Len Kasper might be the highest-profile person with a new job in the city, moving from the Cubs’ TV booth to the White Sox’ radio booth. So when we talked this week about how it’s going, the first question was obvious:
How’s the commute?
“I added 9 miles to my commute, but it’s all basically the Kennedy and the Ryan [expressways],” said Kasper, a Glencoe resident. “My trip to Wrigley was shorter, but once you get off on Irving Park or Addison, it can be tricky. So it’s been fine. I throw on an audiobook or a podcast.”
It’s just a small part of Kasper’s seamless transition on the South Side. A first-time listener wouldn’t think for a second that Kasper has been on the Sox’ mic for just two regular-season weeks. And Kasper feels like he has been with the team for years, thanks to the warm welcome he has received.
“Roger Bossard came up to me [Tuesday] and gave me a big hug,” Kasper said of the Sox’ head groundskeeper.
Nothing against his last job on the North Side, where Kasper worked for 16 years, but he feels reinvigorated in his new gig. It’s the combination of a fresh start, a dream job and fans in the stands. After calling games in an empty ballpark last season, Kasper said having even just 8,000 fans is wonderful.
He felt that energy in the first inning of the Sox’ home opener last week. With two outs, Jose Abreu doubled and Yoan Moncada and Yermin Mercedes hit back-to-back home runs, sending the crowd into a frenzy. “I’ve got goose bumps,” Kasper said with a laugh on the ESPN 1000 broadcast.
“That was magical. That was one of those moments that I will never forget,” Kasper said Wednesday before calling another memorable moment, Carlos Rodon’s no-hitter. “When I think of career highlights and broadcast moments, it was hard to describe just how cool that felt.”
With the Cubs, Kasper said it took a year or two for his personality to come out because he knew viewers didn’t know anything about him. His goal was to nail the basics and let his personality appear with time. But having been in town for so long, it’s all coming naturally to him with the Sox.
Analyst Darrin Jackson feels that, too. He was comfortable with Kasper from the start, having shared conversations over the years in spring training and during the season when the Cubs and Sox met. Jackson has been most impressed with how Kasper has immersed himself in all things Sox.
“His preparation since joining the organization is unmatched,” said Jackson, who’s in his 22nd season as a Sox broadcaster. “The guy has informed himself so well about the personnel, the organization, this side of town, you name it. He has become part of the White Sox culture as quickly as anybody ever can.
“But the big thing is, it was his choice. He chose to make a change and go where he wanted to be. It’s real easy to acclimate to a new environment because that’s what you wanted. He feels at home.”
To some, it might sound odd to hear the former Cubs voice calling Sox games. And for those of a certain age, it might have been downright bizarre to see Kasper join Sox TV analyst — and former longtime Cubs analyst — Steve Stone on NBC Sports Chicago on Monday, when Jason Benetti had an ESPN commitment.
“That was fun,” Kasper said. “The only conversation we had, I said, ‘I do the lineups; you do the pitcher and defense.’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ There was no strategy discussed. We just do it. And that’s how I always want to do it. I hate overthinking and overplanning when it comes to chemistry on the air. That has to be as natural as possible.
“But I’m so close to it that I have to take a step back and understand that a lot of people on the outside are experiencing this through a different lens. So when they hear two familiar voices together that have never been together, I can understand how that might feel jarring.”
Kasper will have another new partner Saturday, when he moonlights for Fox Sports 1. He’ll join another former Cub, Eric Karros, for the White Sox-Red Sox game in Boston. Kasper will call the action from the Big Ten Network’s studios in Chicago; Karros will be in Los Angeles.
Kasper also is scheduled to call FS1 broadcasts of Sox games April 24 against the Rangers and May 1 against the Indians. He’ll be joined by former Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. ESPN 1000 pre- and postgame show host Connor McKnight fills in for Kasper on those occasions.
In the next few weeks, Kasper hopes to debut a podcast with Benetti. It’s still being planned and needs a name. The two also will call a couple of games together in mid-May on NBCSCH.
“That’ll be old school with two play-by-play announcers,” Kasper said.
Kasper certainly has gone old school, not only calling games on the radio but listening to a lot of radio broadcasts, as well. The self-proclaimed audiophile is reacquainting himself with the medium where his broadcast career started and his baseball fandom was kindled.
“I feel like I’m 12 again,” he said. “It just feels right. That’s the best way I can put it.”