Vasgersian has challenges at Network
Host of MLB Tonight can infuse program with signature style
What strikes you about Matt Vasgersian on the air is that he is irreverent without dipping into cynicism, intelligent without being showy, witty without being contrived. He is, in other words, likable.
Vasgersian is being asked now to be likable in an entirely new venture, as the studio host of the new MLB Network's core program, "MLB Tonight." This is an eight-hour show, and while viewers won't be getting eight straight hours of Vasgersian, he will be an obvious focal point of this endeavor. His record says that he is up to it and his self-deprecating comments about his profession indicate that his sense of humor has not departed.
"We can't do the 'Ronnie Radio' voice or be the perfectly coiffed anchor for eight straight hours," Vasgersian says. "This is going to evolve -- or devolve, depending on your point of view -- into a group of guys talking baseball. When you're on the air for that long, who you are is bound to come out."
Who Vasgersian is would include 18 years worth of baseball play-by-play broadcast experience: six seasons in the Minor Leagues, five seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers and, most recently, seven years with the San Diego Padres. Growing from that experience is a raft of other on-air credits, including broadcasting National Football League games on FOX and working Bowl Championship Series games, also on FOX, and doing studio anchor coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games for NBC.
At every stop, Vasgersian, 41, has put his own stamp on the broadcasts, without seeming to be pushy about it. If somebody can be whimsical and incisive at the same time, this is the guy. So he did not need the new job. His career was in fine shape. Why make the change to the new Network?
"Tony is like the anti-TV exec in that he's really thoughtful," Vasgersian said. "He's the kind of guy all of us would want to work for."
It's not all upside. There is the matter of moving from San Diego to New Jersey, in the dead of winter, not a commonly made January journey.
"I'm taking my Springsteen worship to a whole new level," Vasgersian said with a laugh.
After settling in, there will be challenge of making the new Network's focal-point program entertaining, informative and just generally worth watching. Vasgersian won't be single-handedly carrying this show, but his the importance of his role can't be overstated.
This is why you are encouraged when you hear him speak of "occasional bits of levity" that could become a staple of the new broadcast venture.
"I'll try," Vasgersian says. "I'm sure I'll have my detractors, just as I did when I did play-by-play. But like I said, for eight hours a night, you can't help but be who you are."
As a baseball fan/baseball announcer, Matt Vasgersian has been both entertaining and a breath of fresh air. This venture, brand new with lots of hours to fill, would be a challenge for any broadcaster. For this particular broadcaster, it may also be an ideal spot.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.