When I first saw the Facebook post in early December that Len Kasper was joining the White Sox radio broadcast, I knew that didn’t sound right. Still in an early morning fog, I skipped past it thinking it was a poor clickbait attempt. A few hours later when I heard the Kasper to the White Sox referenced for a second time, I couldn’t help feel dazed and confused.
Having complained for years that the White Sox radio broadcast was in sore need of an upgrade, I was ecstatic upon realizing that the Kasper news was in fact real. While I had not watched many Cubs games during his tenure with the team, I had heard enough of him over the years to know how great he is, and that his presence in the White Sox radio booth would provide the upgrade I had long been waiting for.
Also welcomed news earlier this off-season was that the White Sox were moving their radio broadcasts from WGN-AM to ESPN 1000. Airing on an all-sports station should provide more of a synergy between the team and its broadcast partner. I have been pleased so far with the station’s efforts to promote the Sox, making their added presence feel like a valued partnership. While it helps that there is a lot of excitement towards this year’s team, the level of promotion that ESPN 1000 can provide would have been hard for WGN (or before that, WLS-AM) to have matched.
Another benefit of the White Sox and ESPN 1000 partnership is that for the first time, the radio broadcast will be available for free online, making the games far more accessible to everyone via our phones, tablets, and desktops (the same will hold true with the Cubs, per their recent renewal with 670 The Score). Though this information was absent when the move to ESPN 1000 was first announced, this is absolutely an important piece of information that should be heavily touted by both the station and the Sox – not something that should be dismissed as a sleeper detail. Previously if you had wanted to listen to your favorite MLB team’s radio broadcast on your phone, tablet, or desktop, you would have had to pay a subscription to MLB – even while those broadcasts were available for free via traditional radio.
As much as a radio nerd or audiophile that I am, the only terrestrial radio I listen to is while in the car – which is far less now than it was at this time last year. As has been the case for the last decade, any audio I consume from broadcast radio comes from either my phone or desktop, which previously made listening to White Sox games at the office or while at the gym a no go. While there is plenty of premium online content that I am willing to pay for, a baseball radio broadcast was not one of them, merely out of principle since the games had continued to be available for free on terrestrial broadcasts. Being able to now hear the games for free via the station’s app or website is a game changer and a win-win for everybody.
While I can (somewhat) understand MLB’s television broadcast model, I thought not making the radio broadcasts available for free online was a major disservice, not only for fans but to league itself. In order to grow the fan base and to capture the younger generation, the games have to be easily and freely accessible in some capacity. And since no one under 30 or 40 is likely to own an actual radio outside of their car, making the games easily accessible via our phones or any other electronic device is a must. I’m glad that MLB has finally come to their senses and is allowing this.
Considering my previous unhappiness with the White Sox radio broadcast, it made going without fairly easy, especially while the team’s on-field performance was bad. Following the death of Ed Farmer last spring, Andy Masur filled in for the shortened 2020 season. Having long advocated for Masur to eventually succeed Farmer, last summer’s slate of games marked the first time I felt I was missing out by not being able to hear them – except for the few times I happened to be driving.
Speaking of Masur, for whatever it’s worth, I thought he did a great job last year and had hoped he would get the job permanently. As happy as I am with Kasper’s surprise arrival, I do feel bad that it comes at the expense of Masur, who I hope will soon get another shot at doing play-by-play for a team elsewhere (he’s been waiting a while).
On Sunday, Sox fans had the chance to sample what Kasper will sound like on a White Sox broadcast. It was nice to have the game on in the afternoon while completing some tasks around the house and also while going for a short walk outside. It was a pleasant first broadcast. I even made the effort to sync the game audio from the app with video from the television broadcast, something I hope to do more of during the regular season from time to time.
With the high expectations I have for Kasper and Darren Jackson on the radio, while Jason Benetti and Steve Stone continue to cement their own legacy as voices on the television side, the White Sox should now be in the unique position where the quality of both their radio and television broadcasts are the envy throughout the league (something I could have only dreamt of back in 2015 when it seemed even as recent as then that the tenures of Hawk Harrelson and Ed Farmer would never come to an end).
The Sox are expected to be really good this year, with hopes they will play deep into October. With the upgrade that Kasper will bring to the broadcast and its newfound ease of accessibility via my phone and wireless earbuds, I’m looking forward to more than a few long distance sunset runs this spring, summer, and autumn with a soundtrack of winning White Sox baseball.