Their booth contains the best hair in baseball, even if the team they call games for every night gives them enough reason to lose it.
They are Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler, the voices of Blue Jays baseball on Rogers Sportsnet.
As the play-by-play and colour commentator for most Jays’ games since 2010, Martinez and Tabler – or Buck and Tabby – make every attempt to create an enjoyable viewing experience for the fans, even when the score would otherwise discourage it.
“Both Pat [Tabler] and I believe that you want to bring something new to the broadcast every night,” said Martinez from the Sportsnet broadcast booth at the Rogers Centre one recent afternoon before a Jays game. “Tell people something they don’t know.”
They are able to share information because of their passion for the game, something that Tabler had stressed as the most important part of their job.
“Buck [Martinez] and I love baseball,” said Tabler. “We love talking about baseball, we love watching it, we love describing it, we love conversing it. We just love baseball.
“Hopefully that’s what comes out in our broadcast; that people learn a little something and that knowledge that we have of baseball comes through on the broadcast.”
Their love of baseball began at a young age. Tabler cites his experience as a kid watching the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series in 1967 and 1968 for his strong ties to the game.
“You’re at school and the teacher turns on the TV or you run home after school to watch it. I was like, ‘Wow, cool!’ And then right after that, the ‘Big Red Machine,’” said the Cincinnati native, referring to the decade of excellence embarked by the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970s.
For Martinez however, it was that one magical ball game in 1958 that won him over.
“I was a big Giants fan, and when they came to California in ‘58 I got a chance to go see them when I was 10-years-old,” said Martinez. “And Willie Mays was the best thing in the world.”
These experiences blossomed into more than a love of the game for both of them. It also led them to eventually join the ranks as professional major league baseball players, something that Martinez admitted he “never ever thought” he’d be doing.
“Never thought it was attainable,” said Martinez.
But those days have since passed for the both of them. Today they share a broadcast booth above home plate at the Rogers Centre, allowing them to bond for the last two years.
And any viewer who watches a Jays’ game knows that the two have a great rapport with each other. Tabler jokes that he and Martinez don’t need to communicate or plan their conversations during games because he could “read Buck’s mind.”
For Martinez, all it takes is a look from his fellow broadcaster.
“We look at each other and he’ll have something to say and I’ll say go ahead,” said Martinez, who then slapped his hand on the table he sat at for emphasis. “And most of the time I know what he’s going to say. Because it’s baseball and we’ve both been in baseball our whole life.
“We’re prepared. He says something about a guy over on the [Seattle] Mariners that had an injury and I’ll finish the sentence and say that he injured his wrist in June. Not many guys can do that. Most booths don’t communicate as well as we can. Because they just don’t.
“We like to work that, it’s fun to work at…”
“It’s fun to be a part of,” finished Tabler, 54, for Martinez. “That’s part of baseball and we both love baseball.”
And as for the wonderful heads of hair at their mature ages, particularly Martinez’s full and vibrant do, there is no real secret to it.
“It’s genetics,” said Martinez, 63, with a laugh. ”I’m a Native American Indian and my parents all have great hair.
“Of course it is [all natural]. I don’t do anything to it except brush my product into my hair,” added Martinez as he ran his right hand into his hair as if to emphasize the motion. “I was blessed. My father had great hair until he was 86 [years-old] and he passed away.”
But of course, what product does he use for his hair?
“Now that’s the secret,” Martinez smiled.