On New Year’s Day, Jeff Levering (Jesuit High School) was hired by the Milwaukee Brewers to ease the workload of a national treasure. The 31-year-old saw his new job as the best in baseball.
His responsibility was to substitute occasionally for Hall of Fame radio broadcaster Bob Uecker.
The Brewers planned to have Uecker take a few innings off during selected road games, as he did last season, and have Levering serve as play-by-play broadcaster in his place with Joe Block, Uecker’s partner since 2012.
On Monday, that plan changed dramatically when the 81-year-old Uecker suffered a concussion during batting practice before the Kansas City-Milwaukee game at Miller Park.
A batted ball hit the L-screen protecting the batting practice pitcher, ricocheted over the batting cage and struck Uecker in the head. He shook it off like an old pro and went on the air that night. However, he became lightheaded during the broadcast, was examined by team doctors and taken to a hospital for further testing. As a precautionary measure, Uecker was hospitalized overnight and talked out of working the next day’s game.
Suddenly, Levering’s dream job had become one of the toughest in the broadcast business, replacing full time the man known as “Mr. Baseball.”
Levering did the Tuesday broadcast in Milwaukee with Block, as well as the two-game trip to Kansas City on Wednesday and Thursday. On Sunday, he is finishing a three-game series at Colorado. A decision on Uecker’s return will be made before the Brewers begin a three-game home series Tuesday against the New York Mets.
Tuesday wasn’t Levering’s first time behind the mike at a major-league game. He made his broadcast debut May 18 at Detroit when Uecker skipped the series.
As the final step in Levering’s interview process with the Brewers, team officials wanted him to have dinner with Uecker. A few days before Christmas, they met at Don and Charlie’srestaurant in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“I was sitting down for two minutes, and Bud Selig walks around the corner with his wife,” Levering told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Bud comes over to the table, and Bob says, ‘Hey, Al (Selig’s first name). How are you? Good to see you. I want to introduce you to Jeff Levering, who’s going to be working with us next year.’
“I didn’t have the job yet. (But) when he said that, the wheels started to turn a little bit in my head. I still wasn’t going to believe it. But it was really neat.”
Before joining the Brewers, Levering was director of broadcasting/media relations for Advanced-A Rancho Cucamonga (then an Angels affiliate) of the California League from 2007 to 2009 and the voice of Double-A Springfield (Cardinals) from 2010 to 2012 and Triple-A Pawtucket (Red Sox) through the 2014 season.
“In the minor leagues, you’re rushing to do so many different things because you have so many different roles,” Levering said. “Now it’s focus on the radio broadcast and focus on what you need to do.”
Levering, who joins Toronto’s Buck Martinez (Elk Grove, Sacramento City College, Sacramento State) and Washington’s F.P. Santangelo (Oak Ridge, Sacramento City) in the broadcast booth, received his degree in broadcast journalism from Chapman. He was the designated hitter on the Panthers’ 2003 Division III national championship team.
▪ Lakewood infielder Rhys Hoskins (Jesuit, Sacramento State) will play for the Northern Division, and Greenville infielder Mauricio Dubon (Capital Christian) for the Southern Division on Tuesday in the South Atlantic League all-star game in Asheville, N.C. Hoskins also will participate in the home run contest.
▪ CSU Fullerton reliever Miles Chambers (Rio Linda) and infielders Jerrod Bravo (Ponderosa, Sacramento City), Dalton Blaser (Roseville, Sierra) and Dustin Vaught (Bella Vista, Sierra) played in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
▪ On June 11, Reading first baseman Brock Stassi (Yuba City) entered the game against Altoona in the 16th inning to pitch. He threw three no-hit innings and picked up the win. He also went 4 for 8 at the plate. At Nevada in 2010, Stassi was named the Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year.