The Cubs always have been a part of Joe Girardi’s life.
Growing up in Peoria, he watched and listened to Cubs games with his father. The Cubs drafted him in the fifth round in 1986, and he made his major-league debut with them on Opening Day 1989. After playing for the Rockies and Yankees, he returned to the Cubs in 2000 and made the All-Star team.
And when he was done playing and entered broadcasting in 2003, the first game he called was a Cubs-Braves playoff game on ESPN Radio with former Bulls broadcaster Jim Durham.
“I was really nervous,” Girardi said this week. “I asked the producers what to do, and they said just be yourself. And I said, I’ve never done this before, so I don’t know what myself is.”
Girardi figured it out, battling through a migraine to have a fine performance. It led to opportunities with the Yankees’ YES Network, Fox and MLB Network, interspersed among 14 years as a manager.
And continuing the pattern of his life, Girardi will return to the Cubs on Friday, when he joins Jon Sciambi and Jim Deshaies on Marquee Sports Network for the three-game series with the Brewers.
“[Cubs president] Crane Kenney gave me a call and asked if I’d be interested in doing a few games,” Girardi said. “I said absolutely. I love managing, but I love broadcasting, as well. It’s like coming full circle. There’s so many fond memories of Cub games, whether I was a little boy or a player. I wrote an essay in third grade that my dream was to play for the Cubs.”
Girardi was available because the Phillies fired him after going 22-29 in his third year as manager. They’ve gone 43-23 since under interim manager Rob Thomson and are in the thick of the playoff race. So the move clearly has worked for them.
And it hasn’t been so bad for Girardi, who talked while driving with his daughter, Lena, on their way to a workout together. Such family time is difficult to find for working managers, and Girardi is passionate about his other career.
“You get to enjoy the game that you love so much, and you don’t have to worry about the wins and losses,” said Girardi, who also will call the Cubs’ series Sept. 19-21 in Miami, where he and his family live. “You’re basically having a conversation with someone else who loves the game just as much as you do.”
Girardi brings elements of his managerial career into the booth. He prepares for broadcasts as though he were preparing to manage a game. He still watches games every day using MLB.TV – “That app becomes really important because you can fast-forward 30 seconds,” he said – and he’ll watch a couple of weeks of games to get to know the teams he’s calling. But he realizes he can’t speak on everything.
“I just tell [the story] through my eyes,” Girardi said. “Because I can’t tell it through a pitcher’s eyes because I didn’t see the game that way. I saw it as a catcher, I saw it as a manager, I saw it as somewhat of an offensive player but one that had to do the little things. I don’t know what it’s like to be a power hitter, but I know I like having those guys on my team.”
Girardi hasn’t worked with Sciambi or Deshaies, but he’s looking forward to interacting in the three-man booth.
“I think a three-man booth can be a lot of fun,” Girardi said, “because now you have a great announcer in ‘Boog’ and you have a pitcher and a catcher talking strategy and how you see things. I think that can be interesting.”
Girardi doesn’t know what awaits him after the season. Managerial jobs are sure to open, and despite his ending with the Phillies, teams figure to be interested in him. He did last 10 years with the Yankees, winning the World Series in 2009 and making the postseason six times.
“I’ll take it a year at a time,” he said. “I know that I love broadcasting, and I’ve always said that it would be something that I would go back to to finish my career. I don’t know if I’m finished managing. But to finish my career, [broadcasting is] what I’d like to do because you can do it for a long time and I love it.”
MLB announced its broadcast plans for the postseason. ESPN will carry the wild-card series, TBS has the American League Division and Championship series and Fox and FS1 have those series for the National League. Fox will air the World Series for the 25th time.Jason Benetti will be joined by Steve Stone and Guardians analyst Rick Manning for the White Sox-Guardians game at 11:05 a.m. Sunday on Peacock. Peacock again will exclusively stream one Notre Dame football game this season. That will be against UNLV at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 22.Read More