Rays broadcaster has been with the team since day 1
“My heart is a baseball heart,” he once said.
It still applies. And it explains his long career as baseball broadcaster, most notably here in Florida as the Tampa Bay Rays’ television voice since the club’s 1998 inception, back when the team was called the Devil Rays.
Mr. Staats, 64, started as a big-league broadcaster in 1977 with the Houston Astros and then worked for the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees and a two-year stint at ESPN in the mid-1990s before joining the expansion Tampa Bay franchise.
He’ll be back in the booth again this season at Tropicana Field but first will spend time in Port Charlotte at spring training preparing for the season. It’s now been 40 years since he became a big-league broadcaster, working in the game he loves.
“I’d be hard-pressed to figure out something else to do,” Mr. Staats told Florida Weekly in a January telephone interview.
He reminisced about his first infatuation with the game.
“It started with the ’61 World Series,” Mr. Staats said.
At the time he was 9 and watched the New York Yankees beat the Cincinnati Reds in a five-game series.
Then the following year came a new team and another medium.
“Through the magic of radio I heard the Colt 45s,” Mr. Staats said.
The Houston Colt 45s eventually changed their name to the Astros and 15 years after their birth, in 1977, Mr. Staats joined their broadcast team, only two years after graduating from Southern Illinois University. He stayed with the Astros through 1984.
The 1962 Colt 45s were an expansion team, going 64-96 and finishing eighth in the 10-team National League in those days before divisional play.
But that didn’t matter much to young Dewayne, who turned 10 in August of that year.
“I think that hooked me,” Mr. Staats said of the radio broadcasts.
He was hooked on the game in more ways than listening or watching. On the first moderately warm or at least not bitterly cold days of spring he would go out and play catch with friends before going to school in Wood River, Ill.
But it was baseball on TV and the radio that may have kick started his love of the game and career.
“I think that set it all in motion,” Mr. Staats said.
Oh, as in every job, there are times when Mr. Staats get worn down. The travel is relentless, even for the players, young men in their 20s and 30s. Mr. Staats admitted there are occasionally moments when he arrives at an airport in some distant city at 3 a.m. and he is beat and wondering why he keeps doing this.
“Those are fleeting moments,” Mr. Staats said.
Sleeping for several hours is wonderfully restorative and Mr. Staats is ready to go again, to another game and another broadcast booth.
For now, he’s staying close to his Clearwater home. He’ll pop down to Port Charlotte for part of camp and some games and also attend spring training games near home. The Philadelphia Phillies play in Clearwater and the Toronto Blue Jays are in Dunedin, the next town north of Clearwater. The ballparks are only three miles apart.
The New York Yankees are across Tampa Bay in Tampa and south of St. Pete and north of Port Charlotte the Pittsburgh Pirates are in Bradenton and the Baltimore Orioles are in Sarasota.
Spring training is a time to cram for the season, learning not only about the Rays and their players but other teams and other players. Mr. Staats’ goal this time of year is basic.
“To accumulate a base of knowledge,” Mr. Staats said.
After all these years and all those games and all his research that base of knowledge must be as deep as an ocean.
And now, 56 years since that 1961 Reds-Yankees World Series and 40 years since his first big-league gig, Mr. Staats still reports to work at ballparks all over the land, from Tropicana Field to Yankee Stadium to Fenway Park and points far west.
He realizes even after all these years, after perhaps 6,000 regular-season games, he’s blessed to be a big-league baseball broadcaster.
“There’s nothing better,” Mr. Staats said. ¦