sox. I’m joined in the virtual studio by the exuberant, quick witted Jason Benetti, the kid from the Southside who grew up to become a broadcast star in more ways than one.
SINGLE: The Color of Trust
Building trust in the world of sports announcing is just as important as building trust in business. During the pandemic, the advantage Jason had from fostering relationships with players was lost, along with his ability to connect and understand people on a human level. Analytics have a place and add value in their own way, but without any deeper conversation, the information being reported was all the same. He reflected, “In a world that needs colors and hues and shading, we had none of that. We were all stick figures. And that killed me.”
DOUBLE: Curiosity Wins
Some reporting is in pursuit of a headline, but Jason’s reporting is in genuine pursuit of the why. He brings a singular motive to his work, which is curiosity. In his experience, that also happens to be the very thing that matters most when building trust, in business or in baseball. While reading Judd Apatow’s book “Sick in the Head,” Jason noticed some interesting parallels between how he and the famed movie maker honed their skillsets. Both sought out the greats in their respective fields, and asked questions about how they became that way. The genuine interest is what led to a relationship, not the need for an answer.
TRIPLE: The Gift of Gravity
With great power comes great responsibility, and that is the charge of being a sports broadcaster. It’s a dream job for many, yes, but there is a certain gravity to the role as well. Every game is an opportunity to influence someone’s perception of the sport or even inspire the pursuit of something new. Without realizing it, his broadcast could be changing someone’s day, or even their life. “It’s phenomenally interesting to me,” Jason said, and a job he doesn’t take lightly.
HOME RUN: Building Trust In Your Abilities
Jason’s perspective on his career has always been influenced by a very simple principle. Make your work so good that they can’t say no. People will want to reject you, often for reasons that are entirely superficial. But if you’re really good at what you do, you’ll get hired to do it. No matter what. It’s an important lesson that can be applied to any profession, really. And if you can add value in a way that other people can’t, no matter your circumstances, you will stand out in the best kind of way.
Learn more about Building Trust in Business from Joel
Book Joel Goldberg for your next corporate event. He draws on over 25 years of experience as a sports broadcaster. In addition, he also brings unique perspectives and lessons learned from some of the world’s most successful sports organizations. Whatever your profession, Joel is the keynote speaker who can help your team achieve a championship state of mind.
Joel Goldberg 0:00
Welcome into Rounding the Bases the podcast about culture and leadership with a baseball twist presented by Community America Credit Union. I’m Joel Goldberg and I can’t wait for my guest today in part because I could see him in the greenroom and he was dancing to that song, but you’re not going to see that. You’ll have to believe me on it. The guest in just a moment. Quick shout out to my friends at Chief of Staff Kansas City. Whether you’re in Kansas City or all over the country, they get it making connections that matter, really thrilled to be partnered with them and doing a lot of different things in the culture aspect of the world. And if you’re looking to hire, if you’re looking to be hired, just check them out at chiefofstaffkc.com. I say this all the time on this podcast that while most of the guests are not necessarily baseball related, every now and then they are and today’s is, in a sense, although he’s got his hands in multiple sports and endeavors. Also happens to be a friend. So I could just sort of make up whatever intro I want. But I’ll go former here and formal here and say that on Rounding the Bases today, we have a man of my own heart. He’s someone who, like me, aspired to become a sports broadcaster, many years after me he’s much younger. And he’s also been lucky enough to make that dream his reality. He’s truly living his dream. In the world of sports media, he’s nothing short of a trailblazer. Even if he wouldn’t tell you that himself. Very humble. He has claims to fame on both ESPN and NBC but he’s best known these days as the voice of the Chicago White Sox. But every time I look up, he’s doing some other national games. Sometimes I feel like he’s announcing two games at once in multiple places. Maybe there’s more than one of Jason Benetti. He is exuberant, quick witted, and a good friend of mine. The kid from the Southside of Chicago who grew up to become a broadcast star in more ways than one. And he’s going to disagree with probably every one of those assessments because he’s very humble. Jason Benetti, how are you my friend?
Jason Benetti 2:16
I’m great, Joel, that was very nice of you. Thank you.
Joel Goldberg 2:20
I mean, like some of my friends, I would say, Yeah, I’m full of it. I don’t really mean it. I would never say. But I think the thing, we’ll get into your story and what you do and all that in a moment. But I feel like and I think that this is something about just the way you treat people the way about you go about like, I feel like everywhere you go, you have these great connections, like everybody gravitates over to come see Jason. Let’s get some information about the White Sox. Let’s catch up with Jason. But I feel like, I don’t know you always have a smile on your face. You’re always happy at the ballpark. And I’m assuming I think that’s just the person that you are, which can be rare in our business sometimes.
Jason Benetti 2:56
Yeah, I appreciate you saying that. I also think that your TV crew and I have just meshed really really well. Like I love you guys. Like it’s, it’s I missed seeing you and Rhino and Rex and Fizz and Steve Stewart, I like I missed all you.
Joel Goldberg 3:18
Do you have something against Monty or no?
Jason Benetti 3:20
Monty. Monty as well. Yeah, no, it’s, it’s, I was going random alphabetical there. It’s the No, it’s like in order to get life to be something that is on a daily basis fulfilling and enjoyable, I tend to think there’s got to be something novel about every day. And over the course of 162 games I struggle with it all being the same. And I need to have those things in my day that are different. I mean, we all need anchors, right? We all need things that we do every day to make us good at our jobs. That’s terribly important. But I really crave the thing that makes this day at the ballpark different. And sometimes that’s just in a conversation or a riff or like whatever it is. That’s what I love about getting to be in ballparks again, is like even a walk around the concourse or a conversation with an usher or something that just makes this one day on the calendar different because I just I feel like things get mundane very quickly, especially when we were cooped up for for a year, year and a half. It was all the same over and over again and chance meetings and chance conversations were gone. And I missed that more than I ever thought I would.
