Q & A with Missions Broadcaster Roy Acuff

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Roy Acuff is in his 18th year as the "voice of the Missions," and can be heard on San Antonio's KKYX 680 AM. InsidethePark's Chris Boehm sat down with the "Dean of the Texas League" to talk about his impressions on the Missions' first half performance.

InsidethePark.com: What do you think of the team the Missions are fielding now?

Roy Acuff: Honestly, considering all the call-ups, this team is about where they should be. It's going to hurt when you lose the best shortstop (Yuniesky Betancourt) in the Texas League, the best catcher (Rene Rivera) in the league and your number one run producer (Jon Nelson) gets injured for three weeks. And then your closer (Sean Green) gets called up. When you factor in those four ingredients, frankly, I was amazed they stayed in the race as long as they did. Right now today, this is not what I would call a real good baseball team.

ITP:In the past the Missions have been known as a second half team. They would probably have to rely on call-ups, but do you see that being the case this year?

Acuff: I think Seattle will do all they can to help Brundage in second half. This team has always been a second half club. In 2002 (the first of the Missions' back to back Texas League titles) they were 20 games under .500 at the half. I think there are some players down there that can help us; I don't know if Seattle will let them come up. That's there call, but now it all comes down to the second best record, and we've got it right now, with room to spare. Under the new rules, the team with the second best record plays the team that wins both halves. I see us playing ball in September. I don't know how good we'll be playing, but I feel we have an excellent chance to make the post-season.

ITP: What's been the biggest surprise with this team?

Acuff: Well, I've become fond of watching Jesse Hoorelbeke and Nate Espy. Those are two guys that come to play hard every day. I've really become fans of those guys. Hoorelbeke has rebuilt himself as on offensive player here. He's always been a hustler and a grinder, but if you look at his numbers, he's had trouble hitting for any real average. Gary Thurman has broken him down and rebuilt his offensive approach. I really respect Hoorelbeke for his dedication to his offensive game, and I would hate to think where we would be without Nate Espy. On this last road trip we went 6-5, and Nate had 15 hits over those 11 games. He put us on his back that entire road trip.

ITP: And he's got something many of these guys haven't shown-patience at the plate.

Acuff: You're right. A lot of young guys don't show that patience, but Espy's a consummate hitter. I love to watch him bat. I love to watch him try to get deep in the count and hit his choice of pitch, not the pitcher's. I'm a big fan of both those guys and the way they've committed themselves to doing whatever they can to help this team win.

ITP: You get to travel with the team and see the entire Texas League. Are there any players from the Missions that appear to be among the elite in the league?

Acuff: I think T. J. Bohn is close to being among the elite. A reporter asked me earlier in the year who I though were the four best players in the league, and three were Missions. The fourth one was Rudy Yan of Frisco, but the top three were Betancourt, Rivera and Bohn. I chose Bohn for his all-around ability. He can steal a bag; he's got the best, most accurate arm in the league. He was slumping come voting time for the All-Stars, and they were looking at the stats and just wrote down the league leaders. In my mind they left out Bohn (after initially not making the squad, Bohn has since been added after an injury to Yan).

ITP: You mentioned Betancourt at the top. How impressed were you with his game?

Acuff: In my 18 years doing this, he's the best I've ever seen defensively by any measure. We've had some good shortstops through the years - Juan Castro jumps out - but Betancourt's the best I've seen at this position, in this league - period. How he can make those plays! And that throw always finds itself perfectly in the glove at first.

ITP: That's what I've noticed. It seems a lot more balls are sailing and being thrown away now that Betancourt's left.

Acuff: Oh, yeah (chuckles). They are.

ITP: What do you think of the infield now that Yuniesky is gone? He covered almost half the infield by himself.

Acuff: Right now our infield is very vulnerable. (Jesus) Guzman's going to be a terrific player. He's only 21, but people are starting to find his deficiencies at third base. The effort's there, but we are vulnerable.

ITP: I also wanted to talk about the bullpen. With Jeff Harris and Green being called up, the rest of the staff's been off and on. Do you think there is a closer among them?

Acuff: Well, there had better be, because that's not something you can get from another organization. No one's going to release a good closer, so if you don't have one now, you're not getting one. You have to develop your own closer. With (Emiliano) Fruto and (Renee) Cortez, they've got a half a season to go and with time, one of them may suddenly figure it out. Right now it's wide open, but I think Fruto has a slight edge; he's got four quality pitches. If I had to guess, I'd give my vote to Fruto, but he's going to have to prove it more than one time in a row. Youth right now is the enemy of both of those guys. They're a couple years away, but once they're 23, 24 years old, they're going to be top-flight pitchers.

ITP: With that being said, Dave Brundage is known as a manager that works well with the young guys. Is this his last year in San Antonio? Many people are saying that.

Acuff: That's what I've been saying for that past two years. Next year I see him either as a bench coach in the majors or as the Triple-A coach in Tacoma. I think the Mariners have got to make room for him at the next level. The guy has earned his shot.

ITP: What's the best part of your job?

Acuff: It's just the day-to-day comradery with the staff and the people around the league. I still love the travel and go to the new ballparks. I also enjoy spreading the Missions gospel, as they say. I still get a kick out of that.

ITP: What's it like being the longest-tenured broadcaster in all the Texas League?

Acuff: I take pride in my 18 years here, and the fact that I've got the longest string ever of anybody doing this. I love waking up to it. I'm a huge fan of the game, and I love being a fan on the air. For someone who didn't have a lot of education and was self-educated, this is pretty neat. I mean, my grandkids think I'm the greatest!

InsidethePark would like to thank Roy Acuff for taking the time out of his busy schedule to conduct this Q & A.

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