By Brandon Gibson - AngelsWin.com Journalist
Anaheim, CA - This past off-season The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim found themselves in a quandary. With the front office looking to go in a different direction with regards to its media voices, the club opted to let go of long time voices Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler. Then the Angels organization was dealt a tragic blow with the untimely death of long time Angel voice, Rory Markas.
With their backs to the wall Arte Moreno set out to find the new voice of the Angels and personally selected the charismatic and personable voice from the MLB Network, Victor Rojas. Victor is no stranger to being in the booth or the Angel organization as he was also a pitcher in their minor league system in the early 90’s. His baseball acumen and experience encompasses time as a player and independent league pitching coach before transitioning over to the broadcast profession which includes stints with the Newark Bears, Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers, and most recently with the MLB Network as a studio host as well as calling play-by-play for some of their Thursday Night Baseball telecasts.
I was able to grab a few minutes with our new Angel voice to get some insight as to how he figured into the Angels plans, his decision to jump on board, and his personal style and enthusiasm that he brings to the booth that are sure to be a blast for Halo fans for years to come.
Brandon Gibson: Victor, can you let Angel fans know how you got involved with the Angel organization, how negotiations came about from the MLB Network, and how you became the Angels new play-by-play announcer?
Victor Rojas: Well, I had two year remaining on my MLB Network contract and was extremely happy there, even talking about extending the deal as far back as the winter meetings. With the unfortunate passing of Rory in January it opened the door here for the Angels, but from everything we had been hearing, there was a guy in Buffalo that the team was looking to kind of bridge for this season before going into a full-fledged search for a permanent replacement the following off-season. But I never thought twice about it. From the initial text message from Tim Mead asking me to call him, to meeting with Arte Moreno directly, and having the deal wrapped up in a matter of days. So it was very quick and I am happy to be here.
Brandon Gibson: What was the deciding factor for you to jump on board here with the Angels?
Victor Rojas: There were actually a number of reasons. One, I kind of grew up here with dad (Cookie Rojas) spending 10 years in the front office and managing the club, and even stayed on with the club from ’88 to ‘92. So I kind of grew up with the club even though I grew up in Kansas City. I came to school out here in Palm Springs and played a bit in their system. So there were a number of factors that drew me to the Angels plus the fact my daughter lives out here in Southern California. So it was one of those things where everything really came together and as good as things were going at the time this opportunity was the icing on the cake. And like I mentioned before, had it not been for the unfortunate passing of Rory Markas I would still be back in the studio and happy doing that. No regrets whatsoever and am thrilled with the decision to come out here.
Brandon Gibson: As you mentioned with Rory, you have filled some big shoes as he was a staple here with the club. What kind of preparation have you made coming into this job and how have you gotten yourself acclimated to your surroundings here?
Victor Rojas: Well, just like anything else you have to do your homework. If you’re not doing your homework you’re always going to be behind. Having spent five years with Texas and being in the same division as the Angels there wasn’t too much catching up to do. The players kind of remained the same while the newer players have been bigger named players with Hideki coming in and Bobby re-signing. When you are working with Major League Baseball and covering all 30 teams you are in tune with what everyone’s roster looks like and the up and comers in the minor leagues, so it made it kind of easier. Once I got the job and it was announced on March 3rd, I got over to Spring Training on March 22nd, and just did as much reading up as possible from the injuries to the guys feeling good. I know what they did last year, so it was kind of just getting a feel and getting introduced to the guys again and getting ready for the season.
The toughest part obviously is working with a new partner. Whether how it happened to me in Texas having to walk into Eric Nadel’s booth who’s been there for 30 years and being the voice of the Rangers, and having a generational gap between us, it takes time to build chemistry and figure things out. We figured it out just after a while just like Gubi and I have. It’s a little bit easier with Gubi because I know him and followed his career in Kansas City. He’s just a great guy and we are having a lot of fun.
Brandon Gibson: Speaking of Gubi, how has it been working with him in the booth on a game by game basis?
