NO BULL VINNY DEL NEGRO’S DREAM JOB CAME TRUE
Game Over. Game On.
Scottsdale’s Gary McCord is the funniest man in golf
ASU football coach Dan Cozzetto’s side biz — a bakery
HE’S A GLOBAL SUPERSTAR — AND 11 YEARS OLD!
Meet Gilbert BMX stud Brock Heffron
D-BACKS FANS SAY GRACE
MARK GRACE WAS A GREAT BASEBALL PLAYER. HE MIGHT BE AN EVEN BETTER ANNOUNCER.
DESTINED FOR GREATNESS
The D-Backs’ Micah Owings is the epitome of well-rounded
PLUS: FORMER NFL STAR KICKER NICK LOWERY
//A VALLEY WOMAN HELPS NEEDY KIDS WORLDWIDE //SUNS ASSISTANT ALVIN GENTRY CALLS PHOENIX HOME
By Zack Simon
Photos by Tracy Rasinski
if something he says offends you, may we suggest you get a life or lighten up. But as easy as he makes things appear and as comfortable as he is with a mic in his hand, don’t get the impression that it was some hocuspocus magic formula that allowed him to make the transition so seamless. Yeah, gracie has the perfect tools to be a fantastic announcer, but he also had to work at it from day one. “i knew i had things to learn,” grace told POST. “i was very fortunate that i had Thom Brenneman as a partner. he gave me tough love when i needed tough love, and cradled me when i needed to be cradled. he certainly made me better. when i first got started at this thing, i wasn’t very good at it, and i’ll be the first to admit that. But Thom, scott snyder, Mark reeder, scotty geyer, and todd walsh, they all gave me a lot of fatherly advice, brotherly advice, which really helped.” And the other thing that really helped was being humble and respectful enough for the job to know that it is something that takes time. And preparation.
Diamondbacks fans are spoiled in one area. They get to watch and listen to one of the best and most entertaining announcers in sports on a nightly basis. But becoming a big-league TV talent didn’t come as easily as Mark Grace makes it look.
ew things in sports, or in life for that matter, made more sense than the idea of Mark grace trading in his eye black for pancake makeup when his days as a great Major League player ended and the next phase of his life picked up. to say grace’s style, experience, wit and wisdom were perfectly suited for life as an analyst is akin to saying air conditioning might be a comfortable amenity in the desert. he just belongs there, like he did in a clubhouse or dugout or patrolling first base as a Cub and a Diamondback. his presence, either on the field or in the booth, makes fans feel better. Things are more fun. Lighter. Looser. Less stressful. with gracie calling a game, you know regardless of what happens between the lines, you will at least be entertained and more than likely enlightened. heck,
MAY AUG 2009 2008
“it’s not nearly as easy as people think it is, or as easy as i thought it was. i made the mistake when i first got started of not giving this job as much respect as it deserves. it took me a very minuscule amount of time to realize that it is a much tougher job than most people might think.” Fans have always loved Mark grace’s honesty. And another one of his charms is the fact that he has an everyman approach to whatever he’s doing. he’s so relatable to people of any age, background, economic level, sex or race. he just is one of those personalities that is a natural at connecting with people — and it comes through the tV screen when he’s calling a game as well as it did when he was playing it. And his work ethic won’t allow him to be one of those ex-jocks that just shows up and wings it for three hours. he preps on a daily basis, and sometimes frets after a telecast is over. he regularly critiques himself, just like he did as a player when he would analyze his swing, and he’s got people close to him who aren’t afraid to let him know what is or isn’t working. “My buddies, friends or family will tell me, ‘oh, that didn’t really sound that good, did it?’ or ‘what were you talking about? That was stupid!’ sometimes you catch yourself having a little too much fun and sometimes you catch yourself not having enough fun. There’s no such thing, i don’t think, as a perfect broadcast, at least i haven’t felt i’ve had one yet. But, you certainly look to improve with each and every game.” it’s funny — when grace was grinding it out almost 20 years in Chicago and phoenix, the last thing you could envision him in would be a buttonedup shirt and tie. he was the epitome of “old school” as a player. now it’s hard to imagine him not wearing one. But it’s not like he has a lucky tie, or wears the same pants every sunday to ensure a tight broadcast. he doesn’t believe in typical superstitions. never has. “no, i didn’t really have a game-day ritual as a player either. i didn’t leave the house at the same time every day. Baseball gets to
