“This was our call and reaction when Albert Pujols hit his 600th career home run at Angel Stadium versus Ervin Santana of the Twins,” opens famed sports broadcaster, Victor Rojas.
I’m still saying “gone!” in the pic.
Rojas, who led a rather “storied” career calling the ins and outs of baseball took a page from a number of sports celebrities playbooks. His latest venture, Big Fly, offers up a line of clothing “meant to tell stories.”Of course, Rojas remains the “voice” of the Los Angeles Angeles — who we hear have done well in their 2019 season. In this latest Spotlight, Grit Daily caught up with Rojas to put a finer point on inventing words and how things just “work out.”
Victor Rojas: It was certainly an interesting path/decision to make. After working in a number of different positions in and out of the sports world, I decided I needed a change. It was while working in customer service at the Boca Raton Nordstrom during the holiday season in 2000, I came up with this wild idea.
Somehow, I got in my head I wanted to try my hand at broadcasting with no experience other than growing up listening to my dad’s games on the radio. After reaching out to some friends in the minor leagues, I was finally hooked up with Rick Cerone, former MLB catcher and owner of the Newark Bears (Independent baseball). Rick eventually hired me to be the Assistant General Manager in charge of putting the team together and to do some analyst work on the radio broadcasts.
After they hired my wife to be the office manager, we moved to Newark, NJ. About a month after we arrived and a month before the season began, our play by play quit…by default, I became the new radio ‘voice’ of the Newark Bears with no idea of what I was about to embark on. In addition, our General Manager was let go about a month into the season and I became the team’s General Manager and Broadcaster. Certainly not the prototypical route to becoming a MLB broadcaster but it has somehow worked out.
GD: You had an early gig as a “bullpen catcher.” Share on that.
VR: Seriously flashing back to 1992. I had played minor league baseball and as I was at the annual baseball Winter Meetings with my dad (he had been hired to be the Marlins 3B coach for their inaugural season that was to commence in ’93) looking for a job in the business. I was having drinks one night and for some reason, I got this idea in my head to ask the Marlins if they were looking for a bullpen catcher.
The pitching coach, Marcel Lachemann, had worked with my dad and the Angels in the 80’s and Frank Reberger, the bullpen coach, was my minor league roving pitching instructor with the Angels. I ran the idea by Dave Dombrowski, the General Manager, and he had no problems with it as long as Marcel and Frank were good with it. I ended up doing the job for one season before taking a minor league pitching coach job in ’94. It was a great experience being a part of the inaugural season team and the excitement in South Florida but certainly not as glamorous as it would appear on the outside looking in.
GD: Why get into the apparel scene now?
VR: Great question. My wife and I have been contemplating doing ‘something’ for the last couple of years but we weren’t sure of what that was going to be. I met a designer online through Instagram…he’s an Angels fan and was following my account and I was really digging the vibe he put out with the art he was creating and posting on his account and we ended up striking a friendship.
I eventually asked him if he’d contemplate creating a logo for me using the phrase ‘Big Fly.’ The term is what I call a home run and have used it for years. He came up with the logo in late 2017 and we just sat on it until we figured out what we were going to do. The t-shirt business was something I found intriguing and while trying to flush out some ideas along with filing trademark paperwork, I decided I wanted to try my hand at the business but knew it had to be unique.
We came up with the concept of telling stories about a person, group, place and/or moment in baseball history revolving around the home run and generating a one-of-a-kind graphic that would tell that story. This is how Big Fly Gear came to life.
I didn’t want to be doing something that others were already doing and that’s why the focus of having genuine, first edition ‘art’ was important to me in order to tell our stories with the feel of the time period. We are a vintage baseball storytelling brand with designs that individually allow you to share a story with others and collectively, allow you to connect with the history of the game of baseball.
GD: What’s the story behind the “Big Fly” name?
VR: I touched on ‘Big Fly’ in my previous response but truth be told, a home run has had a number a nicknames over the years and today’s players continue to come with new monikers every day. Big Fly was a term I used while playing in college and later, in the minor leagues.
It was while I was in Newark broadcasting for the first time I realized I wanted to have a home run call that stood out. I toyed with a number of different calls but it wasn’t until I dropped Big Fly on the air did I say to myself, ‘I like the sound of that one.’ It has stuck and to this day, I still have friends that refer to me as Big Fly. I felt, in starting this business, it was important to have a catchy name and something that was linked to me. Big Fly just made sense and that’s how it came to be.
GD: What’s one conventional wisdom about play-by-play broadcasting that’s just not true?
VR: Great question and I guess I can come with two quick one’s for you. First off, there’s no one way to call a game. It’s not a cookie-cutter industry in which you can drop any individual into the chair and have them call a game the same way as everyone else.
It’s just not possible because we’re all different and when doing games, we’re all faced with completely different circumstances from pitch to pitch. Secondly, we absolutely take restroom breaks during the game. It may seem as if we’re locked down but there’s a lot of sprinting back and forth so we can be back before the break comes to an end.