The next time you listen to a baseball game on the radio, notice how many times the weather is referenced.
"The weather is certainly one part of trying to convey to the listener the scene of what's happening and the setting for the game and what might turn out to be an important component that affects the way the game turns out,” said Stu Foster, WKU professor, Kentucky state climatologist and part-time color commentator for the Bowling Green Hot Rods.
"Whether it's a clear, deep blue sky that might be a problem for outfielders, whether there's a strong breeze blowing in or out,” said Foster. “We had a game recently where there was a heavy dew that came on the field as the game went on that could've come on to affect the game."
Foster said a few conversations last winter led to the opportunity to sit in on a dozen games as color commentator for the Midwest League affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. He says his weather expertise wasn’t the only part of his “day job” that helped ease his transition into the broadcast booth.
He says in both broadcasting and being a professor, the goal is the same: communicate a message with a large audience.
"A lot of that comes from teaching there at Western and also in my role as state climatologist. I've done a lot of public speaking around the state and country at different types of meetings and such. So, that experience really helped me a lot, combining that with having listened to baseball over the years and now paying more attention to broadcasters has helped me out."
Foster grew up playing, watching and listening to baseball in Southern Ohio during the days of the “Big Red Machine” in the 1970s. While the team on the field was talented and entertaining, Foster also enjoyed the talent in the Reds’ broadcast booth – particularly longtime analyst Joe Nuxhall.
"He was a very very colorful color commentator, if you will, and had been a player for the Cincinnati Reds – the youngest player ever to appear in a major league baseball game, so I certainly enjoyed him. Of course now, Marty Brennaman and even Al Michaels was a Reds' broadcaster for a little while.”
Few in town were more excited when Bowling Green Ballpark was built and the Hot Rods began playing downtown.
"I really enjoy baseball. And then when we got the team here and in this beautiful stadium. It was like "wow", you couldn't imagine anything better to have this right in downtown Bowling Green. You can hop in your car, drive 15 minutes and park and walk right over to the stadium. It's certainly become a big part of my summer, along with my wife. We come out to a lot of games."
In a spacious broadcast booth on the third base side of Bowling Green Ballpark, Hank Fuerst makes final preparations for another broadcast. A 2009 WKU graduate, Fuerst is in his fourth season with the Hot Rods, second as lead announcer. In 2012, it was a solo act for Fuerst, but this year it’s a full house. Chris Kleinhaus-Schulz joins him for home games and so too did Stu Foster several times this summer.
"Last year, it was just me by myself, but this year, I'm fortunate enough to have a broadcast assistant on the air with me. But Stu is that No. 3 guy. He comes in, he kind of spells us and provides some really good color commentary," said Fuerst. "After about two or three games, Stu got it. Nailed it. [He] had the cadence down, the timing down...and he's really been a valuable asset to our broadcast team. I think he gives us that major league sound."
Foster says very few of his colleagues at the university knew what he was doing this summer, but that changed when one of his fellow professors sent an e-mail to everyone on staff, touting Foster’s summer gig.
"The few people that I've talked to and have stopped me about it have been very complimentary and thought 'that's really neat that you were able to do that' so it's nice to have that kind of support from folks."
"It's certainly a learning experience, but all-in-all, I've really enjoyed it. Chris and Hank have made it much easier than it might have been otherwise. So it's been a great experience."
And he’s watched winning baseball this summer, with the Hot Rods reaching the Midwest League playoffs for a third straight year