Byrom Preaches Credibility

Baseball in Fort Wayne has deep roots. Major League cities dot every horizon. Terry Byrom mans the hub in the center. He is the broadcaster for the Wizards, a San Diego Padres affiliate. On a daily basis, Byrom works his credibility over the airwaves with an honest assessment of the game. He does not shy away from the tough calls and understands the need to build a relationship with the players and fans, just two years into his young career in the booth.

"There is a minor-league hockey team here, the Comets," Terry Byrom began. "This will be their 52nd season and its big hockey for that reason and big basketball just because of Indiana. But I do think it is a great baseball area when you think Chicago is not all that far away. It is about a three-hour drive. Detroit is just right up the road. Cleveland…Cincinnati, so there is a lot of baseball around here. Even though the team has only been here eleven years, baseball has been very big here for a long, long time."

Quite the center for baseball to thrive. There is one worrisome aspect to all the baseball dotting the landscape. Are people pulled away from Fort Wayne to see other games within driving distance?

"(It is) hard for us to gauge. The population is somewhere between 150-200 thousand and we draw 262. So if you put it in those terms, we seem to do pretty well. We feel we draw about as well as we could. It would be nice to get 500 thousand – that is unlikely with the current ballpark and other factors involved but we think we can get to 300 thousand."

Four teams topped out over 300,000 in attendance in 2003. Each team topping that mark has more people per mile than Fort Wayne. It is a testament to the people who run the Wizards. The Midwest League noticed. The Fort Wayne Wizards were named Team Of the Year by Midwest league President George Spelius. The Wizards were awarded the John H. Johnson President's Trophy for the best overall baseball franchise and also received the Larry MacPhail Promotional Trophy for best team promotions.

"The atmosphere here at the ballpark is incredible," Byrom concurred. "The people love what we do here."

Byrom helps create the atmosphere with his playcalling in the booth. He just makes sure to get the important things out of the way before the game starts.

"I eat and go to the bathroom," Byrom says laughing. "For me, I just make sure I get my lineup card filled out, all the information I think I want to have somewhere near me – I am not a really big stats guy. I jut try and get as much information as I can. Usually I spend the last few minutes before going on the air, on the road anyway, talking with the other broadcaster. Just talking before we both go on the air."

On the air is where he makes his mark. It is not as easy as it appears as every player has a family member listening somewhere on the Internet. It is a balance to maintain a players' respect versus being honest on air and calling the game as it was intended.

It is not uncommon for Byrom to make friends with the family members of the players. He is their confidant over the air waves. He is the one who explains the game to them so they can hear about their son, nephew, family friend, or however they are connected to a ball player.

"It is an interesting thing, because certainly in Ogden I got to know a lot of the families via email and whenever they would come out invariably they would bring me something. A t-shirt, a homemade dish… something.

"I don't think that ever clouds what I would say. I don't believe people listen for my opinion. I think people listen to be entertained. Hopefully listen to me describe the game. I don't think they are listening to me to hear the guy in left field stinks. That's wrong. That is not something I feel like I need to do."

It is especially true in the Minors. Players are coming from all walks of life. Unlike the Majors, Byrom is sometimes seeing a player for the first time live. It takes time to understand a player's strengths and weaknesses.

Byrom concurs: "In my mind, what the process is for me, is you try to build credibility with listeners that I am not going to be a hatchet job type of guy and then s the season progresses and the climate gets warmer, especially this last season in Fort Wayne, everybody starts to get more comfortable with one another, I start to get comfortable with what should a guy really be able to do.

"It is easy to come out on opening night and see a ball that is hit three steps to a the guys left at shortstop and rip him, well, I don't know what kind of range he has. I don't even know if this guy has played shortstop before. I think a lot of it is building credibility with the families and knowing that, that is a lot of the listeners on the Internet. I know in Ogden a lot of people in Milwaukee would listen because we had Prince and we were on later. They could watch the Brewers and listen to our game because it was on later. I hope that it would never cloud – that I know this persons parents if this guy drops a fly ball – he dropped a fly ball – this is why he dropped it."

Byrom admits he has received one instance of backlash. Parents can be emotional when their child is involved. It is part of the trade and he pointed out that it was quickly resolved. It is a tenuous situation, but Byrom knows how to handle it.

"My rule of thumb, and I have talked to a few guys, is that I would never say anything on the air that I couldn't walk into the clubhouse and tell a kid to his face, or the manager for that matter. You also have to realize that these guys hear about most stuff that you say. Their family in a lot of cases will tell them, hey that guy last night he kind of ripped you. 99 and 9/10ths of the time if I say something on the air about a bad pitch or this and that, these guys say, ‘my mom got mad at you and I talked to her and I said hey it was a bad pitch, he didn't say anything that wasn't true. He knows what to expect.'"

It all starts with the preparation Byrom puts in at the beginning of the season, and leading off every game.

"It goes back to the credibility thing. Trying to build credibility and not attacking anyone – getting to know them before you start to say those kinds of things about them."

Now he is building credibility with the readers of this piece. Why is it so important to understand? Terry Byrom watches the Wizards play every day and he will aid us in our quest for answers regarding minor league talent.

Tomorrow, we take a look at some memorable moments in the booth, including his time spent with Kevin Towers and the whispers he has heard that are coming true, and take a look into college players versus high school players being drafted. A hot topic you won't want to miss.

Part I of the story can be found at http://padres.theinsiders.com/2/195804.html

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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