Most would agree the Red Sox made an unforgivable mistake trading Mookie Betts, a future Hall of Famer in the prime of his career. That’s not likely to change, no matter how many clutch hits Alex Verdugo delivers or how many game-saving grabs he makes in left field. But some Red Sox fans would argue the bigger travesty was letting announcer Don Orsillo leave the nest in 2015.
A native New Englander known for his frequent giggling fits (the man breaks easier than Bill Hader in a Stefon sketch) and enthusiastic calls of everything from walk-off home runs to no-hitters, Orsillo was universally beloved throughout his 15-year run in the NESN broadcast booth, presiding over memorable moments like the “Pizza Toss” incident (Friday marked the 14th anniversary of this event) and Daniel Nava’s emotional home run to beat Kansas City after the Boston Marathon bombing. The beauty of Orsillo, besides his superb chemistry with longtime color analyst Jerry Remy, was his masterful ability to flip the switch, serious one moment and relentlessly silly the next. It was the perfect juxtaposition of professionalism and levity, a certain chameleon quality that only the best broadcasters possess.
Orsillo has predictably been a fan favorite in San Diego, endearing himself to Friars fans by selling the hell out of every Fernando Tatis moon bomb (and there have been a lot of them the past two years) while also finding plenty of time for hilarious shenanigans with the always game Mark “Mud” Grant. Friday’s heavyweight bout between the Padres and Dodgers—long-time division rivals as well as combatants in last year’s National League playoffs—provided the perfect platform for Orsillo to flex his broadcasting muscle, dialing up the energy in the 10th when tempers flared between aggrieved slugger Jorge Mateo and erratic Dodgers reliever Dennis Santana. Mateo was none too happy at being plunked and let Santana know exactly where he stood on the matter, prompting both dugouts to empty. Orsillo, it seems, couldn’t wait for the two sides to throw down.
While a handful of critics found the call problematic, arguing Orsillo was a little too eager to see the teams fight, the vast majority loved every second of it, praising the Padres play-by-play voice for elevating the moment with his brilliant inflection.
Friday’s dramatic series opener at Petco Park made a compelling case for game of the year, featuring no shortage of late-inning heroics. Fueled by a five-run 12th inning (Corey Seager’s two-run blast off Tim Hill would be the dagger), the Dodgers were able to claim a thrilling 11-6 victory in a game that took nearly five hours to complete. The reigning World Series champs haven’t missed a beat in their title defense, winning 12 of 14 to begin the year.
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