Making it to the big leagues isn't easy -- whether you're holding down the hot corner or manning a microphone.
Even with a degree from Stanford University and a way with words that makes average sports announcers sound like knuckle-draggers, Twins radio broadcaster Kris Atteberry says his is a profession fraught with rejection and instability.
"I had no concept of how difficult it was to have a career or any sort of a stable livelihood doing it," he said from a studio in the bowels of Target Field where he does the Twins' pre- and postgame shows. He's in his sixth season with the team.
After working as the play-by-play voice of the St. Paul Saints and Montana State football and basketball for five years, Atteberry got his first shot in the majors in 2007 -- which the wordsmith equates to winning the lottery. While his job with the Twins makes him the envy of his buddies (after all, he watches baseball for a living) and thousands of aspiring broadcasters, the low security of a year-to-year contract without benefits can be trying for the 39-year-old and his young family.
The affable studio host cut his chops calling American Legion baseball games before attending Stanford, where he worked at the college radio station and majored in English lit, as there was no formal broadcasting program at the time. His love of language clearly informs his style, whether describing a first baseman who "genuflects" to field a grounder, or toying with baseball parlance when the Twins score a run on "five safeties" (base hits) or have a pitcher hoping to get "off the schneid" (break a winless streak).
During an interview for another major-league job, Atteberry says he was accused of being too smart for the gig due to his voluminous vocabulary -- a notion he dispels by pointing to a pair of "brilliant" Hall of Fame broadcasters. "Vin Scully could talk about the 'Aeneid' in the middle of a wild pitch and it'd make sense," he said. "Ernie Harwell was a songwriter and a poet. He was an artist in a way most of us mortals can barely imagine."
As grateful as the professional baseball gabber is for where his career has taken him, the ultimate call-up for him would be to the radio booth as a big-league play-by-play announcer. Last year that role with the Twins was vacated by John Gordon, but the job went to Cory Provus, the heir apparent to the Milwaukee Brewers' legendary game caller Bob Uecker. Atteberry does call 20-some games each year, pinch hitting for color man Dan Gladden.
Still, Atteberry is part of a small coterie of commentators to have made it to the Show, and for that the modest radio man is grateful. "You just have to get lucky," he said. "You're lucky, you run with it and you don't ask questions."