In a world dominated by video, Len Kasper loves radio.
A self-proclaimed “audiophile,” Kasper shocked the sports-broadcasting world with the announcement Friday that he’s leaving the Cubs’ TV booth on Marquee Sports Network for the White Sox’ radio booth on their new flagship station, ESPN 1000.
Immediately, fans asked the question: Why on earth would he do that?
It’s a valid one. The Cubs’ audience is much, much larger than that of the Sox. The Cubs have a national following, whereas you wonder if the Sox even have a local one sometimes. And Kasper could have called Cubs games forever on the most popular medium.
Even his former employers, while supportive, wondered how the move would be received.
“In the mix of thoughts was how hard will it be for people to understand, especially for Cubs fans, going from the Cubs to the White Sox and going from TV to radio,” said Crane Kenney, the Cubs’ president of business operations. “For people who don’t know Len well, this will seem incongruous, this doesn’t make any sense.”
It makes perfect sense. It’s his dream job.
Don’t misconstrue that. Kasper, 49, was living out A dream. Calling the Cubs is one of the plum jobs in broadcasting, and Kasper knew that every day of his 16 years with the team.
Now he’ll be fulfilling a childhood dream.
“Speaking to you today is the 12-year-old Len Kasper, and this is emotional for a lot of reasons,” said Kasper, who was surprised just how emotional it was, having to stop talking to compose himself on the Zoom call from his Glencoe home.
“When I was 12, I wanted to be [late Tigers Hall of Fame broadcaster] Ernie Harwell. Ernie was the hero who became a mentor and a good friend. If I have one regret today, it’s that when I got the Marlins job [in 2002], I got a handwritten letter from Ernie; when I got the Cubs job [in 2005], I got a phone call from Ernie. You don’t know how much that means to someone like me.”
That, right there, is the essence of Kasper. He isn’t a “someone like me.” He’s a “someone” young broadcasters strive to be, like he was with Harwell. Kasper has vivid snap shots from his youth in Michigan in the 1980s with Harwell’s soundtrack in the background. Now Kasper can be someone else’s soundtrack and paint the picture of baseball that Harwell painted for him.
The Cubs and Marquee made every effort to keep Kasper. They even asked for an extra day to come up with a more enticing package that Kasper said “blew him away.” But he listened to his gut.
“If I don’t do this now, I might not never get this opportunity,” said Kasper, who added that he wouldn’t have considered leaving Chicago to pursue a radio job. “I’m not the young kid anymore. I’m a kid at heart.
“This is 100% about a moment in time during which I could not pass up the opportunity of a lifetime.”