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5 Questions with...Cubs Announcer Len Kasper

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5 Questions with...Cubs Announcer Len Kasper

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor

March 17, 2010

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys popular personalities on the spot with everyones favorite weekly local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

Every Wednesday exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weekthe Emmy award-winning play-by-play voice for every Chicago Cubs game on Comcast SportsNethes a devoted husband, proud father, not to mention a pretty decent musician on the sidehes a man who has often said he has THE best job in the world (and who could argue with that)here are 5 Questions withLEN KASPER!

BIO: Len Kasper, a Midwest native, begins his sixth season handling play-by-play for all Cubs television broadcasts. Kasper earned a ChicagoMidwest Emmy award in 2008 for his on-air work with partner Bob Brenly. He joined the Cubs in 2005 after doing Florida Marlins play-by-play for three years for Fox Sports Net. Prior to joining the Marlins, Len did play-by-play for select Milwaukee Brewers games from 1999-2001. Kasper's broadcast career also included a stint as the morning sports anchor at WTMJ in Milwaukee, WI. He hosted pregame and halftime shows for the Green Bay Packers radio network and co-hosted a hot stove league show on the Brewers radio network. He spent nearly eight years working for WTMJ. Kasper graduated summa cum laude from Marquette University in 1993 with a degree in public relations. He was born on January 21, 1971, in Mt. Pleasant, MI. Len and his wife, Pam, have one son: Leo.

1) CSNChicago.com: Len, its that time of year once again. Were thrilled baseball is back and we cant wait to begin hearing you and your partner Bob Brenly calling every Cubs game this season on Comcast SportsNet. Lets get down to businesslast season was no doubt a disappointing one for Cubs fans throughout the country, especially after two-straight playoff appearances. In your opinion, what are three key factors in getting the Cubs over 90 wins this season and back in the playoff picture again this October?
Kasper: The boring answer is health, but with a veteran-laden team, that is critical. Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Ted Lilly--all key veterans--need to be mostly healthy for this team to get back where it needs to be. Yes, the Cubs feel like they've added depth as a "just in case" scenario, but the fact is, these are all All-Star caliber players and you can't expect to win the division without huge contributions from really all three. Secondly, the offense has to be more productive as a whole. The Cubs went from 1st to 10th in the NL in runs last year, scoring almost one full run less per game in the process. New hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo comes advertised as the elite batting instructor in the game. Hopefully, that will translate into some better at-bats and better overall performances. Thirdly, the Cubs have some openings in the bullpen behind Carlos Marmol and John Grabow. There might be a couple young, unfamiliar hurlers who will get a chance to pitch in some big spots this season. As many championship teams can attest, middle relief is a huge, often underrated, area on a ballclub. Finding a couple gems to lend support as a bridge from the starters to the late-innings guys is imperative.

2) CSNChicago.com: During the current spring session in Mesa, there seems to be two big on-going stories that keep coming up that may have a big impact on this season: the health of starting pitcher Ted Lilly and the emergence of 19-year-old SS of the future Starlin Castro. Are you concerned about Lillys once-stellar effectiveness once he returns to the rotation and do you see Castro making the Opening Day 25-man roster?

Kasper: I'll answer the second one first. Castro is not expected to break camp with the club, but I would be surprised if we don't see him in the big leagues at some point this season (September at the latest when the roster expands). The only way he'd make the Opening Day roster is if Ryan Theriot suffers an injury. On Lilly, anytime you have a pitcher coming back from shoulder surgery, you can't say you have zero concerns. The shoulder is a much trickier area than, say, the elbow. But Ted has impeccable work habits and I really think he'll come back strong. This team absolutely needs a healthy Lilly, who has been the Cubs' best starter for different stretches during his tenure here.

3) CSNChicago.com: Youve discussed this before, but its always interesting to hear it again for any new CSNChicago.com readers. When the Cubs are at home, please tell us your daily routine in a nutshell for 1:20 PM starts and for 7:00 PM starts?