Joel Goldberg 4:44
That’s such a profound, at least to me a profound statement because you just put into words what I felt the last two years or what I’m feeling this year and I think as you know this is As much as a podcast about other things in business in life, and I think that’s what a lot of people feel as they’ve gone back to work no matter what they do, because, and look, we figured out how to make this work virtually. But this isn’t purely a baseball thing. Like we had to be in person, a lot of people had to be in person, we figured out how to make it work the other way, it did work the other way as much as possible. But for all the talk about how hard it was, like people to me all the time would say, how hard is it to do your job? Well, for pre and post, I could do my job from, you know, anywhere in the world and probably be okay, in terms of doing the show. For you guys calling that off of the monitor? I don’t know how you did it, but you did it, you made the best of it. But what was missing, certainly from my job, but also for yours was that connectivity. And, you know, from a reporting standpoint, and informational standpoint, there’s nothing like seeing someone face to face learning those stories, getting to know them. But I think there’s something more important for the soul, what you’re talking about, is that interaction that we had missed and and that might be that usher at Guaranteed Rate Field that you haven’t seen in two years that you just don’t always poke at and jab back and forth with or whoever it is right? The security guard, the clubhouse attendant, I don’t know that you could put a price on that type of stuff.
Jason Benetti 6:17
No, and and, you know, it’s interesting, as you’re talking about, like, what it does for the job, and then what it does for the soul, when you are a person where your soul sometimes or a lot of the time is informed by my job, you know, I, I miss the idea of being able to have a conversation one on one with somebody. Because I know and you know that when you’re on a zoom call with 20 people, the person you’re talking to, if they don’t trust one of those 20 people, they’re going to be guarded. And they’re going to, they’re going to be antiseptic, they’re not going to give you the guts of their soul or even like why baseball matters to them or something funny that they’re willing to say to you, because they know you’re going to say it in a way that won’t be aggressive that you’ll just tell their story. And so, on the other hand, just in terms of the jobs specifically, I felt like my advantage was gone. Like that. That’s a little bit that’s a little bit like capitalistic and pragmatic for what we’re talking about. But, you know, there are 30 play by play announcers in Major League Baseball, and there are 200 play by play announcers in minor league baseball, and, you know, some of us love to go into the clubhouse and talk to guys and some of us don’t, we just see the job differently. And I feel like when you sit me down with a player, I’m going to ask them questions that maybe they haven’t been asked before, I’m going to ask them stupid questions, too. And they’ll have heard them before. But I asked him to, to get in to the conversation, whatever it is, right. And I’m not perfect. But I felt like my advantage was gone. Because I do think I understand people on a human level, maybe a little bit better than the average human. And I wasn’t getting anything that was new. Like everything that I was saying was stuff that was published. And that like, I’ll go be an accountant, if that’s the case, like, it’s gonna st the same thing every day. I don’t really have that. That verb for it, because I can’t tell you anything that you couldn’t have read somewhere else. And I don’t want to be a robot I at that point, I started to really understand and in a couple other ways, but I started to really understand why some players push back against. Well, the numbers told us to do this. So we did this. I am a huge analytics guy, I think they can really inform your knowledge of the game. If you’re not a scout, you can learn how to scout quote unquote, through them and you can gain knowledge about who does what well as a starting point is an entryway as like a direct line into the deeper stuff about baseball. But for me, like I don’t want to be just like oh, well it’s play by play. And so you do play by play in this way. And that’s the end of it. There’s an advantage there you can be a better play by play announcer because of X or Y or Z whatever you feel that is we all became the same we all became 30 people doing play by play in largely the same way and in a world that needs colors and hues and shading we had none of that we were all stick figures and that like killed me.
Joel Goldberg 9:37
It’s so true and you’re right everybody has a different style. Yours is one I think I think you all as play by play announcers are storytellers. But I do think there’s this danger right now in this game. I don’t know. I mean, you do a lot of football and basketball too. Everybody’s analytics driven right now that’s true in all walks of life. But if that’s all you are, we are robots at that point. And it did feel very robotic, the last two years, it was fine. The best compliment that I could hear about our group was people saying we didn’t, we couldn’t tell the difference. Now, in some, in one sense, I’m not saying it was insulting, but it was like, no, no, no, we’re a lot better than this. And you’re not noticing. At the same time, I thought it was a feather in the cap of all of our people to pull it off. Because in the end, that people just want to watch the game. And they don’t need to hear us complaining about the pandemic and all the things that are going along. So I think that there were a lot of lessons learned. But in the end, and I say it over and over and over again, it comes down to people. And it comes down to telling their stories, which is something that I know that you absolutely love doing. And when you spend that time I was standing with you by the visiting dugout at Kauffman Stadium last month, and, and Dylan Cease walked by, and I could just watch by the interaction you introduced us, but I could watch by the interaction, how much you crave that engagement. But I think also he did, too, which is a sign I might be going off on a different tangent here of the trust that you have to work that I have to work to build every single day with these athletes. Look, guys like me and you, we’re not former players. So we have to earn that respect every single day, I assume you see that the same way too, more so we’re not in the fraternity? And so we have to let them know that we respect them belong in that world is that? Do you see it that way?