“I made the mistake when I first got started of not giving this job as much respect as it deserves. It took me a very minuscule amount of time to realize that it is a much tougher job than most people might think.” -Mark Grace
be superstitious if you let it. if you let superstition run your life, you have to eat at this restaurant at this time, you have to have bacon and eggs, or if you go 0 for 4, you say things like, ‘well, i better not have another Diet Coke today.’ pretty soon it starts to run your life, and baseball has a lot of superstitious people.” no superstitions needed. what works for grace is substance over style, in a very stylish and unique way. his candid and honest approach to the broadcast has probably made his popularity even higher than it was as a player. Because he still looks like he could play. “in Chicago, fans want to talk about my playing days, and they want to thank me for the thirteen years of service i had with the Cubs. here in Arizona, it’s mostly, ‘Man, we love you and Daron [sutton]’ or ‘we love you and Thom,’ or ‘we miss Thom,’ or ‘we love Daron.’ The reaction i get here in phoenix is more about broadcasting because i’m known more as a broadcaster here.” plus, he’ll always have a natural bond with fans in the Valley because he was part of the one and only world Championship phoenix has won. it’s ironic how careers can go sometimes. For well over a decade, the one word that would describe the overall vibe of the team success he had with the Cubs would be frustration. But it all changed overnight. grace joined the D-Backs in 2001, and they immediately won the world series. And yeah, he still has to pinch himself now and then when he looks down and sees that big shiny ring he thought he’d never have a chance to attain. “i began to think for a while i was never going to be in a world series, let alone win one. once Chicago let me go, it was easy to choose to come here. i chose Arizona because there was a big chance that this team was going to win, and go all the way. i tell everybody — and i’ll be honest — i wasn’t really excited about facing randy Johnson and [Curt] schilling anymore, so that was a good reason to sign here too.” There you go — it’s that kind of open-book honesty that reaches out and sucks people in. it’s been that way since day one of his career when he broke in at the Friendly Confines in Chicago, and continues now wherever he goes. “i don’t travel with a posse, i don’t have bodyguards. i was brought up better than that. i was brought up treating people with respect. not just respect for elders, but respect for everybody. My mother and father are still alive, and if i disrespected people my father would still kick my ass. so no, i’m not going to do it. The other thing is, when it comes to popularity, i can’t put myself in Michael Jordan’s shoes, or Charles Barkley’s shoes, or Derek Jeter’s and Barry Bonds’. i’m not in the category of those guys. That’s why i do go out, and i like to be around fans and have fun. hey, my attitude about the people that don’t like to be bothered when they are out in public is simple. if it bothers you so much, then don’t go out.” we all need to enjoy him while we can, phoenix. Although this will always be home, there are no guarantees we’ll always get to enjoy him on a nightly basis. “i love phoenix. it is where my children are, it is my home and i will always be here and have a home. But doing games on a nightly basis is a grind, i’m not going to lie.” if you watched the Major League All-star game this summer, you saw that the Fox network put him front and center in their pre-game show, and he already is one of their network analysts on saturdays throughout the summer. There is no doubt he’ll have his pick of full-time network gigs pretty darn soon, if he doesn’t already. so until then, soak up the wit and wisdom on a daily basis, and if you run into him out and about, don’t be afraid to say “hi” to one of the most approachable athletes the sports world has ever seen. More than likely, he’ll probably buy you a beer and give you a laugh and a memory you’ll have for a lifetime.