Raymond Ready for New Broadcast Role

<B>DES MOINES, Iowa</B>—You may have already heard of the changes taking place in the Cubs broadcast booth for 2005. No, we don't mean <I>those</I> Cubs. After five seasons with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, color commentator Dave Raymond is moving on.

Beginning later this year, Raymond will become the play-by-play voice of the Brockton Rox, an independent club of the new eight-team Canadian-American League. He leaves behind a five-year stint with the Iowa Cubs and broadcast veteran Deene Ehlis.

"They're an interesting, odd-ball team, the Rox," admits Raymond, a Stanford graduate who got his start in broadcasting with the Sonoma County Crushers in 1995. "Being in the heart of Red Sox nation, their fans are very passionate. I was intrigued by that and I'm excited to go out there to broadcast and also handle media relations. For me, it's an opportunity to go into a larger market."

Raymond, who began his broadcasting career in an independent league, admits there's just a touch of personal history involved in the move.

"I thoroughly enjoyed the experience there and loved how independent ball worked," he says. "I guess I'm not all that new to it, but I definitely enjoyed my time there."

The Rox, formerly of the independent Northeast League, are owned by 63-year-old Van Schley, a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan. Minority owners of the team include Lorne Michaels, Bill Murray and Jimmy Fallon, all from NBC's Saturday Night Live.

The job opening became available for Raymond through a friendship with Rox President Jim Lucas, a former minor league broadcaster who crossed paths with Raymond through the years at various gatherings.

"We would meet up at winter meetings and other events through the years," said Raymond. "He's a terrific person and one of my best friends. It just so happens that we stayed in touch through the years. It turns out the Rox' former radio broadcaster [Larry Blucher] recently retired after three seasons, so we were chatting one day and things just worked themselves out."

So, who are these Rox? For one, they are a club well-known for its creative game day promotions, thanks to the help of famous baseball promoter Mike Veeck. Those promotions include: "Grandstand Managers Afternoon," an old promotion of former White Sox owner and Chicago icon Bill Veeck. In the promotion, the Rox staff asks questions usings the stadium scoreboard throughout the contest, to which fans then manage the game by holding up "Yes" or "No" signs.

Last season, the team also did a promotion that centered around Cubs assistant and former Red Sox manager Grady Little. That promotion, titled "Bobble Arm Night," strayed away from the traditional Bobble Head giveaways in that the figure's arm, not its head, would move freely—a take on Little's decision not to remove Pedro Martinez from game seven of the 2003 American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium.

When asked to recall his favorite moments with the I-Cubs, Raymond spoke kindly of one individual in particular.

"My partner, Deene, is a terrific broadcaster and a wonderful guy," said Raymond. "You spend five years in a small booth with the same guy and you're either going to love him or hate him, and I love Deene. More than anything else, he's the one guy I'll remember most, and I trust that's how many Iowa Cub fans will feel one day.

"He's been an institution there," adds Raymond. "The fans in Iowa are great and they've always drawn exceptionally well. They're knowledgeable and don't need the scoreboard to tell them what's going on. They're good, enthusiastic people."

Ehlis returned the compliment.

"He'll really be missed here," said Ehlis. "I enjoyed working him the past five seasons. We really developed a great relationship, communicating and making it enjoyable for the listeners. Dave is a talented broadcaster. He does a very good job of getting his personality across. He not only does a good job on play-by-play, but the listeners will get to know who he is and how he feels about certain issues."

Raymond, who was born in Florida and raised in Gering, Neb. before attending college on the west coast, confessed to many great game day moments he'll cherish as well.

"I worked one year in Charleston, S.C. and came to Des Moines in 2000," he recalls. "On Easter Sunday of that year, Kerry Wood did a rehab start for us. I remember it was a sunny afternoon and it was just unbelievable, a real eye-opener. It was almost like shock, being in that kind of a situation."

From there, memorable starts continued through the years.

"Without question, the single game that stands out most in my mind is Mark Prior's first Triple-A start, when he struck out ten," recalls Raymond. "He also hit two home runs and made two curtain calls. I remember it was a cold May evening with clearly not as many fans as there should have been. But it was absolutely electric.

"From a standpoint of athletic achievement," adds Raymond, "I've never seen a person elevate through the competition, the game, and the moment, in any sport, the way Prior did that night. It was magical and I'll never forget it. If I were to spend years and years in the majors, I would still always come back to that night."

Raymond's memories the past five years don't all reflect on the minor league circuit, however. In 2003, he did work with the San Francisco Giants.

"Working with the Giants was a dream come true on a professional level," said Raymond. "That was the year that Barry Bonds' father, Bobby, died. I was with the team right after that. Barry was not with us on that stretch, but he later joined up in Arizona. Now what is significant about that is that he homered in his first at-bat, on his first day back, crushing the ball over the swimming pool at Bank One Ballpark. Later that night, he left the game and spent the night in the hospital with an irregular heartbeat. Then, a few days later, he provided the game-winner on Labor Day."

As for who might replace Raymond in the Iowa broadcast booth, Ehlis told ITI, "Right now, the plan isn't to hire anyone full-time. The team feels that two or three people could be found locally to fill in on a part-time basis."

One of those persons could be Jeff Lantz, media relations director at Iowa.

"I think they're still talking to Jeff about making a road trip or two, and doing some color commentary," added Ehlis. "He filled in for Dave last year in Sacramento during the playoffs and does a wonderful job with analysis."

This will be Ehlis' sixteenth season in the Iowa Cubs broadcast booth.

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