5 Questions with...Cubs Announcer Len Kasper

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5 Questions with...Cubs Announcer Len Kasper

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor

March 17, 2010

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys popular personalities on the spot with everyones favorite weekly local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

Every Wednesday exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weekthe Emmy award-winning play-by-play voice for every Chicago Cubs game on Comcast SportsNethes a devoted husband, proud father, not to mention a pretty decent musician on the sidehes a man who has often said he has THE best job in the world (and who could argue with that)here are 5 Questions withLEN KASPER!

BIO: Len Kasper, a Midwest native, begins his sixth season handling play-by-play for all Cubs television broadcasts. Kasper earned a ChicagoMidwest Emmy award in 2008 for his on-air work with partner Bob Brenly. He joined the Cubs in 2005 after doing Florida Marlins play-by-play for three years for Fox Sports Net. Prior to joining the Marlins, Len did play-by-play for select Milwaukee Brewers games from 1999-2001. Kasper's broadcast career also included a stint as the morning sports anchor at WTMJ in Milwaukee, WI. He hosted pregame and halftime shows for the Green Bay Packers radio network and co-hosted a hot stove league show on the Brewers radio network. He spent nearly eight years working for WTMJ. Kasper graduated summa cum laude from Marquette University in 1993 with a degree in public relations. He was born on January 21, 1971, in Mt. Pleasant, MI. Len and his wife, Pam, have one son: Leo.

1) CSNChicago.com: Len, its that time of year once again. Were thrilled baseball is back and we cant wait to begin hearing you and your partner Bob Brenly calling every Cubs game this season on Comcast SportsNet. Lets get down to businesslast season was no doubt a disappointing one for Cubs fans throughout the country, especially after two-straight playoff appearances. In your opinion, what are three key factors in getting the Cubs over 90 wins this season and back in the playoff picture again this October?
Kasper: The boring answer is health, but with a veteran-laden team, that is critical. Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Ted Lilly--all key veterans--need to be mostly healthy for this team to get back where it needs to be. Yes, the Cubs feel like they've added depth as a "just in case" scenario, but the fact is, these are all All-Star caliber players and you can't expect to win the division without huge contributions from really all three. Secondly, the offense has to be more productive as a whole. The Cubs went from 1st to 10th in the NL in runs last year, scoring almost one full run less per game in the process. New hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo comes advertised as the elite batting instructor in the game. Hopefully, that will translate into some better at-bats and better overall performances. Thirdly, the Cubs have some openings in the bullpen behind Carlos Marmol and John Grabow. There might be a couple young, unfamiliar hurlers who will get a chance to pitch in some big spots this season. As many championship teams can attest, middle relief is a huge, often underrated, area on a ballclub. Finding a couple gems to lend support as a bridge from the starters to the late-innings guys is imperative.

2) CSNChicago.com: During the current spring session in Mesa, there seems to be two big on-going stories that keep coming up that may have a big impact on this season: the health of starting pitcher Ted Lilly and the emergence of 19-year-old SS of the future Starlin Castro. Are you concerned about Lillys once-stellar effectiveness once he returns to the rotation and do you see Castro making the Opening Day 25-man roster?

Kasper: I'll answer the second one first. Castro is not expected to break camp with the club, but I would be surprised if we don't see him in the big leagues at some point this season (September at the latest when the roster expands). The only way he'd make the Opening Day roster is if Ryan Theriot suffers an injury. On Lilly, anytime you have a pitcher coming back from shoulder surgery, you can't say you have zero concerns. The shoulder is a much trickier area than, say, the elbow. But Ted has impeccable work habits and I really think he'll come back strong. This team absolutely needs a healthy Lilly, who has been the Cubs' best starter for different stretches during his tenure here.

3) CSNChicago.com: Youve discussed this before, but its always interesting to hear it again for any new CSNChicago.com readers. When the Cubs are at home, please tell us your daily routine in a nutshell for 1:20 PM starts and for 7:00 PM starts?

