“When I left Philadelphia and went to Washington, it sucked.”
Kevin Frandsen had already spent time with four Major League Baseball teams before he signed a minor-league contract with the Phillies in 2011. He remained with the team for three seasons before electing to sign with the Washington Nationals in 2014, a decision he came to regret after realizing how special a place Philadelphia is to play and watch baseball.
Now, Frandsen is back with the Phillies, this time as one of three new color analysts who will call road games on the Phillies Radio Network in place of longtime broadcaster Larry Andersen, who is scaling back his role in 2018 to calling just home games. The games will air on 94.1 WIP and 20 other radio stations throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey.
Frandsen and former Phillies players Kevin Jordan and Kevin Stocker are splitting the Phillies road games this season, with each Kevin calling 20-30 games alongside radio play-by-play announcer Scott Franzke. It’s an arrangement now slated to be a one-season experience, as the team figures out Andersen’s long-term plans with the organization.
“It’s kind of a good way to deal with the situation without Larry totally stepping away to figure out and give us options long-term,” Phillies executive vice president David Buck said. “We’re not going to keep it as three guys doing half the games forever — that’s for sure. You can say it’s an extended trial for all three of them.”
Despite the rotating cast, one constant in the booth will continue to be Franzke, who has handled the full-time play-by-play duties since 2008. Franzke has worked with all three men during spring training, and that has allowed him to build a rapport with the new color analysts, who all bring different strengths, weaknesses and opinions into the booth.
“While it will be a different voice, you’re going to have three games in a row or six games in a row with the same voice. And so you get into the feel of it. You get to know how the rhythm of the team is working out,” Buck said. “Scott’s the key to this, and it’s harder on him than anybody to work with the different analysts.”
Whether it’s considered an extended tryout or a temporary gig, the role is a dream come true for Frandsen. A San Francisco native, Frandsen had the goal of becoming a color commentator while he was still a player. For the past few years, he has been a sports talk radio host on 680 KNBR in San Francisco, and has offered color commentary for one of the Giants’ minor-league affiliates. But this is his first shot at covering the major leagues.
“For me, it’s exciting. You’re talking big-league baseball!” Frandsen said. “If this becomes a bigger thing down the road, that would be awesome.”
Frandsen grew up a Giants fans, and said his desire to become a broadcaster came from listening to games called by Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper (known in the Bay Area as Kruk and Kuip), among the best broadcasting teams working in baseball.
“When I was playing for the Giants, I would talk to Kruk and Kuip, who’d tell me if I ever became a broadcaster to never forget how hard the game is,” Frandsen said, noting it’s easy for broadcasters sitting in an air-conditioned booth high above the field to criticize players. “You don’t want to be the broadcaster that simply yells, ‘I can’t believe he did that!’ The game is much tougher than that.”
Learning that you’re not ‘the guy’ on radio
Of the three new Kevins entering the Phillies booth, Kevin Stocker easily has the most broadcast experience, having called college baseball games for the Pac-12 television network for the past 16 years. But other than filling in on a handful of Phillies games over the past two seasons, Stocker has little radio experience.
“When you’re doing TV, the play-by-play announcer doesn’t have to constantly paint a picture for the listener because it’s on; the viewers see what’s happening,” Stocker said. “Franzke does a good job of leaving the analyst some space, but you have to be more direct and quicker to the point, and that’s a little bit challenging.”
One benefit of calling college baseball games has been the opportunity to see many of the young prospects who are now beginning to come up through the system. In fact, Stocker called many University of Arizona games featuring third baseman Scott Kingery, the top Phillies prospect who finds himself on the opening-day roster after having signed a new contract.
“I was just down in Clearwater last week watching him play, and I can see the difference in the kind of player that he’s become,” Stocker said.
From Philly to Australia and back
Kevin Jordan’s path to the booth was also unusual. Jordan, another San Francisco native, played his entire career in the infield with the Phillies from 1995 to 2001. After finishing his career in Australia playing for the Brisbane Bandits, Jordan returned to Citizens Bank Park in 2006 for the annual alumni game and was approached by the team about doing color commentary for an inning alongside Chris Wheeler and the late Harry Kalas.
Then, before the 2017 season, the Phillies contacted Jordan again, asking him out of the blue if he might be interested in calling games during the season. Jordan agreed, and called three games alongside Franzke that went well enough to land Jordan an extended stint calling a third of the Phillies road games this season.
“You’re the eyes and the voice for the listener, and I’m supposed to be able to explain to them what I see on the field,” Jordan said. “It’s challenging, that’s for sure.”
To get acclimated to seeing the game as a broadcaster, Jordan sat in the booth alongside Franzke and Andersen for a full game in August 2017. He didn’t contribute to the broadcast or chime in on the action on the field — he simple observed and listened to the flow of the game from two seasoned professionals.
“All it was was two guys sitting there having a conversation watching baseball,” Jordan said. “The best advice they gave me was just to be yourself.”
It’s not clear if the Phillies’ experiment with three Kevins is a long-term tryout or a testbed to gauge the response of listeners. But like his nonchalant approach to becoming a broadcaster, Jordan isn’t looking too far ahead.
“I live day to day. I don’t get caught up with what could happen in a year from now. I don’t get caught up in what could happen a month from now,” Jordan said. “I’m going to try to do the best I can every day, and worry about the future when the future comes.”