Kasper: For a 1:20 game, I try to be out of bed (and actually awake!) by 6:45 or so. I immediately get on the laptop to check out the Cubs news of the day and also what's going on with that day's opponent. I will be out of the house by 8 or so. Sometimes I'll stop for a bagel sandwich at Einstein's and do a crossword puzzle just to allow me to take a breath before my full day of baseball begins. I know that sounds like a quirky thing, but after 8 full years in the majors, I've learned that those 15-minute diversions before heading off to the ballpark are very refreshing and they help me stay focused later on the task at hand. It's a great job, but one that requires a lot of mental preparation and concentration, so I have to turn off that switch for at least a few minutes a day. I get to Wrigley normally between 9 and 9:30. I'll grab the game notes and stats from the Cubs' media relations department, then head up to the booth to get my computer, notes, pens and media guides set up. The clubhouse opens at 9:50 (3 12 hours before the first pitch), so I'll head down to the Cubs' clubhouse around 10 to get the lineup(s), check in with Lou and the coaches, say hi to the players and gather any pertinent info I can on the day's matchup. I'll usually catch a little BP before heading upstairs between 11 and 11:30 to fill out my scorecard and tidy up my notes. Also, at some point, I will check in with our producer (Bob Albrecht on CSN) and our Associate Producer (Tamra Anderson) on our pre-game segments, our show open topics and any graphics we want to use. By noon, Bob Brenly and I are usually prepared and ready to go for the most part, so we'll head to the lunch room. I'll eat a normal lunch on days I don't have breakfast or I may just have some yogurt and an apple if I'm not too hungry (it's important to eat something shortly before the game because I can't eat once the game begins and with baseball, you never know if you're going to call 9 innings or 20). Around 12:40, I'll put on my makeup and by 12:55, I have my earpiece in with my back to the field (facing our booth camera), ready to hit the air with Bob at 1:00 sharp. At that point, all the preparation pays off in what we always hope is our best broadcast to date. Then, the next day, we do it all over again.

For a 7 o'clock game, it's basically the same process except, 1) I get the early part of the day to myself for a more extended prep at home (and any personal chores and errands I need to run...AND hopefully spend at least a little time with my family), 2) I get to the park around 3 pm and 3) we don't have a pre-game show.

4) CSNChicago.com: Music is no doubt a big part of your life, evidenced by the sell out crowds each year at the annual Len & Bob Bash for Cubs Charities at the House of Blues. It has to be said, you and Bob are pretty darn good! Who would you say is your biggest musical influence growing up and, a follow-up question, whats the very latest song you downloaded to your iPod?

Kasper: I have lots of influences, but to zero in on a few, The Romantics are right at the top. I've seen them live more than any other band (probably 12-15 times over the years) and I love their bluesy, power pop, garage band roots. Tommy Keene is also one of my idols. He's a criminally overlooked singersongwriter who's been cranking out guitar pop gems for 30 years (and might be the nicest person you'll ever meet). The Who, Wilco and The Replacements are all in that pantheon of greatness from my perspective as well and I could go on and on and on. One thing this job has afforded me is the chance to meet a lot of the greats--Eddie Vedder, Buddy Guy, Jeff Tweedy and Tom Morello, just to name a few who have sung the 7th-inning stretch. And being in Chicago has allowed me to see tons of stellar bands at some of the best venues in rock. The latest iPod downloads include The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Scott Lucas & The Married Men and Dawes.

5) CSNChicago.com: The Chicago Cubs have a legendary broadcasting history headlined of course by the late Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray. However, many journalists and fans alike have stated that LEN KASPER can one day be considered among the all-time greats. How does a statement like that make you feel and tell us about your distinct approach to each individual telecast?

Kasper: I really can't even address part of that because I don't consider myself, nor will I ever, in the same breath as any of baseball broadcasting's best. Jack and Harry and Vin Scully and Ernie Harwell are in a category of their own. I will say that being in the hallowed Cubs booth allows me to really be myself and by that, I mean this: Cubs broadcasters have always had a lot of personality and while I would never try to imitate Jack or Harry, I think fans want me to be myself and let my hair down on occasion and show my emotions. I pride myself on my professionalism and objectivity in certain spots, but I'd like to think that when people are watching, they know I'm doing the game for Cubs fans first and foremost, that I will always do my best to give viewers the fairest, most in-depth and entertaining call I can and when the game's on the line, I'm as nervous as they are sitting at home. I'll never forget the Ryan O'Malley game in Houston a few years ago. He was called up at about 6am that morning and won his major league debut and Bob and I were literally in tears on the air as we showed Ryan hugging his dad after the game. It was so emotional and in a lot of spots, we would have been called unprofessional for not keeping our emotions in check. But I think it showed our humanity and there's nothing wrong with that. To be honest, if you don't get choked up witnessing something as touching as that, something's wrong with you!