Kasper: For a 1:20 game, I try to be out of bed (and actually awake!) by 6:45 or so. I immediately get on the laptop to check out the Cubs news of the day and also what's going on with that day's opponent. I will be out of the house by 8 or so. Sometimes I'll stop for a bagel sandwich at Einstein's and do a crossword puzzle just to allow me to take a breath before my full day of baseball begins. I know that sounds like a quirky thing, but after 8 full years in the majors, I've learned that those 15-minute diversions before heading off to the ballpark are very refreshing and they help me stay focused later on the task at hand. It's a great job, but one that requires a lot of mental preparation and concentration, so I have to turn off that switch for at least a few minutes a day. I get to Wrigley normally between 9 and 9:30. I'll grab the game notes and stats from the Cubs' media relations department, then head up to the booth to get my computer, notes, pens and media guides set up. The clubhouse opens at 9:50 (3 12 hours before the first pitch), so I'll head down to the Cubs' clubhouse around 10 to get the lineup(s), check in with Lou and the coaches, say hi to the players and gather any pertinent info I can on the day's matchup. I'll usually catch a little BP before heading upstairs between 11 and 11:30 to fill out my scorecard and tidy up my notes. Also, at some point, I will check in with our producer (Bob Albrecht on CSN) and our Associate Producer (Tamra Anderson) on our pre-game segments, our show open topics and any graphics we want to use. By noon, Bob Brenly and I are usually prepared and ready to go for the most part, so we'll head to the lunch room. I'll eat a normal lunch on days I don't have breakfast or I may just have some yogurt and an apple if I'm not too hungry (it's important to eat something shortly before the game because I can't eat once the game begins and with baseball, you never know if you're going to call 9 innings or 20). Around 12:40, I'll put on my makeup and by 12:55, I have my earpiece in with my back to the field (facing our booth camera), ready to hit the air with Bob at 1:00 sharp. At that point, all the preparation pays off in what we always hope is our best broadcast to date. Then, the next day, we do it all over again.

For a 7 o'clock game, it's basically the same process except, 1) I get the early part of the day to myself for a more extended prep at home (and any personal chores and errands I need to run...AND hopefully spend at least a little time with my family), 2) I get to the park around 3 pm and 3) we don't have a pre-game show.

4) CSNChicago.com: Music is no doubt a big part of your life, evidenced by the sell out crowds each year at the annual Len & Bob Bash for Cubs Charities at the House of Blues. It has to be said, you and Bob are pretty darn good! Who would you say is your biggest musical influence growing up and, a follow-up question, whats the very latest song you downloaded to your iPod?

Kasper: I have lots of influences, but to zero in on a few, The Romantics are right at the top. I've seen them live more than any other band (probably 12-15 times over the years) and I love their bluesy, power pop, garage band roots. Tommy Keene is also one of my idols. He's a criminally overlooked singersongwriter who's been cranking out guitar pop gems for 30 years (and might be the nicest person you'll ever meet). The Who, Wilco and The Replacements are all in that pantheon of greatness from my perspective as well and I could go on and on and on. One thing this job has afforded me is the chance to meet a lot of the greats--Eddie Vedder, Buddy Guy, Jeff Tweedy and Tom Morello, just to name a few who have sung the 7th-inning stretch. And being in Chicago has allowed me to see tons of stellar bands at some of the best venues in rock. The latest iPod downloads include The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Scott Lucas & The Married Men and Dawes.

5) CSNChicago.com: The Chicago Cubs have a legendary broadcasting history headlined of course by the late Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray. However, many journalists and fans alike have stated that LEN KASPER can one day be considered among the all-time greats. How does a statement like that make you feel and tell us about your distinct approach to each individual telecast?

