Before the A’s played the Minnesota Twins on Friday night, Oakland radio broadcaster Vince Cotroneo posted a cryptic message on Twitter: “A familiar voice will be back tonight …. just sayin’.”
“My Twitter blew up,” Cotroneo said.
The voice, as Cotroneo’s followers well knew, was that of longtime A’s radio broadcaster Ken Korach, who is back behind the microphone this weekend after an extended absence. This is Korach’s 20th season with the A’s, but he has spent most of it away from the radio booth rehabilitating a knee injury that, before Friday night, had limited his game-calling this year to a three-inning cameo on Memorial Day.
There might’ve been a little rust. But we’ve (he and partner Vince Cotroneo) been doing this a long time, since 2006, so it feels really natural when we work together.
A’s radio broadcaster Ken Korach
A’s fans listening to Friday’s game had little to get excited about, as the team was shut out by the Minnesota Twins and All-Star Sonny Gray allowed his first career grand slam in a 5-0 loss. But they did, for the first time in 2015, have the familiar, deep voice of Korach narrating the full action.
“There might’ve been a little rust,” Korach said Saturday afternoon, sitting in the A’s dugout. “But we’ve (he and Cotroneo) been doing this a long time, since 2006, so it feels really natural when we work together. It was a comfortable night, for sure.”
Korach hasn’t had many of those in the past half-year thanks to his troublesome left knee. In 2012, Korach had a knee replacement, a procedure that he said “went great.” But this past offseason, he tore a muscle in the back of the knee while working out, beginning what he described as “a snowball effect” of problems that still have him doing physical therapy three times a week and sporting a heavy-duty brace.
As it relates to his job, the knee issues made it difficult for Korach to sit through an entire game without discomfort. And it complicated the exercise and overall well-being that Korach said is “so much of my preparation for games … feeling good, going in there thinking if it’s a 14-inning game, that I’m going to have the stamina.”
In March, Korach sent a letter to A’s colleagues saying he would miss the beginning of spring training games. But his hiatus lasted much longer.
“You want to make sure you’re ready to do an entire game – and it’s a long day,” said Cotroneo, who’s in his 10th season partnering with Korach. “I think what he was maybe concerned about was he was not going to be in a position to start something and finish it. He wanted to make sure he could do that.”
So how does a broadcaster stay game-ready without the benefit of calling games?
“I watched a million games on TV,” Korach said. “And I’ve done a million games. And I practice a little bit – always before spring training, I’ll kind of visualize certain things happening on the field just to remind myself of certain things. Left side, right side, even simple things like that.”
I had to see if I could do it. And I have a responsibility. I mean, I have a contract. The team’s been great to me, but there’s a certain responsibility that I feel, too.
Ken Korach, on returning to regular duty in the A’s radio broadcast booth Friday
Korach said he attended every game of the A’s last homestand before the All-Star break, sitting in the radio booth between Cotroneo and Roxy Bernstein, who has filled in on the team’s flagship station, 95.7 The Game, during Korach’s absence. Korach usually left early, but he noticed that some of the knee discomfort had “calmed down.” With the A’s opening the second half with a six-game homestand, Korach said: “I thought that it was kind of now or never.”
“I had to see if I could do it,” Korach said. “And I have a responsibility. I mean, I have a contract. The team’s been great to me, but there’s a certain responsibility that I feel, too.”
Korach made a point Friday to say that “other people go to work with injuries, so I don’t want to make it sound like I’m the only one that’s had to deal with some stuff.” He’s still dealing with it. Korach said doctors have diagnosed a torn ligament in his knee, and surgery remains a possibility.
He admits he isn’t sure how many games he’ll call in the second half. Korach plans to work the rest of this homestand and the ensuing series against the Giants in San Francisco. Ideally, he’ll call the rest of the A’s home games, but it depends on his health.
Despite the layoff, Korach said returning to the booth Friday night felt natural. Cotroneo said the pair’s “rhythm was there,” adding he told Korach during the broadcast that “it was like riding a bike.”
There was, however, at least one adjustment Korach had to make.
“I don’t remember the last time,” he said, “I stayed up that late.”