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(Rachel Idzerda for The Globe and Mail)
(Rachel Idzerda for The Globe and Mail)

habits of highly successful people

How Jays announcer Buck Martinez stays on top of his game Add to ...

The Blue Jays broadcaster, former player and ex-team manager has experienced all sides of America’s favourite pastime over his almost 50-year career. In his new book, Change Up: How to Make the Great Game of Baseball Even Better, Martinez details his plan for a brighter MLB future. Here, he shares some of the secrets to his success, including why it’s easy to be the hotshot – in hindsight.

Recognize the superstar in the mirror

I was 19 years old when I signed with the Phillies in 1967. I had never been on a plane, never been outside of California and there I was flying to Oregon to start training. I remember I met this older guy on the plane who was obviously a baseball player. We realized we were both going to the same place and he said to me that he had heard the team had just signed a new hotshot catcher. My stomach sank – I was thinking to myself that nobody was going to care about me or want to play me if they had this new superstar. I spent the rest of the flight worrying and was still worried the next day when I got to practice. I started sussing out the group to figure out who the new hotshot was and it took me quite a while to realize that it was me. That was a lesson in confidence that I’ll never forget.

You can’t Google emotion

Being a sports announcer has changed so much since I started, with all of the information that’s available online and everyone having their say on social media. It means that, in my position, you just have to work harder to bring something else to the conversation – to tell people something that they can’t just get from a Google search. You do that through research, by talking to the coaches and the players and by figuring out how to tell a story that’s bigger than the numbers. In 1995, I was announcing the game in which Cal Ripken Jr. beat Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive games played. Instead of going over the same stuff that everyone already knew, I talked about Ripken’s relationship with his father, Cal Ripken Sr., who had been such an influential figure in his son’s career. I talked about what the day would mean for Ripken senior and how baseball is a game of fathers and sons and mothers and sons and generations. People respond to emotional narratives – that’s one thing that doesn’t change.

When opportunity knocks, know what it’s asking

Looking back, the decision to take on the role of Blue Jays manager [which Martinez did for two years starting in 2000] was not right for me, no matter how much I wanted it to be right. I had been in broadcasting for several years at that point and I think I really missed being part of a team and in the thick of things, but the reality was that I wasn’t as prepared as I would have wanted to be. I didn’t realize how much the game had changed – it had become more individualistic and I wasn’t totally prepared for how to handle that. I think because I was trying to figure out how to adapt to this new climate, I didn’t stand up for the things that I should have. I allowed myself to be influenced by other people’s opinions and I didn’t stick to my guns enough.

Know it, don’t show it

One of the secrets to being a good interviewer is knowing enough to get the person you are interviewing to say what you want them to say. So often, people in my position will feel the need to share all of this information with the audience, but the reality is that nobody wants to hear from me on why Jose Bautista’s game has improved, they want to hear it from him. So you kind of set things up and then you hang back. It’s not often that I hear something that I didn’t know already, but that’s not the point. It’s my job to know all of these things, but it’s also my job to make sure that the audience hears the information from the right person.

Some naturals are made, not born

It’s funny how often I get recognized for my voice, given that I am on television. It was my wife who suggested that I take some acting lessons and some speech lessons early on in my career as an announcer. I learned all kinds of things about how you finish your words, how to speak from your diaphragm. I don’t think voice training is necessarily something that a lot of people in my field have done, but I really think that that has been my path to success in life: I was never the most talented person on the field, but I was always willing to do the work, to go that little ways extra.

This interview has been condensed and edited by Courtney Shea.

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