Kasper: I really can't even address part of that because I don't consider myself, nor will I ever, in the same breath as any of baseball broadcasting's best. Jack and Harry and Vin Scully and Ernie Harwell are in a category of their own. I will say that being in the hallowed Cubs booth allows me to really be myself and by that, I mean this: Cubs broadcasters have always had a lot of personality and while I would never try to imitate Jack or Harry, I think fans want me to be myself and let my hair down on occasion and show my emotions. I pride myself on my professionalism and objectivity in certain spots, but I'd like to think that when people are watching, they know I'm doing the game for Cubs fans first and foremost, that I will always do my best to give viewers the fairest, most in-depth and entertaining call I can and when the game's on the line, I'm as nervous as they are sitting at home. I'll never forget the Ryan O'Malley game in Houston a few years ago. He was called up at about 6am that morning and won his major league debut and Bob and I were literally in tears on the air as we showed Ryan hugging his dad after the game. It was so emotional and in a lot of spots, we would have been called unprofessional for not keeping our emotions in check. But I think it showed our humanity and there's nothing wrong with that. To be honest, if you don't get choked up witnessing something as touching as that, something's wrong with you!

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Anything you want to plug Len? Please share it with us

Kasper: As you mentioned earlier, I guess the main thing would be for any Cubs fans out there who love good music, I would really encourage them to come to our annual Len & Bob Bash for Cubs Charities. We hold it every January at the House of Blues the night before the Cubs Convention and next year will be our 5th year. We've raised a lot of money for a good cause and it's always a fun time. We'd love to have that event sold out every year for the next several decades. Also, I want to thank all the fans who have made me feel so welcome here in Chicago. This is my 6th year here and people have treated me like I'm part of their family since day one. You're the best fans in sports and it's truly an honor to spend 3 hours a day with you during the summer.

Kasper LINKS:

Len KasperBob Brenly blog on ChicagoNow.com

Len KasperBob Brenly on Twitter

Len Kasper on Facebook

Len Kaspers Len and Lin podcasts on WXRT 93.1 FM

Bulls beat lifeless Pistons

Bulls beat lifeless Pistons

The Pistons looked to the worst possible matchup on the worst night of the season for the Bulls, as they were light at the center position and facing Andre Drummond, a man who has given the Bulls the business during their better days.

But the Pistons seemed to be the best opponent on the second night of a back-to-back, as they seemed dispirited and dead-legged, with the Bulls taking full advantage in their 117-95 win at the United Center Wednesday night.

The win ties the two rivals with 34-38 records, looking on the outside in at the Eastern Conference playoff race with 10 games left.

Both came into the game smarting from road losses the night before, with the Pistons falling to the lowly Brooklyn Nets at the buzzer in Brooklyn and the Bulls losing a 15-point fourth quarter lead to the Raptors, dropping the contest in overtime.

There would be no such suspense on this night, as the Pistons offered little resistance and seemed to be a bit lifeless for most of the evening, despite the prodding from coach Stan Van Gundy.

With Robin Lopez out with a suspension stemming from Tuesday's swing-and-miss exercise with Serge Ibaka and Cristiano Felicio being out with a lower back injury, Drummond was expected to dominate, already having three 20-20 games against the Bulls on his ledger.

He grabbed 17 rebounds but only scored eight points as the Pistons shot 44 percent from the field. The Pistons' only signs of life came from Stanley Johnson (12 points) and Jon Leuer (13 points), who came off the bench in the late first quarter and early second to bring the game to a two-point margin before the half at 55-53.

But the Bulls took the fight from the Pistons early in the second half and made their separation in the third quarter with a decisive 32-20 run, as Nikola Mirotic scored 12 of his season-high 28 points in the period, hitting 12 of 15 shots from the field.

Mirotic, if it carries over, could point to this game as the one that turned his season around at the right time. He was aggressive against Tobias Harris and hit four triples as the Bulls were nine of 20 from long range, proving they didn't have a hangover from their heartbreaker the night before.