Jason Benetti 11:34
I see it that way. In Part, I agree very much that when you land on one of those relationships where people trust you, they, you know, the best thing anybody can say is like he just gets it. And I think that’s it. That encompasses a lot of interactions and a lot of personality traits. But you know, what I do think in part on all that is, it’s it’s much more about curiosity. Like I, I don’t have to and you don’t have to, you have to do a pre and post game show and I have to go on during the game. But we don’t need sound bites per se, right? Like if you get a good sound bite, you can use a good sound bite. But I also think that there’s a different type of reporting that we do. And it’s to understand the details and the why. And I think the people who trust me most in that clubhouse are the ones who know that when they do poorly, I will come up to them and say, Hey, what are you like, what’s going on? How are you? Where are you? What’s happening? And it’s literally because I want to know, I would like to know the answer. I’m not playing Gotcha. I’m not looking for a headline. And I don’t say that to disparage journalists, because they are on deadline. But I, I could not do that job. Because to need a soundbite is to take away from the core of what gets you long term success and understanding people. Because then you’re basically saying Open a vein. And I don’t ever want to ask a question because I need the answer. That’s not how relationships work. And so I it’s funny I’ve been I read a year and a half ago, Judd Apatow, the movie makers first book called Sick in the Head and it’s an interview with all these comics. And his next one Sicker in the Head is comics and other entertainers and things like that. And I really gravitated toward Judd Apatow because in part when I was younger, I just sent my tapes to a lot of sports casters that I thought were really good. And I was like, hey, teach me like what needs to be better here? What can be better? What can be good? It was never like, can you get me a job? It was I literally don’t know what’s good and what’s not good? Can you help me with that? Judd Apatow did the same thing as a high school or on Long Island. He like called up Jerry Seinfeld’s people and interviewed Jerry Seinfeld. He has all these old interviews. That’s how he got on The Larry Sanders Show because he interviewed Gary Shandling and my understanding of it. So he had all these ins with comedians because he just wanted to know how they became funny. And I was reading his interview recently with Cameron Crowe, who did Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire. And Cameron Crowe did the same thing with musicians and he became a writer for Rolling Stone and then became a great movie maker. It’s so interesting to me how much we all sort of landed on the same thing in our own fields. Like find the greats and ask them what they do. But to me, that’s why I’m always I would always be unable to get a sound bite, because that just doesn’t compute for me.
Joel Goldberg 14:49
It’s everything you’re saying is, at least to me exactly what it is and that curiosity leads to trust. Whether so you’re being curious, you’re wanting to better yourself, as a young broadcaster eventually leads to these relationships with some of these people. And so you’re just asking for their expertise and validating their, their standing, their knowledge. I mean, we all want validation that by the way, that’s true from the biggest superstar in any game to, if you respect them and validate and, and are interested in their opinion, their touch to be able to give that back more times than not. That’s I think where we mess up, Jason is that we want to get to the end right away. Right? We forget about everything in the middle of the process, which which betters us anyway.
Jason Benetti 15:45
Yeah. And I think sort of the rambling that can happen, the roving the grazing that can happen, where it’s not like I taught SAT and ACT prep for a little while. And it’s like, get a good score. Like, it’s not really about the teaching, it’s about teaching to a score. And I can do that. But it’s uncomfortable for me. Because I think where this all meets, like the corporate world is, in order to do a job that’s high level, in order to get that job in the first place. You have to stand out in some way. And I think at the very least when you reach out to somebody and want to talk about the craft of what they do, you at least stand out from the group of people who send the easy email that says, Can you get me a job? Can we network, that’s sort of like antiseptic language that suggests a social climber. Whereas when you want to talk about the craft, if you if you know, the type of person, like I would rather talk about why I decided to say something a certain way than what the job markets like. Because I don’t think that leads to like sustainability. Particularly it might lead to getting you an in, but figuring out how to be different in a, in a career, let’s face it, like there are a ton of young announcers now. So in order to stand out, it’s, it’s even more difficult than when you and I started this. And so you have to basically understand that what you’re doing by instinct, when you begin though you have great taste for it. If you watch a lot of games or listen to games, your instinct is probably going to be something that people have done already. And that’s why you have to like rifle through what the options are for you how to do everything, because learning what has already been done is one of the most valuable experiences anybody can have, I feel like.
Joel Goldberg 17:46
And so few. I don’t think this is just a broadcast thing. But I think it’s it’s all walks of life. But what when you can figure out how to be a little bit different than everyone else. What’s really all that takes is again, that deeper connection, not just hey, can you help me? Do you know anybody that has a job opening? Hey, do you know, you know, hey, I’m interested in and by the way, it’s deeper than just in our world, can you give me criticism on this? On this, this tape this reel on my demo reel? That’s fine, everybody wants that. And, and I’m always happy to do that. It might take me a while to get through it. Because I won’t just look in and write, you know, one paragraph on it. I’m gonna break it all down and give them their money’s worth. But it can take some time. But when they start to hate digging deeper with some thought provoking questions, and hey, how did you go about this? That’s the stuff that, to me is memorable, and you can tell right away to if, if they don’t go there, they’re never gonna go there. If they go there, they kind of have that feel. Alright, I want to get back on track because I was thinking about this the other day. I love what I speak to groups, a lot of motivational speaking, my opening line is usually never underestimate the power of the dream. And I say that because I’m in my speeches are mostly about culture. But I say that because we all are dreamers we always have been, we always will be even once we’ve accomplished what we dreamed of, we still dream of more things. So to me, I don’t know if you saw this or not. But I think we had the best dreaming type of story in my 15 years of Royals baseball last week, with the pitcher that comes in having been released in 2017. His name is Jose Cuas by the Milwaukee Brewers after they’d converted him from an infielder, former college hitter, to a pitcher. They caught him and he goes back home to New York, and he’s working for FedEx delivering 200 packages a day, and then is throwing to his brother in 20 degrees in the park at 9-10 at night every night after 12 hour days and he makes the Big Leagues. Like this thing is straight out of Hollywood. That to me is as good as it gets. I don’t know that my dream was as big as that. At but I dreamed of being a broadcaster and at work like I’m not a former athlete, and it worked. In your case, you’re broadcasting for your childhood team. You are the voice of your childhood team. Oh, by the way, there might be a disability in there too, which which I do want to talk about, but you’re you’re calling the games of your team. At what point do you stop pinching yourself with that?
