It’s amazing to think that something that happened when I was 10-years-old, would have such an impact on my life 16 years later.
I was a young sports fan in the small town of Boissevain, a kid who grew up playing hockey, baseball and golf and, realistically, like any young kid, had a variety of aspirations. I wanted to be an NHL player, a fireman, a soldier, a vet or a doctor. (It depended on what day you asked me) but one July night, I stumbled into something that would ultimately carve my path in life.
My mom and dad had this old Panasonic boombox. It normally sat in the living room and spun whatever Shania Twain or Sawyer Brown CD my mom tossed into it when she began her weekly house cleaning. One day, during a spring cleaning moment she threatened to throw it out and asked if I had any use for it, of course, I said yes and quickly plugged it into my bedroom.
Later that night, I was playing around with the old radio and stumbled upon the voice of Jerry Howarth. Jerry was the Voice of the Blue Jays and that night, the Jays were in Oakland taking on the A’s. I’m not sure if the atmosphere was right, the antenna was perfectly placed or it was “Divine Intervention” but right there, in a small town, woodpaneled basement bedroom, I was tuned into the Toronto Blue Jays on the radio… I was hooked.
Jerry recently stepped away from the broadcast booth after 36 memorable years behind the microphone. One of the all-time great baseball storytellers, Jerry quickly became one of my idols. Every night, I would fiddle with the antenna, to the point of even attaching tinfoil from the antenna to my window pane to try and get a better signal so that I could listen to Jerry tell his stories.
“I had every intention of continuing my career into the 2018 season but my health and stamina and continuing voice issues dictated otherwise,” said Howarth in a statement on Sportsnet prior to spring training.
When I saw that statement on my twitter feed that day, my heart broke. I loved Jerry. He is the reason why I get so excited to crawl up into my perch above the ice at Westoba Place and tell you the stories about the Wheat Kings.
From the moment I stumbled upon that Blue Jays game on the radio, I knew I wanted to be a broadcaster. The way Jerry’s voice carried in those summer nights was infections. The excitement, the passion and the way he handled heartbreak was something I will never forget.
Jerry’s voice inspired me to become the best broadcaster I could be. From that July night in the late ‘90s until now, I have been lucky to call over 500 hockey games on the radio. It’s a career that I never dreamed would bring me as much joy as it does and I owe it all to a man whom I’ve never met, but sure did spend a lot of time with.
Goodbye Jerry… And Thank You.