I met my husband in New York. He was a play-by-play broadcaster for a minor league baseball team. I was a graduate student whose only connection to the sports world was through her father, a big baseball fan. I learned about the minutiae of baseball through my husband, not just through conversations with him but also through listening to him call games.
My husband’s voice is also the soundtrack of my academic work. It has kept me company through every major assignment of my PhD. Even when we broke up when he first moved to Kansas City, I still listened to his post-game show as I burned the midnight oil researching for my dissertation. I can still see myself in the corner of the dining room, with the paper lamp hanging over my head and over my iMac, the rest of the apartment blanketed in darkness, and his warm voice filling the corners. I would listen to his co-host and him online, this unfamiliar voice interrupting the soothing sound of my now-husband, then-ex’s voice. Even through the break-up, I found the sound of his voice comforting.
Listening to my husband back then was not about nostalgia or longing–ok, maybe a little, but not all of it. I started listening to him as a way to support his career; being a play-by-play broadcaster is his calling, and he has been after a job in Major League Baseball his whole adult life. When we first met, the regular minor league baseball season was over, and his team was nowhere near the playoffs in their division. That meant he and I spent a lot of time together…until college basketball season started a month into our relationship. I would listen to his broadcasts, and found it hard to follow along–basketball is so much quicker than baseball–but I tuned in anyway. Soon, I knew who he was talking about and what he was talking about, and I could tune in while doing other things.
When we started dating, the fall semester was halfway over, so when basketball season started I was nearing the time of the semester when I had to write papers for class. His schedule and my routine clicked. He traveled occasionally, and worked mostly evenings. That gave me time to research, read, write, and prep for class; and when he was at work I could stay in touch with him by listening to his broadcasts. Soon, I was so used to writing and listening to his voice, that it acted like a Pavlovian bell of sorts: I would plan my writing/research schedule around the start of the game because I knew I’d have a few hours where I could zone out and zone in. Hearing his voice on the radio wasn’t white noise, but instead kept me company while I wrote semester in and semester out.
Years later (after we got back together, after I gave birth to our daughter, after I packed up all of our belongings and moved to Kansas City), I found myself trying to get back into the writing and research groove. Tuning in to his post-game broadcast long after my daughter was asleep helped me get back on track. Once she fell into a solid sleep routine, as small babies sometimes do, I could plan my evening writing and research routine: I would listen to the baseball game and then his post-game broadcast, or I would listen to him call a basketball game from two or three states over. For some reason, listening to him soothes me and helps me focus. It might be his tone, it might be his delivery, it might be the familiarity of his voice…or it might be all three. When I was nearing the end of my dissertation, I remember remarking on Twitter that my husband’s voice has been the soundtrack to my work from Day One. I’m only mildly exaggerating.
Today, February 23rd, 2013, was my husband’s first broadcast as a major league play-by-play broadcaster. I eagerly purchased my subscription to MLB’s At Bat for my iPhone just in time for the first pitch. I was working an event today, but when things calmed down and my students were hard at work, I put in one ear bud, tapped the headphones icon in the app, and waited for his voice to wash over me. The sound of his voice filled me with pride, with joy, and with relief. It had been years since I last heard him call pitches, catches, outs, swings, and misses. Hearing him today felt like putting on my comfiest sweater.
Like others before, many baseball fans will now associate my husband’s voice with summer, with afternoons at the ballpark, with the joy of a home run, with the bitterness of a tough loss on the road. He will become the soundtrack of their memories of baseball. But for me, listening to his broadcasts will always mean more than just baseball. It means he is here with our daughter and with me, even when he is away, through the sound of his voice.