Awaiting San Diego Padres baseball and the voice of Ted Leitner.
“Caaaa-rushed!” … Most likely, the cumulative emotion of all San Diego Padres fans when the 2020 Major League Baseball season was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
With what would have been Opening Day now upon us, the cavernous void for many baseball fans grows larger each day that we do not have the chance to enjoy the sport we love.
The sights, sounds, the atmosphere of being at the ballpark, or just watching or listening on TV and radio are things that, for many, have been a large part of their lives. For me, as March ends and April is upon us, one glaring omission from what is the usual norm for this time of year is the voice I grew up listening to as a San Diego native, the great Ted Leitner.
Sports have always been a big part of my life. As a very young child, my dad would lay baseball cards out on the floor and point to them, and I would name the team just by seeing the logo or uniform. Some of my very first memories of Padres baseball are riding around in the car with my dad and having the games on the radio. Hearing the late, great, Jerry Coleman and our “Uncle Ted” call the games are burned into my sports brain. There is something about baseball on the radio that is the most enjoyable form of the game to me, and nobody calls a baseball game quite like Ted.
During the World Series run team in 1998, I can still recall listening to every game on a small clock radio I had in my room. Sure, the games were on TV, but there was nothing purer than hearing Ted describe every little nuance taking place on the field. It was not just listening to a baseball game on the radio for me. I learned the game of baseball from listening to those broadcasts. I would challenge anyone to listen to Ted call a game and not come away from it feeling like a better fan of the game after learning something new or hearing a great story from days of baseball past that we were not privy to. Or having a good laugh at the back and forth banter between Ted and Jerry, or even when Tony Gwynn was in the booth with him. It is all infectious and something that just makes the game more enjoyable to listen to as a fan.
One thing about San Diego is it is a very proud town. The citizens here are proud of their own. People that are not from San Diego don’t fully understand the level that its sports fan residents feel connections to their sports icons. Tony Gwynn, Junior Seau, Trevor Hoffman, all icons in their own rights, truly felt (and feel) like San Diego’s own, especially with Seau being a local product. Through the years as I have spoken with people who have moved here from other places or are just visiting, or as I have traveled to other parts of the country, when I talk about these San Diego sports icons, most don’t fully understand how important they are to many of us.
Ted Leitner is one of those icons. While he doesn’t play the sport on the field, he is without question a significant part of it. He is an extension of the teams, a calming voice in all our ears, and I feel fortunate to have had the chance to hear his voice call these games we love so much. Ted Leitner is San Diego sports.
While Ted has called many sports over the years, baseball has always been the constant. And that is very fitting, considering it is the sport which is widely referred to as our national past time. Baseball is nostalgic. The history alone is incredibly riveting and, with that, the accolades that come along with baseball are as such. San Diego tends to be that sleepy little sports town with many of its greats going seemingly overlooked or unnoticed in the grand scale of professional sports. While their respective sports recognize San Diego’s true greats for what they have accomplished via seasonal awards within their game, honored by their organizations, as well as the Hall of Fame in a few cases, there is always a sense of neglect on a national level when it comes to this sports town.
For a lot of us, we wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s what is romantic about being a sports fan in San Diego. It’s what makes us all appreciate those icons we have had the chance to be a part of our lives as much as we do. But make no mistake about it, Ted Leitner deserves to not only be in the San Diego Padres’ Hall of Fame but the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame as well. Selfishly, I sure hope we get to see both happen.
While these difficult times in our current climate continue to have us missing baseball on the field with each day that passes, I, for one, take comfort in knowing that hopefully soon we will have the sport we love so much back on the field, and the voice of our beloved “Uncle Teddy” in our ears.