By Dan Buffa
When someone asked me why I wanted to interview Dan McLaughlin, the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals for Fox Sports Midwest, the answer was simple. I have watched Dan grow in his 17 years of being the voice that Cardinal fans hear every night from the beginning. Due to the way he calls baseball games and gets into the action, I feel like I have been a part of this growth. More importantly, going behind the scenes with anyone in the broadcasting or journalism profession has always held a high amount of interest for me. I also happen to know Dan a little. I worked on the manual scoreboard at the old Busch Stadium and got to chat with him a few times in the press box. When I ran into him this year at the Cardinals' Winter Warmup, it was as if no time had passed. McClaughlin cares about his listeners, his fans and his friends when it comes to the business. He is also a dedicated family man at home. I asked him for an interview and without hesitation, he agreed to give his two cents about what he does for a living and his passion for the game.
Dan Buffa-When was the first time you knew you wanted to work in television/broadcasting?
Dan McLaughlin- I have always wanted to do play by play. I used to announce our whiffle ball games in the backyard in south city. I've been doing this since I was 4 or 5. I played college baseball and this is always what I truly wanted to do.
Buffa-Did you ever stay up late after bedtime as a kid or teenager imitating famous play calling or was the game calling something that developed later in life?
McLaughlin- I used to sleep in my car to go call high school games around the state when I was in college and I tried to start to develop a style to a certain extent back then. I was the engineer (I ran the board) at KMOX for all the different games that they carried...baseball, Missouri basketball, hockey. You name it and I was there listening to some of the best that ever got behind a microphone. I think you pick up little aspects from all those guys as you listen. It was a great way to hear how different broadcasters do their games.
Buffa-What is your normal pregame time routine? How do you get ready for a game every night in the booth?
McLaughlin-My pregame routine is that I am usually at the ballpark by 2 or 2:30 for a 7pm game. I try to read about both teams and what's happening with them. I look around the league as well. I will research as much as I can before I head down on the field or in the clubhouse to visit with players and coaches. I mc many of the events at the ballpark for the club before home games and sometimes that's part of the routine as well. I love being at the ballpark. It's a special place.
Buffa-Working with Tim McCarver must be challenging and rewarding at the same time. That's like talking to the Martin Scorsese of Baseball Experience there. He seems much more relaxed in the FSN booth than he did at FOX. Is that something you notice as well?
McLaughlin- I work with 3 great guys and they all bring different aspects of the game that I truly enjoy. To me, Tim, is the John Madden of baseball. He's a legend in our industry. He's incredibly bright and I learn something about the game every time I work with him. Also, he's a walking encyclopedia of baseball history. I love the history of the game and the history of the Cardinals and I try to really get into that with him during the games. Off the air, he's just awesome and A LOT of fun to be with. I feel incredibly lucky to have had the chance to work with him and now call him a great friend.
Buffa-You have made quite a few memorable calls in the broadcast booth. The latest one being the Matt Adams walk off home run, "Walk it Off Baby". Do you ever go home, watch the re-air of the game and think to yourself, "that's me saying that?"
McLaughlin-To be honest, I don't think much about it. It's what I do and I have been doing Cardinals games for 17 years so, it's just part of my life. My calls are always unscripted. I get excited and whatever comes out...comes out. I'm a fan as well. I have a passion for the game. I love it. My emotions of the moment just take over.
Buffa-What is your most memorable call in your career of calling baseball games?
McLaughlin-I get asked about this a lot. Maybe the Jim Edmonds catch in Cincinnatti. I was recently mc'ing the Cardinals Hall Of Fame ceremony and that moment played on the videoboard and I could hear fans mimicking the call. It really opened my eyes. I was like, that's pretty cool. That's a famous play in Cardinals history and my call may have enhanced it. I love it when a player comes up to me about a play they were involved with and they tell me they love the call. I absolutely love it, and this is the best, when a fan comes up to me and talks about where they were when call of a big play happened and they start imitating my call. The fans of the Cardinals are what makes this job incredible. If they like the call, that's all I need to hear. For me personally, my most memorable call might be, "welcome to Cardinals Baseball." I'll never forget that first time saying it. I couldn't believe it. I was 23 and floored that that this actually was happening.
Buffa-What is the fondest memory you ever had with a player, either current, former or opposing?
McLaughlin-My fondest memory was being able to work with Jack Buck. I realize that's not a player but, to me, that was as good as it gets. I grew up listening to Jack and wanting to be the next Jack Buck. So, here I was, working alongside him. Overwhelming and I remember it quite fondly.
Buffa-One thing I like about you is the constant family aspect you bring to the game and the connection with the audience, such as the telecast with the troops in This One Is For You. Is that something you constantly think about? That you aren't just calling a game but connecting with thousands of people?
McLaughlin-Yes. I feel it is a tremendous responsibility to provide the best product I can for the fans. Without the fans, there is no game. This is their game. I'm just the lucky one that gets to be behind the microphone to hopefully, enhance their experience of watching it. I never, ever take for granted how important the fans are. For us, in St. Louis, we are so unbelievably lucky to have the interest and support they give the club. I don't take that for granted. My kids are big fans of the Cardinals and to be able to take them to the booth, on the field, in the dugout, meet some players, is the greatest aspect of the job. That, and saying their names on the air. I mean seriously...what Dad gets to do that? I'm a very lucky dude.
Buffa-You have fought hard to get to where you are in your career. What advice can you give to someone who yearns to be a broadcaster or a writer like myself?
McLaughlin-The advice I give to everyone in this business is that you have to be well versed. In my line of work, it's live and instantaneous, so, be well versed and ready to go in any direction. You have no idea where life will take you so, be open minded and have a passion for whatever it is you do. There were many, if not most, that told me there was no way I would get to do what I am doing now. I never listened to them then and I don't listen now. It's your life. Live it. You only get one and you should get after it with zero hesitation.
Buffa-You are active on Twitter, and dish and deal with the Cardinal fans very well. You invented the hash tag, scoops. What made you join the social media empire?
McLaughlin- I joined twitter for 2 reasons. I thought it would be a fun way for fans to see a different side of me and to connect with them. Hopefully, they have a better understanding of my dry sense of humor. I don't take myself too seriously. Secondly, I thought it would be a great way to promote my golf tournament and to get people to support it if they didn't know about it. To raise awareness and money for a great cause. To help special needs kids. I've done it for over 10 years, and it's raised over 2-million dollars for mentally and physically handicapped kids throughout St. Louis. I'm very proud of that. Last year on twitter many first time players and sponsors came out because they found about the event on twitter.
Final Thoughts: I hope fans understand that I feel so lucky to do what I do. I love the Cardinals and I love St. Louis. To be able to be the broadcaster for my hometown team is a dream come true. I literally say to this day to when I get in the booth every game...are you kidding me? We get to do this? I'm just so lucky and I never forget that.
Dan is a class act and you see his passion through his answers. Since the dawn of the game, people have attached their fondest memories of the game with who was calling the game. For me, it was Jack and Joe Buck early on. These days, I associate the voice of the Cards with Danny Mac. He is the voice myself and many others look forward to during the game. He tweets during the game and has fun with the entire process of calling baseball games. He connects with viewers and doesn't just talk about balls and strikes. His story is a special one and deserves to be spread around like wild fire. I hope this interview allowed you to peek behind the curtain a bit about how it is working in the broadcast booth for the Cards and how passion is the most important part of the job.
Dan Buffa is a Cardinals writer for Cards Conclave. He is also a contributor to KSDK.com and Arch City Sports while writing for his own website, Dose Of Buffa. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @buffa82.