Victor Rojas: We are very similar as far as personalities are concerned, we like to have fun, and take the game seriously. I think from a personality stand point we are similar in that we both believe that the focus is on the field. We both think the game and the broadcast are about the guys on the field and not necessarily the guys in the booth. I think we can both enhance and bring in certain aspects like first guessing and situational aspects that make it better for the broadcast. I think the minute you start putting the focus on yourself or the guys in the booth you start to do a disservice to yourself, but also the listeners and the viewers. I think from a philosophical stand point we are along the same lines and every day it just evolves. I think we have a pretty good friendship and I am extremely happy where we are at.
Brandon Gibson: I couldn’t agree more. Now with you coming into the booth you have built a liking with the fan base here. What is it that you like to project as a style and how do you like to go about calling games?
Victor Rojas: I am a fan first. There are times where you will hear the tone in my voice whether it’s being upset or dejected about something. You should hear it in my voice. I am an Angels employee and I want this team to win on an every day basis and if there is bad baseball being played it bothers me. It’s not fun to point out deficiencies or situations that occur in a game, especially when you are losing, or going through the tough stretch of baseball that the Angels have gone through the first month and a half of the season. But that’s just my nature. It’s something I take to heart, this is the team that I want to win, and I want to see crisp baseball just like Angel fans have been accustomed to seeing over the past ten years. So I think from that standpoint, I am a baseball first kind of guy and I want the team to win.
And I think from a broadcasting style, I don’t know. I am still figuring out what my broadcasting style is. I didn’t go to school to do this. I kind of just figured it out on a whim nine years ago when I did minor league baseball for two years and then got a call to go to Arizona, and then every year I have learned something new. I think that’s the kind of approach you have to have with life in general. You have to be adaptable and amenable to change and I think I have done that. If there is any one person that somewhat influenced me, it was probably Denny Matthews in Kansas City, who’s been there almost since day one with that sarcastic sense of humor and having fun with it. I like to have fun! At the end of the day I want to have fun and I want people that are listening to the game to have fun.
Brandon Gibson: Yeah, your passion has been coming through the speakers really well and hit home with a lot of Angel fans and has been well received because we like that you see the situation on the field and are wondering what the players are thinking, why they are doing what they are doing, and maybe even being critical which is what we want to see as far as an honest perspective.
Victor Rojas: Well good, and you have to be honest and honest with yourself. My perspective is different than a regular play-by-play guy. I played the game and I grew up in the game so I see the game a little bit differently than a guy that has been a baseball fan his entire life and went to school to become a play-by-play guy. They will never see the game like I see it. That doesn’t mean I know the game much better than them, I just see it differently. I have a different feel for it, from a pitch selection angle, to a defensive alignment perspective, and even a hitters approach. I see and feel the game differently, and I hope that comes out. Also, the ideal play-by-play guy is a traffic cop. Its get all the sponsor stuff in, get out of the way, tee up the analyst, and make him look good. That’s the true job of a play-by-play guy and that’s what I try to do. And there are lulls in the game and you have to change directions or refresh things. At the end of the day that’s what I am all about, the team on the field and making sure that gets produced properly.
Brandon Gibson: Now with your career in baseball, what is your favorite city to visit and call games in?
Victor Rojas: Well, before I came here to work with the Angels this was actually one of my favorite places. Aside from my daughter being here, when they did the remodel with the stadium I was actually here working Arena Football with the Anaheim Piranhas when they went to work and the Rams left for St. Louis. So when they finished with the remodel this just became an unbelievable ball park to visit. I also absolutely love Seattle as it’s a great ball park, great food, and great hotels. Also, it’s understated for some reason, maybe because it’s Pittsburgh, but PNC Park has got to be simply one of the nicest facilities. It’s a horrible broadcast facility because it’s up on about the 7th floor and it’s basically a blimp type shot, so the depth perception is horrible for fly balls. But the way they built that stadium, with downtown in right center field, and the Roberto Clemente Bridge in center, they did a really nice job putting that place together.
Brandon Gibson: Awesome! Well, I thank you for your time Victor. I know a lot of Angel fans are happy with you in the booth and we look forward to your calls for a long time.
Victor Rojas: Well, cool and no problem. I look forward to it as well. It was great talking with you guys.