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Kevin Cremin nears the final out after 35 years as the man behind Mariners radio broadcasts

Retiring producer/engineer Kevin Cremin threw out the first pitch Tuesday night. (Gary Hill photo)

Shortly after the last out of Game 162 is made at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, Mariners radio producer/engineer Kevin Cremin will pack up the equipment cases one last time. After 35 years, the man behind the the radio broadcast you heard in your cars, homes or more recently over your cell phones on the MLB app, is retiring. A marvelous career will come to an end as Kevin leaves what perhaps is the best office anyone could imagine ever having.

“I like getting to the park before everything starts and it’s quiet and it’s just grass and it grows and grows and they are watering the infield,” he mused. “And then getting the show put together. The pregame shows and putting the magazine (show) together and the game itself and you are always thinking of what comes next. It never stops. And that’s one thing that I am looking forward to in retirement. It stops. It won’t be on your mind all the time. I have enjoyed it immensely, but it will be interesting to not think about it all the time.”

Baseball has always been on Cremin’s mind. From the time he was a young fan growing up in Oklahoma treated to yearly games in nearby Kansas City with his family, to when baseball became his “job,” baseball has been a part of his life. He got his foot in the door to his dream job when a friend who produced a show at the station that carried the Mariners games called and asked if he could help get sound for the broadcast when the Mariners were in Kansas City. The rest, as they say, is Mariners broadcast history.

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“I got along with Dave (Niehaus), I knew where the rib joints were after the ballgame,” he chuckled. “He called me at the end of the season out of the blue, the first thing he says is ‘How’s the weather?’ He always says that (laughs). And Dave said, ‘Hey, how would you like the producer/engineer job?’ I said, ‘Dave, that sounds great, but I don’t know the first thing about it.’ He says, ‘Nah. They will teach you.’ I said if you can make it happen I will do it. He did and here we are.”

Kevin reported to spring training with the Mariners that year with a bit of a safety net. Rick Rizzs had just joined the broadcast coming off eight years in the minor leagues where he engineered his own broadcasts.

“The first time I met Kevin I remember how anxious he was in trying to set up the equipment,” remembered Rizzs. “Everything was a first for him. But what I remember most, how nice he was. What a great guy he was. How much he loved the game of baseball.”

His love of baseball would prove invaluable to the broadcast and broadcasters.

“As a kid I started collecting baseball cards and looking at the back and reading the statistics,” said Cremin. “I learned baseball through baseball cards. We would go to games every summer in Kansas City and Houston when the Astros arrived. It’s why when I went to do those games in K.C., I was ready. I had statistical knowledge, trivia, facts. Anymore it’s on your phone. It didn’t used to be.”

Cremin would have appreciated an app back in the early days. Rather than a laptop or a cell phone app, the information was in books, and the books had to travel.

“He lugged around a big old case with all the media guides in it,” said Rizzs. “This was long before cell phones, baseball-reference.com. That was the internet, he lugged it on his back. From the ballpark to the airport, from the airport to hotel. On top of that was keeping track of all the scores going on in the league and he had this printer behind him and reams and reams of paper would come out. Dave and I would use it throughout the ballgame.”

In addition to the information he provided, Cremin took pride in the sound of the broadcast. There is a balance that must be achieved particularly in big moments.

“Your fingers are on the faders when something is about to happen,” he said. “You have to think about the crowd noise, the crack of the bat and the announcer, and all of those things go up at different levels and speeds. You do feel satisfied when you get that and you replay the highlight and, ‘Yeah, got that,’ or the other: ‘A little too much.'”

The 1995 and 2001 seasons provided Cremin with the most excitement on the faders.

“You are just completely in tune with every pitch. It’s like nothing else,” he said. “All so important, every at-bat, especially coming down the stretch in ’95. You were eager to get to the park, eager to stay at the park. Extended postgame shows? You didn’t care. You couldn’t get enough. You were riding this crest of this wave until it stopped. It was like nothing else.”

“(The) 2001 season,” he continued, “was just remarkable that they played so well. Every day they won – well, most of the time. One-hundred and sixteen games and they were really rolling until 9-11 occurred and that put a five- or six-day hesitation on things and never was really the same after that. But what a ball club. It’s really a shame either one or both of those clubs didn’t win the World Series because they sure could have.”

On and off the field, the partnership of Cremin, Rizzs and Niehaus clicked from Day 1. Spending over seven months each year together calling baseball games home and on the road, their relationships went far beyond work.

“You become a part of each other’s families,” said Rizzs. “One of the greatest honors of my life is when Kevin asked me to be his daughter’s godfather. So Colleen Cremin, his oldest daughter, is my goddaugher. We have been a part of each other’s family for a long time.”

Colleen Cremin is now Colleen Farrell, and last spring while in Arizona taking care of the spring training broadcasts, Kevin got the call that Lillian Farrell, his first grandchild, was on her way into the world. Thirty-five years go by quickly and as marvelous a life in baseball is, nothing takes the place of time spent with family. Baseball will never be too far away, however.

“I think I will listen to more baseball than I will watch,” said Cremin. “You can take the radio with you. I always listened to a lot of baseball. Baseball is just better on the radio, to me. Your mind can wander, but your mind can go get to the ballpark and you can see it hear it feel it.

“Radio and baseball go together. The great announcers, the Hall of Fame announcers, they never talk about their TV work, it is always radio announcers, and that’s just the way it is.”

Rizzs believes if there was a place in the Hall of Fame for those behind the radio announcers, Kevin Cremin’s name would be there.

“Kevin Cremin I think defines what the job is and what it should be,” he said. “It’s more than just connecting wires and plugging in microphones. It’s 100 times more than that. It’s the baseball side of it. The love of broadcasting and what it should be like, because he worked with Dave Niehaus for so long. He understands the game of baseball, what should be going down on the field, how we should describe it, how we should bring it to the fans. He understands the game, he understands broadcasting and he melds that all together. The bottom line is he takes pride in every show, every game we do. I don’t think anyone comes close to what Kevin does or how he does it. He’s the best in the game.”

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