It’s been a memorable season for Goldeyes broadcaster Steve Schuster.
“It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
One of the late, great Yogi Berra’s famous quotes seems to somewhat fit when it comes to the American Association championship series between the Winnipeg Goldeyes and Wichita Wingnuts.
The Goldeyes and Wingnuts are facing each other in the league championship for the second consecutive season. There is not much to give between the two clubs. The Goldeyes wrapped up their regular season earlier this month, finishing with a league best 62-38 record, while the Wingnuts finished second with a 61 win season. The Wingnuts will appear in the Championship Series for the fifth time in the last six years while the Goldeyes have a chance to hoist the American Association championship for the third time in six seasons with a win.
The best-of-five championship series is now tied at two after a marathon Game Four last night which saw the Goldeyes win in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the 17th inning thanks to a David Rohm double that scored Casey Turgeon for the winning run in a 4-3 win. Tonight, the two clubs will play for a chance to become the 2017 American Association champions.
Game four may go down as the greatest Goldeyes game in the organization’s history, and for those lucky enough to witness it, the emotional rollercoaster of the night was enough to make even the strongest tickers skip a beat. If you were unable to make the game, but were fortunate enough to listen or watch online, Goldeyes broadcaster Steve Schuster was there to keep you company, just as he has been for every game since joining the club in 2014.
Calling a championship series is a dream for every broadcaster. For Schuster, it may hold a little extra special meaning, having played a part in both the Wingnuts and Goldeyes recent success.
The veteran broadcaster came to Winnipeg after spending six seasons with the Wingnuts, where he did double-duty as the team broadcaster and its media relations director beginning in 2008. It’s been almost 10 years since he called his first game in the league, and this season the Schuster passed an impressive milestone, calling his 1000th game in the American Association.
A native of Levittown, New York, Schuster began his broadcasting career in 2003 at the University of Michigan’s student radio station, then took a broadcasting and media relations internship with the American Association’s Lincoln Saltdogs in 2007 before joining Wichita and calling his first game in May 2008. It’s a day Schuster remembers well.
“It was the Wichita Wingnuts’ inaugural game in May of 2008. There were close to 6,000 fans in attendance and the Wingnuts pulled out a close win, it was a really exciting night.”
That first game is a memory Schuster will remember forever, but this season has been a memorable one for Schuster as well, who has now been behind the mic for the two longest games in league history. And they both took place this season. Game four’s marathon game set an American Association record for longest game by duration at five hours and 59 minutes, outlasting the previous record of five hours and 25 minutes set back on July 15th in a game against the Kansas City T-Bones.at Shaw Park.
Despite the length of the games, you quickly realize that Schuster has the uncanny ability to call the bottom of the 17th inning with the same energy and enthusiasm as the top of the first. This is no easy feat, but his passion and dedication to his craft comes through in every broadcast, and it showed again last night, having fans on the edge of their seats until Casey Turgeon finally crossed home plate.
It’s been a long and winding road since the early days in Wichita. Literally! With the Goldeyes being the only team north of the border, there are some long bus rides. In the finals the teams will travel 1,518 kilometers between Winnipeg and Wichita. With teams located as far away as Grand Prairie Texas, (2,089 kilometers from Winnipeg), the regular season travel can be gruelling, but it’s something that Schuster enjoys.
“I’ve sort of gotten used to the grind over the years. It’s the hardest part for everyone involved (players, coaches, staff, etc.), but it’s also the part that makes baseball unique and so special.”
What makes it more bearable are the memories being made. When you’ve been in the league as long as Schuster, there are many great memories that have accumulated over the years, but there’s one that stands out above the rest.
“Witnessing the Goldeyes’ championship in 2016 is something I’ll always cherish,” recalls Schuster. “It was a great finish to a remarkable year, and I can’t thank the players and coaching staff enough for making it happen.”
The Goldeyes have won three championships in their 24-year history: at the old Winnipeg Stadium back in 1994, and then on the road in Wichita in 2012 and 2016, with a chance to do it again tonight at Shaw Park. Fan support for the team has always been great. With last night’s game ending just after 1:00am, the fans were still loud and excited for a Goldeyes win, and Schuster says it’s something not just the home team, but the visiting teams notice.
“Goldeyes’ fans are second to none, and I felt that way even when coming here as a visitor,” says Schuster. “They not only come out in large numbers year after year, but they’re very much into the baseball game. Their support plays a role in the team’s success at home, and you can feel the energy resonate throughout the park every night.”
Dreams and aspirations of making it to the big leagues is what drives most athletes involved in sports. The same can be said for broadcasters. For Schuster, who has made Winnipeg his home, it’s not something he thinks about very often.
“I think it’s the dream of every minor leaguer whether it’s a player, coach, broadcaster, to reach the next level, but I’m just really happy to be in Winnipeg. I really enjoy the city and the people, and just look forward to doing the best I can as long as I’m here.”
The Goldeyes broadcasts can be heard on 93.7 CJNU, who signed a three-year contract to carry the games with Nostalgia Broadcasting Cooperative in 2016. Schuster says it’s been a great partnership.
“It’s been great. They just celebrated their 10th year. It’s a volunteer-run station, and you really have to tip your cap to everyone that has kept it going over the years. I hope we stay here for a long time.”
As another season winds down, it’s a time for Schuster to step back and reflect on why he loves his job so much.
“Honestly, it’s the city/province as a whole that have made this such a great experience. The people in Winnipeg are incredibly friendly and helpful. I grew up in New York, but really prefer places like Winnipeg.”