Jason Benetti 20:25
Yeah, it’s um it’s funny because there there are days we get back from a road trip. And I’m like, oh, ballparks still smells like I remember. Right? Like I I know where I used to get the helmet sundaes, right? That is a sensory thing that will never go away. And I I just know my way around the park and I know what Sox fans are like, because I was around them for a long time. And I’m not saying every Sox fan is the same but like, I know Chicago. I like I know. That’s why we play Is It Raining on our telecasts. Like when when it rains in the Chicago area, we play a game called #isitraining. And it started because in like 2018 I think we had dark clouds overhead and a game and some fans started tweeting at us. Oh, it’s raining in Joliet. You guys are gonna get it real soon. Like, oh, it’s raining in Oaklawn, it’s buckets, right? People in Chicago, love telling you when it’s raining in their neighborhood. My grandmother lived a couple blocks from us in my first six, seven years of life. And she would call us, she would go is it raining by you? You’re like, yeah, it just started. Oh, it’s coming down crazy here. And she called my uncle and they live, you know, 10 minutes away. People love calling and saying it’s raining in their neighborhood in Chicago. And so like that’s what’s fun for me is I grew up knowing like the people who are like eh, Bears? The bears are terrible this year, the whole thing. Like I live that and it’s really fun for me to get to do these games because I get the atmosphere I think for the most part of being a Sox fan.
Joel Goldberg 22:14
What what age did you dream of this job? Or did you not? Did you dream of something else?
Jason Benetti 22:20
So I I had written I forgot about this, but like my mom on earth it in some sense of blackmail. When I first got the White Sox job. I wrote in like third grade or seventh, I’m going to be the next. I want to be the next voice of the White Sox just like Hawk Harrelson. And the most amazing part of that, to me is that he was the guy that was still doing it when I came of an age where I could do it. Right. Like it wasn’t, hey, I want to be the voice of the White Sox. There were five guys, you know, there was rotating door. It was Hawk. And it’s crazy. But you know, when you’re a kid, it’s, I think about this quite often about things that I say on TV, or like walking by people on a concourse or something. As a child, or even a young adult, the smallest dumbest, most infinitesimally tiny experiences can make you do a career. Like I grew up watching Hawk. And so I was like, Alright, I’m going to be a sports announcer. If my high school didn’t have a radio station, though, who knows what I would have been? Right. And I when I was a senior in high school, my mom got to Bob Grimm, the longtime director of broadcasting for the Sox and I actually took a tour of the booths. And I sat in with John Rooney and Ed Farmer, for an inning. And like, watch them do what they did. And they were very kind to me, and you have these early experiences. And it either pushes you toward or away from a career and I, I think about that a lot, Joel of like, I’m gonna say something tonight that might make somebody love baseball forever or hate it. I think that is our charge. And that’s it’s not a burden. But that’s, um, that’s the distinctly important thing we can do on a nightly basis without even realizing it is like, some kid is like, Oh, I like this, or I am enjoying this conversation or I can be this i. It’s phenomenally interesting to me.
Joel Goldberg 24:31
Well, I mean, if you grew up loving sports, as a kid, we all had those experiences. I mean, the greatest announcer in the history of the world to me is Harry Callus because I grew up a Phillies fan. It doesn’t matter, he was my guy. Right? And so those are the homerun calls. Those are the sayings. Those are the stories that resonate in my head from sitting in my room trying to dial it up on the radio back when we had those type of things and you know, And that would bounce between TV and radio. But he was my guy. And so to be that person to someone else is incredibly empowering to hear even at this point, you’ve been doing this long enough now that you’ll have people come up, that might be 18-19 years old and say, Hey, I listened to you. And it always makes us I think, feel a bit old. But it’s also the coolest thing. Cool is maybe not the right word, but it’s just the most humbling thing to know that you are living in someone’s world on a regular basis. And that’s the power of this to me that’s that goes well beyond a game. Well, what was it like replacing a legend? I mean, that that isn’t always an easy thing. I suspect that it helped that you are a local guy. But Hawk Harrelson was part of people’s lives for decades.
