Astros Hire Todd Kalas as New Play-by-Play Announcner
Todd Kalas, who was born in Houston as his father, the late Hall of Fame announcer Harry Kalas, was beginning his storied big league broadcasting career with the Astros in the mid-1960s, will return to his birthplace as the Astros' new play-by-play announcer on Root Sport Southwest.
Kalas will join returning analyst Geoff Blum in the TV booth as the successor to Bill Brown, who retired at the end of the 2016 season, the Astros announced Thursday.
"Houston is the first place I saw baseball," Kalas said. "It's incredibly special to be coming back to the city and working for the team where Dad got his start. I'm excited to be part of the Houston community and to be part of this incredible Astros team."
Blum, who has worked primarily road games for the Astros since 2013, said he was looking forward to working with Kalas, whom he met while playing with Tampa Bay in 2004, and expanding his role with the Astros.
"I'm excited for the opportunity," Blum said. "It's good to be wanted, and it was fun to be part of the process (in Kalas' hire). I'm very grateful to the Astros and Reid Ryan."
Kalas has spent 19 seasons as a member of the Rays' telecast team on Fox Sports Florida and Sun Sports, and he comes to Houston with the highest recommendations from his longtime Tampa Bay colleague, former Astros announcer Dewayne Staats.
"I don't like the idea of losing him over here," Staats said. "But he was born an Astro. We found a picture of him when he was 2 years old, wearing a little Astros uniform and swinging a bat.
"I'd hire him to do anything. If it were broadcasting or if I ran a shoe store, Todd would be my guy. I have great affection and respect for him."
Kalas and Blum will be employed by the Astros. The remainder of the telecast crew is employed by Root Sports Southwest and is expected to be announced after the first of the year, although the primary incumbents – studio host Kevin Eschenfelder, analyst Mike Stanton and field reporter Julia Morales – are expected to have the opportunity to return for 2017.
Kalas was born Dec. 31, 1965, the final day of his parents' first year in Houston and the Astros' inaugural season at the Astrodome.
Harry Kalas worked in Houston from 1965 through 1970 before moving to Philadelphia, where he called Phillies games from 1971 until his death on April 13, 2009, while preparing for a game between the Phillies and Washington Nationals.
His signature line while in Houston, where he called games on radio and television along with Gene Elston and Loel Passe, was "That ball's in Astros orbit!" He was one of four Ford C. Frick Award winners to work for the Astros, joining Elston, Milo Hamilton and Bob Prince
As a second-generation baseball man in his own right, Kalas' experience of growing up in a baseball family resonated with Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan, who directed the search that resulted in Kalas' hire.
"Todd's reputation for being a quality broadcaster is what got him the job, but those of us who have been in baseball know that nuances of the game and relationships and history matter," Ryan said. "The fact that Todd has been a successful broadcaster with one club for so long and has been in the game for 25 years is a bonus."
Ryan said he received 70 applications from local and network television and radio broadcasters for the job vacated by Brown and brought in six to audition with Blum.
"We made the decision early on that we wanted to give Geoff a chance to be in the (analyst) role every day," Ryan said. "He knew the job was his and that he would be helping to pick his boothmate."
Kalas and Blum knew each other from Blum's season in Tampa Bay and had kept in touch over the years.
"He and Aubrey Huff would sit behind me on plane rides," Kalas said. "I have seen how his style and sense of humor shine through on the telecast, and his knowledge and the personality I saw back in 2004 is as engaging as it ever was."
Kalas said he has been selective in his search for his first full-time chance to do play by play on television because of his fondness for the Tampa Bay area and for Staats, who filled the role of a second father or older brother since Harry Kalas' death.
"I love the area, but I knew that if the right situation came along and I could find a full-time play by play role, that is where my heart was," he said. "I've had some near-misses, but I don't think I would have been as happy anywhere as I expect to be in Houston."
Like his father, who called University of Houston football games during his Astros days and later became the post-John Facenda voice of NFL Films, Todd Kalas has been a versatile announcer. He has called college games for Cox Sports Television in Louisiana and University of South Florida basketball and Tampa Bay Lightning hockey games for Sun Sports.
"He brings great enthusiasm for the game," said Staats, who worked in Houston from 1977-84. "You need to be a professional to do this, but it helps to have that little bit of boyish enthusiasm for the game, and he has that. And he's a hard worker."
A graduate of Syracuse University, Kalas also did radio for the Mets in 1992-93 and television with the Phillies in 1994-96. He made his baseball broadcasting debut with the Louisville Redbirds in 1991.
Blum, meanwhile, said he plans to move with his family from California to Houston, where he played for the Astros from 2007-10, after working primarily road games for four years alongside Alan Ashby, who was not retained by the Astros for next season.
Brown, his former on-air partner, said of the new hires, "Todd is a baseball lifer, and he and Geoff will be a perfect fit. Astros fans will like this team."
Ryan said both broadcasters will take part in the Astros' annual offseason caravan trip across Texas and will be in Houston to meet with fans after the first of the year.
"These jobs are about creating baseball fans and Astros fans and growing the game, and we were looking for broadcasters who see the big picture and will be informative and entertaining," he said. "We think Todd and Geoff will grow and blossom along with our team."