Even without their lane cloggers, the Bulls lived in the paint, taking a 21-point lead due to scoring 48 points in the paint and moving the ball to the tune of 28 assists on their first 37 field goals.

Unlike the fourth quarter against the Raptors, the Bulls didn't have to worry about a late surge as the Pistons rested their regulars relatively early, waiving the white flag as the Bulls shot close to 60 percent.

Jimmy Butler was perfect from the field in 34 easy minutes, going six-for-six with 16 points, 12 assists and five rebounds. Rajon Rondo added nine assists of his own as he was the only starter who didn't reach double figures in scoring.

He didn't need to, as the game served as a confidence-builder for Mirotic, Bobby Portis and Joffrey Lauvergne, the man who started in Lopez's stead.

Although giving up plenty in size and skill to Drummond, he pulled him to the perimeter and even found gold inside to score 17 with seven rebounds in his best performance as a Bull since being involved in the trade involving Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott at the deadline.

If the Bulls play like this every night before April 12, they could find their way to the postseason, but if they played like this before tonight, a playoff spot would've already been assured.

David DeJesus Q&A: New CSN Cubs analyst on retirement, Anthony Rizzo and Joe Maddon

David DeJesus Q&A: New CSN Cubs analyst on retirement, Anthony Rizzo and Joe Maddon

MESA, Ariz. — David DeJesus felt a sense of calm on Wednesday when he hit send on his Twitter account, announcing his retirement as a professional baseball player and promoting his new gig as a Cubs analyst for CSN Chicago.

DeJesus will appear across multiple platforms, bringing the perspective of someone who got in on the ground floor of the Wrigleyville rebuild, mentored Anthony Rizzo during the 101- and 96-loss seasons and appreciated Joe Maddon's laissez-faire style with Tampa Bay.

After being a go-to guy for reporters on some intentionally bad teams in 2012 and 2013, DeJesus talked about how his TV deal came together, the jarring nature of this business and his overall impressions of the Cubs:

Q: All along, were you planning to pivot and move into the media?

A: "Three years ago, I would tell you there would be no chance. But in late December, Kap (CSN's David Kaplan) gave me a call. I was still getting ready for spring training. My hip injury was healing, so I was really focused on that. Todd (Hollandsworth) just left (for Fox Sports Florida). There's a spot open right now. (Kaplan) asked: 'Do you mind me throwing your name in the mix?'

"I really didn't think anything was going to come of it, because I wasn't really pursuing it at all. Like two days later, I (interviewed with CSN). It was a waiting game and next thing you know — boom! — all right, you're our guy.

"So now it came to the point where I had to make a decision: Am I going to keep following a baseball career where I'm coming off an injury at 37 years old? Or do I turn the page and start a new chapter in my life?"

Q: Was not playing last year specifically a physical issue or more about the mental grind?

A: "At the end of the 2015 season, I went to the Angels and I did terrible there. After the season, I went to the doc and I had a 50 percent torn labrum in my left hip and there was a cyst in there. So any time I tried to sit on my back leg ... I just couldn't do anything.

"(I figured): Let me give myself some time away from baseball, hang out with my son, be a dad for a little bit. But in the back of my mind, I'm going to still try for spring training this year.

"The reality was: All right, no one's calling. You're getting older. Injuries have crept into my career and you missed the whole season.

"And then this job popped. It was a godsend, because I was praying about what's next. Every baseball player has the what's-next moment. I'm fortunate enough that mine wasn't that long."

Q: Could you explain how weird or abrupt that feeling is after playing 13 years in the big leagues and being so structured?

A: "It's crazy, because you expect a team to call. You expect a team to just give you an invite. When your agent stops calling you, your phone stops ringing, it's a real humbling moment. I needed to have that time to really mentally and physically separate myself from the game.

"I needed to dig into: Who am I? I had to answer those questions. Am I just a baseball player? Or am I someone who can still stay in the game somehow?