Jason Benetti 25:48
Yeah, it was, um, and I think the word I would use for what we were talking about earlier is like gravity. Like there’s there’s a gravity and a responsibility to knowing that you can change people’s days. And that’s what’s hard for me with the team losing some games with expectations. It’s like, people turn on the game to have a happy moment. And they’re losing. And it’s like, I don’t want to bring sad into your living room. But but when it comes to Hawk, he was, like, You’ve known him for a long time. Hawk is his own man, and I didn’t know what I was gonna get. Like, it could have easily been cold shoulder, it could have easily been shenanigans. And I’m telling you, like, I don’t, I don’t want to hurt his reputation. But he was a sweetheart. Like he was he was really kind and generous. And we had some deep conversations, especially early on, about like, me being me and him being him, and it all gonna work out fine. And I kind of give credit to the Sox fans to like, to have the range to enjoy both me and Hawk is not I mean, it’s not like we’re similar at all. We’re not even close to the same person. But I think where we overlap is, is passion for people and for stories. Like I really do. Even when Hawk was frustrated about stuff. He still is a great storyteller. I mean a great storyteller. And so I think that’s where we overlap. And I, I kinda love that it’s gone. Like, he’s a Hall of Famer. And I’m in the seat now. And people just continue to enjoy Sox games. And that to me is the best of both worlds because neither of us is dealing with not being the other one not that he would ever deal with that you know what I mean? But like there could have been a group that’s like Hey, forget about him we got the new guy and it wasn’t that and it’s never been that. It’s we loved Hawk and the people who love me love me too. And and the work and I appreciate the heck out of that because it never became about one or the other. It really didn’t
Joel Goldberg 28:01
I think to me in the simplest form that that says it was meant to be your that you were the right guy I mean that no for the city for the fan base for there was a comfort level you were one of them you if they tried to bring in another Hawk it wouldn’t have worked because there is no other Hawk I mean, you know Ken Hall Carlson who by the way, for a lot of the audience, which is Kansas City based for me, my older audience, at least will remember Hawk Harrelson making his big league debut back in the early 60s, 1963 with the Kansas City A’s. But a legend that I, you know, he’s a guy by the way, and I grew up on on the north shore in Chicago, at least we moved there when I was 13. From Philadelphia, I couldn’t be a Cubs fan, even if all my friends were Cubs fans because they were in the same division as the Phillies. So I adopted the White Sox as my team. I you know, I loved Robin Ventura, and Frank Thomas and, and Ice and, and all of those guys. And so I was listening to Hawk and Wimpy as a kid growing up and then to and I know this is much bigger deal for you. But, but to then be doing Royals games, and to meet Hawk and have him say, Oh, come on in here, grab some bench, let’s talk and just sit there and listen to him tell stories for 30 minutes and like I got my own personal broadcast here. So even as an adult, even as someone that had been in the game for a bit, I was still that kid, I was still having those experiences that you’re talking about giving others. So I mean, it’s just it’s a powerful thing. One more thing in terms of broadcasting and working the booth to replace a legend and to work with a legend. I mean, Steve Stone was known as a Cubs guy growing up. It’s very possible and I know that you’re biased here. And I don’t mean this as a knock on anyone else. It’s very possible. Steve Stone is the best analyst in all baseball. He, you can make arguments for a lot of people. All I know is this when I listened to Stoney I’m entertained, and I’m informed. I learned something every time and I’m smiling. That’s part of the chemistry. How mind blowing is it? I don’t know if that’s the right word to sit next to that guy. I read an article a few years back where he basically said that he’s, he, what did you describe him as? A fortune teller as a? What was the?
Jason Benetti 30:22
Healy claims, he claims he’s psychic and I believe it.
Joel Goldberg 30:25
Yeah. But which by the way, your manager right now who was my first manager in baseball, Tony La Russa always had the I don’t have a crystal ball or the crystal ball. I can’t see the future. What? Well Stoney can.
Jason Benetti 30:38
Yeah, it seems like I mean, Joel, like I I don’t believe in that stuff, as a rule. And there have been times where he will slide me a piece of paper like Carnac, but he’s not doing a bit. And it’ll say like a brand new single. And then I open it after the inning, and it has happened. And he’ll say, you know, I think he did it the other day, like a Brady was gonna break up the no hitter. Whap right field double. Like, Hey, buddy, here’s the thing. These are specific, very specific calls that he makes, and his hit rate is well over 85%. Like it’s 90, 95% when he says it and it happens. Absurd. That’s alarming. I mean, that’s scary. And so as I you know, I grew up a Sox fan, but you know what it was like, you’d come home and the Cubs would be on WGN because they play those one to 120 home games. So I I watched a lot of Chip and Stoney and Harry and Stoney earlier. And so I when I hear his voice, I just think of baseball. The first time we talked on the phone, I was like, Oh my gosh, Steve Stone is talking to me. And now. You know, it’s funny. We’re talking today because as we tape this today, it is the 40th anniversary of Steve’s first day in a broadcast booth. He worked with Al Michaels and a game in Montreal on ABC Monday Night Baseball, and it was June 7, 1982. So tonight actually on our telecasts as we tape this and people will watch it and be able to go back. We’ve got all sorts of surprises for Stoney tonight. He’s actually throwing out the first pitch, which I think is really cool. Because frankly, Stoney is a very interesting personality, you know, this, like he’s got his quirks. But he has for decades, been the least strong personality in a booth with Harry and with Hawk. And for years and years and years. It was like Harry and Stoney and Hawk and Stoney. And he wore that so well. And he was able to play that while still being his own person. I think working with Chip, working with Josh Lewin working with some others and me, I think is really a wheelhouse for Steve because he doesn’t have to do that act, he can just be more of him and have a bigger personality. And at work, like his ability to make it work with anybody is really impressive. Yeah.
Joel Goldberg 33:21
I think as far as the Carnac stuff goes, I think I when I read that article, it was it was so entertaining. I know, it’s been a few years. But I thought a little bit about Danny Matthews who I really don’t work with but you know, the voice of the Royal since 1969. And he seems to see things before they happen. And I just think that amidst all of the distractions in in the world, social media phones, if you and I’m not always good at this, if you just pay attention to the game, and you simplify, and you take the emotion out of it. And you’re just real. You can predict some things, Stoney’s at a higher level but it’s amazing how Danny can see things happen before they happen because if you’ve been around long enough there is a rhythm to this as much as we’re often surprised and so I think I think that he he must have this ability along with being extremely intelligent and former silent and all that type of stuff of of pushing all the noise away and stripping it down and saying this is what makes sense. I think that there’s a lot there a lot of lessons in that because we’re all pulled in so many directions. So um, before I get to my baseball themed questions I you know, I thought about holding off on talk about living with a disability and cerebral palsy because I think that anybody that watches listens to your broadcasts, whether it be White Sox, whether it be you know, now you’re a national baseball announcer on Peacock on Sundays and an NCAA basketball and NCAA football and what am I missing? What other sports do you do?
