Brian Jeffries, the voice of Arizona athletics, will be broadcasting from his fourth College World Series, starting Friday when the Wildcats take on Florida State from Omaha.
Friday’s game starts at 6 p.m. Tucson time. All UA games can be heard on 1290-AM (KCUB).
Jeffries first covered the College World Series in 1985, when the Wildcats were eliminated in two games in Omaha.
UA won it all the following year, boosted by a comeback win over Maine in the first game. The Cats trailed 7-0 going into the bottom of the seventh, winning it all on Dave Shermet’s two-out, full-count, pinch-hit home run for an 8-7 victory.
I caught up with Jeffries earlier this week for some baseball-related questions, including his recollections of 1986, when he shared UA radio duties with Dave Sitton:
Q: What do you remember most about the 1986 title team?
Jeffries: “When they made that comeback, you felt that there was some destiny there. And that was a heck of a team, just in terms of the makeup of the guys. That was probably the loosest UA team — at least under Jerry Kindall — they ever had. I mean, guys like (Todd) Trafton, Gary Alexander. I’ll never forget after they won the championship, they were up all night at the hotel. And I was up all night, too. I was in somebody’s room, and it was sometime in the middle of the night, and the phone rang. And Sitton goes over and picks up the phone and answers “Connie Chung.” And then you hear, ‘Yeah, Coach … uh, OK.” Someone had complained at the front desk.
“But it was really loose group. I’m not going to say they didn’t take it seriously, but they didn’t get uptight or anything. I think that’s why they won. They had talent, but it was like, ‘Let’s go out and play.’”
Q: Do you get a similar vibe from this year’s team?
Jeffries: “I don’t know if there was that point or not, but I think from the beginning of the year, knowing they had the experience, one thing I’ve noticed is that they do just go out and play. Every game is the same. They are on the same level. They are not up and down at all. Even on Saturday, I go down to the dugout before the game (against St. John’s in the Super Regional), and it dawned on me that to them it was just another game. I mean, I was like, ‘You guys gotta go to Omaha,’ and they are just sitting around like it’s just another day at the ballpark. I think it’s because of that experience they have. They have been really steady all year long. And it really showed on the road this year.”
Q: Your two or three keys for Arizona to have success at the Series?
Jeffries: “Fastball, breaking ball, slider. We know they can hit. And we know they can defend. That wasn’t the case the first two-thirds of the season; for whatever reason, they weren’t very good defensively, but they have been lately. If they can pitch, then, yeah, they can beat anybody.”
Q: You’ve been to big bowl games, Final Fours … how does the experience of broadcasting the College World Series stack up?
Jeffries: “This is more fun than any of them, just to go. It’s by far the most fun. … It’s baseball, so it’s more laid-back. In 2004, they had made huge strides from 1986 just in terms of the experience for the fans — the Fan Fest and all that. It’s a great atmosphere. It’s like they have taken a lot of the components of the Final Four and moved them into baseball. And you have so many games. You have two games every day pretty much. There’s not that intense focus on just the semifinals or the final. It’s more fun to be around, just because the pace is slower.”
Q: How has coach Andy Lopez (in his 11th season) changed since he arrived at Arizona?
Jeffries: “Same dude. And that is why his team is like that — they don’t get up and down because he doesn’t get up and down. There have been a couple of times this year when I tried to get him to say in the pregame interview, ‘This is a big series’ or ‘This is a big game.’ He kind of admitted it a couple of times, but he just refuses to let it get too big. He hasn’t changed at all. Actually, he hasn’t changed since 1992 (when Lopez’s Pepperdine team played in a Tucson regional en route to winning the national title).
“There used to be a company in St. Louis that did highlights of all the regionals. They had hired me before the regional to get postgame sound, and I would send it back to him. After every game, I interviewed Andy to send this tape back to them. He was so accommodating. After the weekend was over, I remember thinking to myself, ‘What a great guy, wouldn’t it be cool to work with him.’ I told (former AD Jim) Livengood that story when he hired him — ‘Selfishly, if you could have picked anybody to hire, that’s the guy.’”