Interview with Iowa Broadcaster Deene Ehlis

I recently had the privilege of sitting down with one of the best in the business in Iowa Cubs play-by-play broadcaster Deene Ehlis -- now in his 16th season in the Triple-A club's booth.

Inside The Ivy: Let's start by talking about who on this club impresses you the most. It's obviously been a disappointing year for this team, but who's the biggest standout in your opinion?

Deene Ehlis: I would say Ronny Cedeno. I know he's only been here a half-season because of his time in the big leagues. He's looked spectacular on defense, aside from a routine play here or there. He's got such great range. Offensively, he shows power and uses speed on the bases. Among the veteran players, Scott McClain had a slow start, but he kept coming out and playing the same whether he was 0-for-4 or 4-for-4. He's been a guy who at times has carried this team with power and driving in runs. He always seems to give the team a good at-bat. Then you have a guy like Calvin Murray, who was here last year. You learn to appreciate his defense and he, too, gives you a good at-bat every time. He always plays hard and runs down to first hard.

Inside The Ivy: Who do you imagine will be this team's MVP when the dust settles here in a few weeks?

Deene Ehlis: I'd pick McClain, just by the fact that he's the one guy in this lineup with legitimate power. I'm sure every team has tried to pitch around him at some point this season. He also makes good plays at third with the strong arm he has. He's a good leader. You never know if he's hot or cold, because he has such a good demeanor regardless.

Inside The Ivy: Were you surprised at all by the team's decision to release Trenidad Hubbard?

Deene Ehlis: I wasn't. You have to remember that Triple-A is all about development and getting young guys ready to play in the big leagues. It was all timing with Corey Patterson and Jason Dubois being sent here from Chicago. Trenidad knew he wasn't going to play that often. At the time, David Kelton was going to first base with Micah Hoffpauir back to Double-A. It's one of those crazy things, where even though he was leading the team in average, we had to let him go.

Inside The Ivy: Nate Frese has been an interesting comeback story this season, especially after the opening series in Albuquerque. How concerned were you the moment you'd learned he had blacked out?

Deene Ehlis: Oh, real concerned. I guess I've been around long enough to remember Hank Gathers, the Loyola basketball star, and all the different tragedies in sports. Things like that happen and they're very tragic. Of course, Nate is just another terrific guy and an Iowa kid at heart. The fans love him and it's a great story in regards to how he came back from last year. It was a real shock when he went down in Albuquerque. He just needs to play and get those at-bats.

Inside The Ivy: You mentioned Hank Gathers. What goes through a broadcaster's mind when a player goes down like that?

Deene Ehlis: It's odd, because you don't really know what to say. You sometimes never know for sure who it is that's down, or how serious it is. You never want it to sound like a tragedy in the making, but you have to report on what's going on. It's a tough situation and I guess you tend to forget about the game at the time and realize there's more to life than baseball. All kinds of thoughts go through your head about what's going on down there. Sometimes in the back of your mind, you're thinking the worst and hoping things are OK. You see medics go down there and it's just an odd situation. You don't want to be over-dramatic, but you try to do your best to report what you see.

Inside The Ivy: In your opinion, what was the cause of Renyel Pinto's control problems earlier this year?

Deene Ehlis: You have to be able to command your pitches at this level. The guys in Double-A are just as aggressive, but Triple-A hitters are smarter. If you can't throw strikes, they're going to wait it out and make you. I think that's what happened. Hitters were patient with him and he just walked too many. I guess it's just a part of being young. He definitely needs another couple of seasons in the minors before he gets to the big leagues. The promising thing is he's doing very well in Double-A.

Inside The Ivy: What was your reaction when you learned that Jason Dubois had been traded?

Deene Ehlis: I guess I wasn't that surprised. When a guy is sent down like that, even if it's just to work on his swing, it probably means there's a possibility of them trading him. I guess they felt he was more offensive-minded and prone to the A.L.

Inside The Ivy: Is it just me, or is David Kelton having the best year of his career?

Deene Ehlis: Well he certainly seems more comfortable this year. I know he's improved average-wise. His power numbers are down somewhat. This offseason will be a big one for him.

Inside The Ivy: Now on to some questions about you. You've been the voice of the Cubs for 16 years now. What are some of the biggest changes you've seen over the course of your career?

Deene Ehlis: Minor League Baseball has grown so much more popular. A big reason for that is the ballparks have really been upgraded. They're top-notch, almost compared to big league stadiums. Rather than 40,000, you may see only 10,000-12,000, but I think that's a big difference in when I started. Travel-wise, we stay at better hotels than we did in the old days. Those are just a couple of improvements. Des Moines is a prime example. They tore down the old park and built the new one in 1992 and have more remodeling planned for this offseason.

Inside The Ivy: With the Internet bringing so many new listeners to your broadcasts, is there ever any added pressure on you than when you started in the 90's?

Deene Ehlis: You know, I don't think so. My theory was always -- whether one person is listening or 10,000 are listening – you still have to do your best to describe to that "one" person. Some years you have a pennant race and some you don't, but you still have to put in all of your effort. My theory has always been to go on the air and do my best job. I think the players have to do the same thing. You still have to go out and do your best job, even when things aren't going well on the field.

Inside The Ivy: How different has it been this year working with Jeff Lantz and other guests in the booth instead of Dave Raymond?

Deene Ehlis: Jeff hasn't done as many games as Dave, but it's been different working solo or with various partners. Dave and I have had chemistry.

Inside The Ivy: I can tell you miss him a little.

Deene Ehlis: I do. We had some good times together. We had that good chemistry where we could talk about different things and have a good time. He's been pretty pleased with his move (to Brockton, Mass.). It's gone OK for me this season. I've done it enough years by myself that I can't say it was a major adjustment.

Inside The Ivy: How long would you like to keep doing this?

Deene Ehlis: Wow, I don't know. I guess I don't look that far ahead; I just try to take it one season at a time. Right now, I'm not one to say I want to be doing this in 10 years. We'll see what happens.

Inside The Ivy: If you hadn't gone into broadcasting, what would you have done with your life?

Deene Ehlis: Probably a couple of different areas. I've done some sales work for the team, so I'd have to say a sales job. One thing that I've always enjoyed was the numbers. I always figured another career I could have gotten into was accounting. The other path was being a teacher or a coach. I've always liked sports.

Northsiders Report Top Stories