Jason Benetti 35:06
The electricians championship.
Joel Goldberg 35:09
You’re just a great broadcaster, who oh, by the way happens to have this disability. And I was curious if that is complemented. That’s you that is inspirational for others. You’re just a great broadcaster. You’re not a great broadcaster? Who have you not? I mean, like, how do you view that? Because I don’t I view you as just a great guy and broadcaster. Oh, by the way, yeah. Okay. He’s got several, but I don’t know, how do you view that?
Jason Benetti 35:37
Yeah, it’s, it’s so layered. Right. Like, I, I tend to think inspiration is what people decide it is. And, you know, you hear inspiration a lot. But there’s not like a What did they inspire me to do sort of thing. So if I’m inspirational for somebody, I hope it’s in hiring somebody who they made a first judgement about, and they were wrong about or something like that, right. And so I picked a career and Jerry Seinfeld has talked about comedy, as basically totally egalitarian. Like, if you’re funny, they’re gonna laugh. And if they laugh, they’re gonna hire you again. And if they continue to laugh, they’ll hire you again. And that’s the end of it. There’s nothing else in there. It’s just are you good? Or aren’t you? And my whole deal the whole time I’ve been doing this has been make the work good enough that they just can’t say no, for whatever superficial reason, right? Whether it’s, if you’re fat, or you have a giant mole on your cheek, or if you walk funny, or if your hair sucks, or whatever, right like that, whatever that might be. It’s is the work good enough that they can’t say no. And I think that has value in any walk of life. Not to be preachy or anything. But if you’re really good at what you do, you’re gonna get hired for what you do no matter what. And I think if there’s anything I quote, unquote, embody, it is that it’s like I, I never wanted to identify as a person with a disability, then I didn’t really I didn’t have friends with disabilities, like I actively avoided that because I didn’t want people to think that I was, I don’t know, like to be really crass. Like, when I was a kid, I probably thought of it as like, I don’t want to be one of the misfits, right, like I wanted to fit in very badly. And now I realize that. I don’t want to say what having a disability has taught me, because I think that can be trite. But I’ve realized over the set of circumstances, that is my life, that the thing you actually want to be is different than other people. You want to be unique, you want to add value in some way that other people don’t. And so I get to have that built in, along with the other sit like, you know, when Casper and I joke a lot, because he didn’t realize what it’s like to go around with me like so we travel on the road, and Len and I’ll go grab a bite to eat or something. And he marvels at the hit rate of the amount of times I get asked if I need an elevator when there’s a staircase involved. Like people just want to know if I want an elevator. And they’re being considerate, but it gets repetitive for me. And so there’s the I just have a different set of responses I get from people in daily life. And I’ve had to learn to cope with that.
Joel Goldberg 38:47
Right, because that doesn’t just suddenly go away.
Jason Benetti 38:50
No, and I’ve heard it for the millionth time, and they’ve said it once. Like they’ve never done that in their life. They don’t mean any harm. But I keep hearing it and I want to say no, no, you realize that I’m saying, You say that because I do that and this and it’s just this long coil of like social awkwardness. It’s like Curb Your Enthusiasm: Cerebral Palsy and Dish Edition and like I I don’t really, I tend to start to see it as just funny stories. Like it. It doesn’t affect me nearly as long as it used to like I used to get mad and I think what was wrapped around in that is that I thought I’d never get respected as a person
Joel Goldberg 39:34
I guess well, first off kudos for the for the reference of Curb Your Enthusiasm cuz you can never go wrong there. They should have you on an episode. Just talk to Larry. Larry David’s a baseball fan.
Jason Benetti 39:48
Yeah, we could we could do some awkward moments together. Where I get asked three times. If I can handle the exit row door. There was like an 80 year old couple across the aisle from me on a flight a couple years ago and the woman the flight attendant asked me three times if I could handle the exit row door. And you got like Rue McClanahan and her husband across, you know, I know she’s passed, but like and pick any of the Golden Girls across with her husband. And they’re like 85. And it’s like, Oh, they’ve got this. They’re fine. And me, You. Me? I know. Yeah, no chance. I’m not saving anybody in 15 D.
Joel Goldberg 40:25
All I know. I’m thinking about his episode with Michael J. Fox on Curb Your Enthusiasm a few years ago, which was like as preposterous as it gets with the clomping. The clompig. Yeah, yeah, that those the the person upstairs, right. Yeah, with. Anyway, I digress. And if people have no idea what we’re talking about, well, if you’d like Curb Your Enthusiasm, you know, I will tell you is this I’ve walked around the stadium with you. It’s a lot quicker walking around the stadium with you then Rex Hudler. This is why they’re always late for their intro and their open because he stops and talks to every person for 30 minutes.
Jason Benetti 41:02
Hey, hey, if we can’t win, I hope you do.
Joel Goldberg 41:09
Last thing, the baseball theme questions.
Jason Benetti 41:12
Joel? Hey, hey, it’s okay. It’s okay.
Joel Goldberg 41:16
As the great philosopher, Rex Hudler has often said every day is a day, every day. It’s a day, every day is a day, Goldie. There are, I would imagine, you know, you talked about reaching out to broadcasters, and so you have young kids reaching out to you with or without a disability. But I know that you have been really involved in the community, and that you did the awkward moments with Jason Benetti. Do you do you feel a responsibility of voice to be able to we’ll use the word inspire already but to be able to open some doors for others? Or do you see a role there for yourself?
