PHILLIES shortstop Jimmy Rollins lives for the moment - as does the team's radio play-by-play announcer, Scott Franzke.
In the bottom of the ninth inning with two men on, two outs and the Phils trailing by a run, 4-3, in Game 4 of the 2009 NLCS, Rollins stepped up to the plate against Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton with a chance to seize it.
The count was 1-1 and Franzke had the call . . .
"Swing and a drive . . . right-centerfield . . . this one's falling . . . It's a base hit! It'll go up the alley! Bruntlett will score! Ruiz around third! He's being waved home! The Phillies have won the ballgame! Ruiz slides! Rollins has won it! They stream out of the dugout and Rollins is mobbed near third! This game is over . . . as the Phillies strike again with two outs in the ninth inning . . . and they have a three-games-to-one lead! The Phillies have beaten the Dodgers with two outs in the ninth . . . and they have done it to Broxton again in Game 4!"
The call will forever remain in Phillies lore . . .
But now it's another season and just like the players, Franzke utilizes spring training to hone his skills.
"Right now, I'm catching up on all the offseason moves and getting myself back into baseball mode," Franzke said. "And spring training provides a perfect opportunity for that."
Entering his fifth year as the team's radio play-by-play announcer, Franzke, 38, will have to wait and see if he gets another chance to make a famous call like the one when Rollins played hero, lifting the Phils to their second consecutive National League pennant.
"For a broadcaster, it's a great thrill to be part of something like that," Franzke said. "Having had the opportunity to do something like that now, that's why you're in this to begin with . . . doing games that people will remember. That's why."
It's those types of calls during crucial postseason games - as well as his ability to always remain a consummate professional - that have endeared him to fans across the Delaware Valley.
Franzke and his radio partner Larry Andersen have become quite popular with Phillies fans. (Franzke said it was because of Andersen, the color commentator.) Although, as Franzke is well aware, it is highly unlikely he ever will reach the iconic status of the late play-by-play voice of the Phils, Harry Kalas.
"Harry will always be the voice of the Phillies," said Franzke, who was with Kalas copying the lineups before Kalas collapsed in the Phillies' broadcast booth on April 13, before the start of the Washington Nationals' home opener. "I don't think there's any question about that. I was fortunate to be around him in the short time we were together. If you're gonna earn a title of that stature, that comes from years of being part of the community and part of the team."
Franzke normally called eight innings on the radio, with Kalas doing the fourth inning at home games.
"I don't know if that [watching and listening to him do the broadcasts] had as much impact on me as signing on and signing off and mentioning Harry as part of the broadcast," Franzke said. "That's the kind of thing you remember: that he's not a part of the credit call.
"Harry's death was a real shock. A real blow. A tough blow," the Texas native added. "But you sort of have to keep on going."
That's what Franzke did for the majority of the 2009 season. And 2010 - the first full year without Kalas - will be more of the same.
"I don't know that it's all that much different," Franzke said of not having Kalas around with Opening Day here. "We pretty much did the whole season [last year] without him."
But that doesn't mean Kalas will ever be forgotten.
"You always hear the big calls," Franzke said. "But I don't think big calls were what made him stand out.
"Don't get me wrong, there was no one better at calling the moment. But it was all the stuff in between . . . the random talks with 'L.A.' . . . that made him stand out. That's where you really fall in love with the guy and feel like he's part of the family. For me, I really just liked hearing him and just interacting with him.
"The things he used to say get brought up all the time. So his memory is still alive."
Franzke, a 1994 broadcast journalism graduate of SMU, got his start in Dallas as a talk-show host on Prime Sports Radio.
"I was always interested in broadcasting," he said when asked why he entered into the field. "I did it for fun in college. Actually, I wanted to be a sports writer."
He then worked the 1997 and '98 seasons as a part-time pregame and postgame radio host for his hometown Texas Rangers, before finally getting his first full-time play-by-play radio gig with the Kane County Cougars, the Class A affiliate of the Florida Marlins. He served in that role from 1999 to 2001 before returning to the Rangers for the next 4 years, where he hosted the pregame and postgame shows full-time on the radio. He also provided fill-in play-by-play.
He wanted to become a full-time radio play-by-play announcer. So, he sent a demo tape and cover letter to the Phillies before the start of the '06 season.
Although, to those responsible for hiring him, the tape wasn't a concern. "From his cover letter, we could tell he was just different," Phillies manager of broadcasting Rob Brooks said. "He just had it. There was something about his sound. His cadence. The pace he calls the game at. He's a very relaxed and easy listen."
Franzke beat out more than 50 others to get the job. The position was open because Tom McCarthy had gone to work for the Mets. McCarthy now does play-by-play on Phillies telecasts.
"He's a very bright young man," Brooks said about Franzke. "He's a voracious reader. He plays guitar. He's just very easy to like." *