BY ALYSSA PARKHILL
Mike Wilner is going in his 18th season as a member of the Blue Jays broadcast crew.
After every game, if you tune your ears to BlueJaysTalk on the Fan590, you will hear the voice of Wilner going through the post-game talk. He also calls play-by-play during home games during the 5th and 6th innings. Wilner is a journalist of all things baseball as he authors a blog on Sportsnet as well.
Wilner shares his first-time experience hosting his very first Blue Jays game at Fenway Park in Boston on Opening Day in 2002.
“I had never been on the broadcast before, but I had covered the Jays for years, so I knew their routine a bit, and I expected to be sitting up in the back row with the engineers.”
“Bruce Brenner, and I thought my job would be to occasionally walk down to the front to hand Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth their updates for the out of town scoreboard,” explains Wilner.
“The microphones are open. If you have something to say, say it.”
“But when I walked into the booth, there were three microphones set up in the front row. I said to Brenner: ‘There are three mics down there.’ He said: ‘Yep.’
“I asked if he was kidding, but he assured me that there was a spot for me, and that I would be part of the game broadcast, doing the scoreboard on the air,” says Wilner, with surprise and excitement.
“Almost right before the first pitch, Cheek – a broadcasting legend, my idol and, as it turned out, one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met – turned to me and said: ‘The microphones are open. If you have something to say, say it.’”
During the surprise and excitement of having the opportunity to host the game with one of his idols, it helped that it was a great game.
“The game was crazy. What was supposed to be a great pitchers’ duel between a pair of all-stars (one of whom would wind up in the Hall of Fame) wound up being a slugfest that the Jays won 12-11. Late in the game, the Red Sox brought in a pitcher named Ugueth Urbina (who later served seven years for attempted murder, but that’s a separate issue), and I told the story of how his middle name is Urtain and that he was the first-ever big-leaguer with the initials UUU and that his siblings also have the initials UUU. Cheek loved the story, and that was the beginning of a wonderful relationship. And also, the beginning of a career that’s about to go into its 18th season in the Blue Jays’ broadcast booth.”