MILWAUKEE — Like so many of the Cubs players whose games he calls from the radio booth, Pat Hughes broke into the big leagues early. It was with the Twins. The fresh-faced kid from San Jose, California, was all of 27.
“It was Detroit at Minnesota, opening night, 1983 — and the Tigers scored six runs in the top of the first inning,” Hughes recalled. “They wound up beating Minnesota 11-3. So maybe that was an omen that I should get ready for some struggles as a broadcaster covering teams.”
Twelve seasons with the Brewers came next, and there have been 22 in Chicago with the Cubs since. It would be banal to say Hughes blinked and turned 62 years old. No, his 3½ decades at the major-league microphone have been packed with good teams and bad ones, good times and exhausting ones.
A whole lot of us would sign up for watching baseball and talking about the Cubs for a living. Hughes is the first to say that he has a dream job. But it isn’t just the players who are out there grinding. Getting from spring training in Mesa, Arizona, to the finish line of a season can feel like going the distance on the blazing Arizona Trail.
“In years past, before the Cubs became World Series champions in 2016, I would always look forward to the end of the season very much,” Hughes said. “It’s a long year. You go from February and March all the way to the All-Star break and then through the season. You have the hot summer. You’re performing every day and traveling like an absolute lunatic.”
It’s that time of year when Hughes probably could check the soles of his shoes and find a hole or two. Three straight extra-inning games in Milwaukee, including Saturday’s 4-3, walk-off victory by the Brewers? That’ll wear anybody out. Yet, Hughes is a man reborn in his 60s. The end of the season can wait.
“Last year,” he said, “I found that I was exhilarated to the point, in the postseason, where I never felt more alive in my entire career. And now this year, to be honest with you, I’m not looking forward to the end of the season nearly the way that I used to. I want this season to continue as long as possible.
“I guess once you’ve had a taste of the World Series, even as a broadcaster, you want to taste it again.”
Hughes hears his call of the final out of the World Series almost daily on the Cubs’ pregame show and, all these months later, still gets goosebumps.
“It almost sounds like it’s somebody else,” he said. “It’s a strange experience. But I feel like I did OK. You always feel like you could’ve done a little bit better, maybe, but I can live with it.”
Oh, how he’d love to take another crack at a moment like that a little over a month from now. A mere 180 games into Year 35 of his big-league career (total games broadcast: more than 6,000), Hughes stood in his unassuming way on the periphery of the Cubs’ clubhouse and sized up the team’s chances to lead its radio voice — and the rest of us — on another epic journey.
“If we get into the postseason, we can beat anybody,” he said. “I don’t feel intimidated, especially with the Dodgers’ collapse. And Washington, they’ve had their little mini-problems with [Bryce] Harper, [Max] Scherzer missing a couple of starts, [Stephen] Strasburg having some arm issues.
“Every team can be beaten. I’m not saying we will win. I’m smart enough to know that I’m not smart enough to predict baseball. But if we get in, I like our chances.”
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