"This job fell into my lap where I can still be a part of a team and still be in baseball, but on the other side of the camera."

Q: Where were you when the Cubs won the World Series?

A: "My wife doesn't watch too much baseball, but once that postseason comes along, that's when you start seeing some tweets about the Cubs.

"We moved out to California, and over there sports really get lost. You can go to the beach. There's just so much to do. We were just living life. But then the World Series came, and that's still a team that's in both of our hearts. That was my first big-market team — and what I feel is the classiest organization in MLB. We both have ties there. We still have our house there.

"Seeing them win it, I was like a (proud) older brother. I was there when teams were just stomping all over us, just beating us down badly. And to see them winning the World Series five years later, it's like: 'Yes!'"

Q: We used to see Rizzo following you around like a puppy dog during spring training: What did you try to teach him?

A: "I wanted him to have a routine. Get yourself something that you can rely on each and every day to get your body ready for the game, mentally and physically, because we knew he had the talent. He just needed to find his place.

"He struggled in San Diego and I think he needed confidence, that daily confidence to know: 'OK, I've prepared myself for the game and now I'm just going to go out there and play it. Let my skills shine.'"

Q: As one of the first guys signed by the Theo Epstein regime, what do you remember from that free-agent process and the recruiting pitch?

A: "(In Boston, they) were trying to (acquire) me a few years earlier, before I injured my thumb in 2010 with the Kansas City Royals. So they knew the type of player I was. They wanted to change the atmosphere inside the clubhouse, bringing in guys that are team-oriented and can play the game as well. I think that's what they saw in me — a veteran leader that can show guys the right way and be a truthful and honest person inside and outside the clubhouse."

Q: What made Maddon such a good fit for this Cubs team?

A: "The looseness. Joe gives the reins to the players. He lets the players patrol themselves. He doesn't get into all the little things, all the rules. He had two rules: Run the ball out and be sexy.

"Play sexy? As a player, how do you not like that? It's unbelievable that he gets away with that. When you're on other teams playing against Joe Maddon teams, you're always like: 'Dude, why are these guys enjoying themselves (so much)?'

"That's what you saw last year. These guys were having fun. The players made the clubhouse. That's the special thing about Joe. He (gives) the players the freedom to be who they are."

Q: Looking back on your time with Tampa Bay, what would your 'best' and 'worst' lists look like in terms of Maddon's stunts?

A: "I liked his Miami all-white dress-up (trip). You feel like you're in 'Miami Vice' walking off the plane. The other one I remember (was when) we were struggling with our bats, so he brought in this like Native American rain man, thinking the water sprinkled in our dugout would wake up our bats. But the only thing it did was it poured nonstop for three days outside the stadium. So it did bring rain, but it didn't do anything for our bats at all."

Q: Were you surprised at the backlash over how Maddon managed during the World Series?

A: "It comes with the territory, man. Being a manager, you have to make tough moves at times. Not everyone's going to be behind you. In any job, in any leadership role, there is going to be backlash. There is going to be people that love you. And there is going to be people that hate you.

"Joe handles it the right way: 'Hey, man, we won the championship.' That's the ultimate goal — to win the championship. In my opinion, there were some things there. Come on, (Aroldis) Chapman? I think we all saw it.

"But at the end of the day, they have the World Series trophy back in Chicago. Come on, we're looking too hard to find stuff sometimes."

Q: In this job, have you prepared yourself for the times where you might have to criticize people you've worked with before?

A: "That's the question that everyone's asked. It's a very good question, because that, in my opinion, is going to be the toughest part, when that first moment comes. But I've talked to Todd and other guys who've just started in (the business). It's part of the game. But I'm going to wrap it in love.

"I'm going to (say): 'You shouldn't have done this.' But let's try to make it a teaching moment for the fans. It's not about calling guys out as a human being, as a person. We're just calling out what we saw on the baseball field. That's it."