Jason Benetti 42:02
I, it’s hard. The first thing I think is, when I was a kid, there was nobody with CP on television. And so to be a person with CP on television, I think is important. Because especially in an era where just about everybody has a role model on TV, of the color, of the gender, of the sexual orientation, whatever. Like, I think that’s really becoming very important for people to say, you know, especially for parents to say, hey, there’s reason not to give up, there’s reason to continue on and to do the tough stuff. I think that can be important. But I also am very wary of speaking for, quote unquote, the disability community on the whole. Because I know there are a lot of people who have more substantial physical problems in a major way than by a multiplier of 100 than I do. Like I’ve met some kids with CP who are nonverbal, who use wheelchairs, and use eye gaze technology to, you know, speak to communicate. And so, I am very wary of saying, like, everybody can do everything, because I think that’s really hard. And I think that short changes the amount of chronic pain some people live with, or the idea of not being able to get somewhere in a stadium because of a wheelchair or whatever it might be like, my problems are minimal compared to that. But I also do think stigma exists. And I think sometimes stigma can overcome even physical hurdles in what makes life difficult for people trying to get a job, especially in a performance space. Right, like, RJ Midi of Breaking Bad. Walt Jr. has CP. And he has a different version of it than I do and that his speech is more effective than than mine. And he walks differently than I do. But that’s fantastic. Because like, yeah, I can be a sports announcer with CP but I’m not on camera very much at all. And I’m not walking around. And so like, I think about I think often actually about kids, like if I, if I were young again, and I were to have seen RJ Midi on Breaking Bad. Would I have thought, oh, maybe I should be an actor, right? Like when you have the ability to connect the dots of this person does this, this person looks like me. Maybe I can do this. Because this person looks like me. I wonder what I would have done because it never stretched like I always wanted to do radio, because I never wanted to be on TV because I was never comfortable with the way I looked in terms of what society would think and what I thought about myself. So I just wonder if that happened earlier if I might have thought otherwise, of doing something else performance wise, you know, because that’s an option now.
Joel Goldberg 44:59
Right? All right, interesting. But here you are on TV. And you got the thoughts. You’re shaking your head.
Jason Benetti 45:10
I mean often like It’s like they put me on television. Why? Like, that doesn’t happen a whole lot in our society. We’re like, I can’t look directly at camera one of my eyes is like always in another conversation.
Joel Goldberg 45:22
I think there’s a beauty to the fact that it still works perfectly and so or it may be perfect is the wrong word. But it leads to perfection. It really does. I mean, it’s just it’s a thing of beauty to listen and watch you on all sports. You know, I particularly love when I get a chance on an off day to to see you and Stoney, but it’s just I love when I’m in the offseason and I turn on ESPN and, and like, there’s Jason and I get to settle in which is, you know, just to see a friend and to know, the way you work is a good thing. So baseball theme questions I’ve gone long, I knew I would. But I don’t have a producer yelling at me to wrap it up like we do. And we have you on Royals Live, let’s go, let’s go. We’ve gone six minutes. It’s a three minute segment, biggest homerun that you have hit professionally. I say when I have a baseball player on the show every now and then I’ll say well, it can be either a homerun that you’ve hit or just something important in your career. So I’ll say it this way to you. The biggest homerun for you can either be a career achievement or or a homerun call wherever you want to go with it.
Jason Benetti 46:27
Yeah, I think the the moment for me, that brings me the most joy is when Bill Walton did Sox Angels with me. Because for three and a half hours, we were basically doing whatever. And, and baseball was happening. And we were using baseball as the jumping off point. But we’re doing whatever. And I love the way that man’s mind works or doesn’t or does or doesn’t, you know, he’s, he is all over the place. But he also is a very curious, intriguing person and to call him a friend. And to have done that for that night. I was up until about three in the morning after that game, because I was on such a high of wow, that was fun. That was great. That was just phenomenally interesting all night long. And that that is number one. Very close behind is the first Statcast wild card game. We did Cubs-Rockies, ’18. We have such a good crew doing those games. And we it just worked. It matched and it worked. And it was like a five hour game. And it felt like it was two hours. And after that we closed down a restaurant bar on the north side. And I was up just feeling the energy off of the group. Like with Walton for days, like I love being with a great group like that. And Bill, Bills like working with a band.
Joel Goldberg 48:01
Remember the broadcast it was it was groundbreaking and nothing like that never been done before. And I hope you guys do it again. It was it was brilliant. How about a swing and a miss? And what did you learn from it?
Jason Benetti 48:13
So three years ago, and it might have been, I might have come back for a Royal series. Actually, it was three years ago, I did a football game at Auburn. And my partner was Rod Gilmore at the time. And I had pitched this story. It was week two of the season, I had pitched a story to our crew about the Auburn radio guy passing away in a car accident in the offseason. And we did a visual of the Taco Bell Students section and it was these Auburn kids with their chests painted and letters. And all I saw was the word Rod. And I didn’t see Ride for Rod. Like they were slightly disorganized until we hit air and I saw Rod and I just said something about my partner Rod Gilmore, the radio guys name was Rod Bramblett, who passed away and I said hey, they’re doing that for you, Rod and I’m telling you it was a waterfall of anger and rightfully so. Like it seemed like I didn’t know the story. And that was the thing that hurt me most because I I knew a bunch of people were close friends with Rod Bramblett. And I wanted to I wanted to do really right by him and honor him in a moment in the telecast. And I did the opposite. And I you know, I left that night, and for a couple days after feeling like I had just really ruined the lives of their remaining children. Because like they’re having to hear about this again, in a way that is just completely inappropriate. And so I apologize in the second half, but that I was really lucky that season to get to do Auburn’s bowl game because I got to some of the people at Auburn that I talked to on the phone about it. I think people know where my heart is on something like that, but I I was horrified. Because I had made some people who didn’t need any more hurt live it again. And that’s not, that’s not good at all. I, I still regret it. I still regret. And I don’t say that for you to say like, Oh, get over it. It’s just a thing that I did in my life that I wish wouldn’t have happened. And what I learned was, why are you rushing into stuff? You’re flying in. And I, you know, I read a couple of letters, and I just jumped with it and you can’t, you’re in somebody else’s home. And you’re rushing to a decision, like, there’s no need to rush. And I knew that. But I didn’t have that evidence of like, Wow, you really need to take a minute when you’re talking about people’s homes.