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Anything you want to plug Len? Please share it with us

Kasper: As you mentioned earlier, I guess the main thing would be for any Cubs fans out there who love good music, I would really encourage them to come to our annual Len & Bob Bash for Cubs Charities. We hold it every January at the House of Blues the night before the Cubs Convention and next year will be our 5th year. We've raised a lot of money for a good cause and it's always a fun time. We'd love to have that event sold out every year for the next several decades. Also, I want to thank all the fans who have made me feel so welcome here in Chicago. This is my 6th year here and people have treated me like I'm part of their family since day one. You're the best fans in sports and it's truly an honor to spend 3 hours a day with you during the summer.

Kasper LINKS:

Len KasperBob Brenly blog on ChicagoNow.com

Len KasperBob Brenly on Twitter

Len Kasper on Facebook

Len Kaspers Len and Lin podcasts on WXRT 93.1 FM

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

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USA TODAY

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

It’s official: The Blackhawks are headed back outdoors.

The NHL announced that the 2019 Winter Classic will be held at Notre Dame Stadium, featuring the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1.

"The Blackhawks and Bruins, two of our most historic franchises, will be meeting outdoors for the first time at the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "Notre Dame Stadium, with its capacity approaching 80,000, will provide an ideal setting for this ground-breaking event and will host the largest live audience ever to witness a game by either of these teams."

"The Chicago Blackhawks are honored to be participating in this marquee event at an iconic venue like Notre Dame Stadium," Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough said in a statement. "The University of Notre Dame has strong alumni roots in both Chicago and Boston, and, with an established rivalry between the Blackhawks and Bruins, fans will be treated to an exciting game in a unique atmosphere. We appreciate the invitation to the game and look forward to what will be a great day for both franchises and the National Hockey League."

It's the sixth time the Blackhawks will be playing outdoors, and their league-leading fourth Winter Classic. The Blackhawks are 1-4-0 in outdoor games, and are winless in three Winter Classic games.

Chicago's only outdoor win came against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2014 Stadium Series Classic, a 5-1 victory at Soldier Field.

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

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USA TODAY

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

The wait to find out which players have their options picked up or declined by the Fire might still be a couple weeks, but the first news of a player move in the Fire's offseason came via Twitter.

Defender Joao Meira announced he won't be returning to the club in 2018.

Meira signed with the Fire just before the start of the 2016 preseason after being out of contract in Europe. The Portuguese center back signed a one-year deal with a club option for the second year.

After he played 28 matches with 26 starts in 2016, the Fire picked up his option. He became even more of a fixture at center back in 2017, beating out Jonathan Campbell for the other starting spot alongside Johan Kappelhof. Meira played in 30 regular season matches and made 27 starts, finishing fourth on the team in minutes played (2,412).

That Meira won't be back isn't a major surprise for a few reasons. First, he was out of contract. He was one of two players, along with Bastian Schweinsteiger, on the Fire's roster that the team had no control over for 2018. On top of that, the 30-year-old had made it clear that he wanted to be closer to his home and family in Portugal.

Meira's departure leaves a gap at the center back position for the Fire. Kappelhof, who enters the third year of a three-year guaranteed deal in 2018, and Campbell, who will likely have his club option picked up, enter as the only healthy center backs in 2018. Christian Dean was added in August via trade, but is coming off a broken foot, an injury that has plagued him before. His status for the start of the 2018 season is unclear.

Grant Lillard, a potential homegrown signing and a senior at Indiana, could compete for time at center back next season. He is one of the top rated players in the country for the Hoosiers, which are the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While Lillard could step in from a numbers perspective and would add size to the Fire's back line (Lillard is 6-foot-4), he wouldn't be able to replace Meira's ability on the ball. Meira wasn't as effective of a defender as Kappelhof, but was arguably the best passer among the Fire's center backs and helped alleviate pressure at times.

This also opens up an international spot on the Fire's roster. The Fire went over the alloted total last season, but were able to put John Goossens and Jorge Bava on the disabled list to clear room. Meira's exit gives a bit more flexibility in that department.