Q & A with Tacoma Rainiers announcer Mike Curto

TACOMA, Wash – Mike Curto is currently in his seventh season as the Tacoma Rainiers' play-by-play announcer. InsidethePark.com's Don Jacobson recently sat down with Curto to discuss the first half of the season, memorable moments and his influences as a broadcaster.

InsidethePark.com: What's been the secret to the Rainiers' current success?

Mike Curto: Defense. It's the best defense they've had here in Tacoma since I started. And that was even before Yuniesky Betancourt got here. Michael Morse played great defense here.

ITP: What players have surprised you the most?

Curto: Chris Snelling is amazing. He hadn't played in a year and a month, and he started hitting immediately. It was almost like he was facing live pitching the entire year he was out. It's unbelievable how he is such a natural hitter. That was a big surprise.

Another one would be Michael Morse. Everything I heard was that he was a liability defensively and that turned out to be completely false. I think it's a testament to the coaching that the Mariners have in their minor league system, because from everything I read he wasn't that strong defensively before the trade. He worked very hard, and they spent a lot of time making him a true shortstop and it seems to have paid off.

ITP: Have there been any disappointments so far?

Curto: Really the only disappointments are due to injury. Justin Leone hurt his hand and was out for six weeks. He's a guy who I thought would be the cleanup hitter and possibly lead the league in home runs. He's that kind of slugger and because of the injury we haven't seen that yet this year.

ITP: How does this team compare to previous Rainiers teams you've seen?

Curto: Defensively this is the best they've ever had. One of the things that is different this year is the moves that the Mariners have made so far have made our team better. Last year when the team made a move to call up one of our players they did not replace him. This year when Morse gets called up they immediately brought up Betancourt, instead of bringing some guy from extended spring training to play for a few weeks.

Even though we've had guys get hurt in our starting rotation, we have guys like Jeff Harris and Chris Buglovsky who are legitimate Triple-A players and who have started games before. Last year it was more like, ‘Here's a guy from Wisconsin to start a game for you and good luck,' and it hasn't been like that this year at all. We had some distractions early in the year with suspensions and then the players all came back and we got better.

ITP: What are the memorable moments you've seen this year?

Curto: The Chris Snelling grand slam against Portland in the ninth inning with one out against the guy who's leading the league in saves to tie the game. The Rainiers won that game on an Abraham Nunez homer in the 14th. The 10-game winning streak was memorable. And when Leone got hurt, Hunter Brown started to play every day, he swung the bat really well, and he turned out to be a much better player than I expected. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by that, but he hit .300 while Leone was out and played good defense. And then Felix Hernandez, every one of his starts has been memorable for one reason or another.

ITP: What's the best thing about your job?

Curto: Coming to the ballpark every day.

ITP: Are there any broadcasters who you admire or try to emulate?

Curto: I really like Hank Greenwald, who does some TV for the A's now but used to be the Giants play-by-play announcer. That's who I grew up listening to, and I probably emulate him because I listened to him every day for years. I think Jon Miller on Sunday Night Baseball is awesome.

And then I listen to the Mariner games. I listen to Dave and Rick and the part of their work that really seeps in for me is their enthusiasm. Hank Greenwald wasn't a real excitable guy, he was just kind of dry and witty. He'd describe the action but never get really excited, and these guys have a lot of excitement in the booth and I try to pick up a little of that.

ITP: What did you take from your experience announcing games for the Expos?

Curto: I think it re-affirmed my goal to keep pursuing it, to try and get to the major leagues. There were times when I thought I'd never have a chance or that I was just wasting my time. But when I did those games it kind of confirmed, yes I can do it, and that's why I'm in the minor leagues trying to get there.

InsidethePark.com would like to thank Mike Curto for sitting down to conduct this Q & A session. His passion for baseball and knowledge of the Tacoma Rainiers is second to none.

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