Joel Goldberg 50:46
Yeah, this is a little bit off track and nothing is, you know, as painful I guess there’s that moment for you. But I just remember my first year on the air making some kind of joke about Cleveland, don’t you always feel like when you’re going to Cleveland, you’ll have some fun and be like, Oh, you’re going to Cleveland. And I’m like, actually, everywhere we go, I enjoy because what for what we said at the start of this conversation, you get to know people you get to know restaurant owners, you get to know ushers. And so I love Cleveland. I do I love every single city. I’m not being political here. But I remember my producer got my ear. And he said to me, don’t do that. He said that’s someone’s home. That that that’s a point. Even if it wasn’t a Cleveland, it was a cheap shot. Because it wasn’t even a Cleveland odd. And let’s poke at Cleveland. So everyone in Kansas City can. And so it just, it just means like, it was cheap. And yours was more personal. And I was trying to be funny, you weren’t, yours was accidental. But I think there’s still that lesson that you talked about learning. Of just pausing for a moment, and thinking about it. But I think that the way you handled it after in this day and age of the non-apology apology, not only did you apologize, but you wore it and you lived it, and you went back to it, to make sure that everything was okay that not not not to check it off the list. I know you but to make sure they were okay, to make sure that they weren’t as hurt as you feared that they were
Jason Benetti 52:11
Well, and just for like, for closure for their sake. And can we make something you know, like, it’s what I did is still going to be a net negative, and they’re still going to talk about it forever. Like, that’s still available. But it’s it’s generally, you know, I was sitting there and I was like, I have to talk to these people. Because I feel like I have somehow dragged them back into this. And they don’t need me in their lives in that way. So, you know, I just wanted to make sure that I could do whatever I could to try to make the negative a little less of a negative, but it’s still gonna be a negative.
Joel Goldberg 52:52
Yeah. No, I got it. Last question for the baseball themed. Small ball. What are the little things to you that add up to those big results? What? What behind the scenes or whatever it is? What what makes you go everyday? What are those little small things that matter?
Jason Benetti 53:14
In terms of process, I think it’s just asking great questions as much as you can. And great is a value judgment, but asking questions that are thoughtful, and can get you to understand the person like this is all about people, we watch sports, because we watch the characters, it’s not that far from a sitcom or a drama. We want to know what that person is doing and what that person is feeling. So for me, it’s really understanding the emotions of the people. And so it’s a couple of conversations in the clubhouse on a given day. But it’s also the ability to free my mind and read a book that’s not about baseball or whatever, podcast that’s not about baseball, I just watched the George Carlin documentary, and I like, I do things like that, and it helps bounce me out of the baseball tunnel. And so, but I also think like, for me as an announcer, it was no longer being defensive about my tape, like I initially would send my tape to people. And I’d be like, Well, why don’t you think this is good? I wouldn’t say that to them. But you know, they, they come back with some fairly harsh criticism, and my first instinct would be, oh, you know, I don’t know if thats right, right? Because I just you want you want like, you want Wonka to give you the factory when you put the Gobstopper on his desk is the way I would put it. Like that’s what I wanted as a kid was for somebody to say this is great. And there were people who said that, but they also gave constructive criticism and I think part of the key of being a great announcer and whatever version you want to be whether you like my work or not is trusting yourself enough to be able to take feedback and not reject it. And hear yourself as somebody who people might not like. And then smooth those things out and change those things and get better literally every day, like take something small and get better every day rather than value judging yourself and saying, was I good today? That doesn’t do you any good when you’re in the minors. It’s did I execute on this plan? Did I do what I wanted to do today and get better in some small way?
Joel Goldberg 55:31
And that right, there is a lesson. Feel like I’m here like that I was at NBC. And that’s one to grow on? Should we too young to remember that? Or? No,
Jason Benetti 55:39
No, I definitely remember that. The more you know,
Joel Goldberg 55:41
The more you know. But that that’s such good advice. At least I’m calling it advice for all of us. What can you learn today to make you a little bit better? What can you do? What can you pull from today? So it might be that swinging a miss it might be whatever it is. So I appreciate you sharing that with me. I’ve got four Bonus questions for you that I want to take over on to YouTube, you have a YouTube contract to or I don’t know if you I do not. Okay, that’s coming. I don’t know there might be conflict of interest. I don’t know. With that said, thanks for doing the podcast. I know you’ll be back in Kansas City again. You guys been here once or twice so far this year,
Jason Benetti 56:18
Once we lost a series so we only come back.
Joel Goldberg 56:22
Oh, that’sright. That’s right. for like a week or so. No, you’re here.
It’s not a one day thing. Right. And then a one day.
Yeah, we finish in Cleveland. I love Cleveland, by the way. We finish in, we finish in Cleveland for six days this year. Wow. Which is weird. Yeah, it is, you know, but anyway, I digress once again, Jason, thank you. We’ll have some fun stuff over on YouTube. If people want to join us. It’ll be in the show notes. I’ve got a few fun questions for Jason. We’ve been known to participate in some shenanigans every now and then I’m not necessarily gonna ask you to sing maybe, maybe not. But anyway, thanks for doing this. I appreciate it and just grateful to call you a friend.
Jason Benetti 57:02
Thank you, Joel. I feel the same about you.