His baseball career came to a bitter end at the Division III Championships in Appleton, Wis. in May 2005 … a ”
lazy flyout to left
“, as he describes it. It was on that same field two years prior Jeff Levering ’05 experienced the greatest thrill of his playing days as he and the
team were the last men standing -
2003 National Champions
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So it’s fitting that just 107 miles south, along Lake Michigan,
the 31-year old will begin his Major League broadcasting career
Levering got the call to “the show” this month and will spend the 2015 season handling radio play-by-play duties on
for select Brewers road games (when Hall of Fame broadcaster
Bob Uecker doesn’t travel
of Johnny Carson, Mr. Belvedere and Miller Lite ads fame). The budding man-behind-the-mic will also call a handful of home games, serve as pre- and post-game show host and produce feature stories for the team website and
“I’m kind of the “Swiss Army knife” of the broadcast team,” says Levering, always finding the perfect words to tell the narrative.
In fact, it was a dinner with the iconic Uecker in Arizona in late December that may have sealed the deal for Levering, who had interviewed for the position a few days earlier. That night, a chance run-in with MLB Commissioner
gave Levering a boost when Uecker introduced him as already being “part of their broadcast team”.
“(Uecker) was as gracious as could be,” says Levering. “We shared stories and jokes for two hours. It took every fiber of my being not to
quote any of his lines from Major League
Like the ballplayers, baseball broadcasters tend to climb the proverbial ladder through the minor leagues. And again like the men in uniform, most fall short of their goal of reaching the Bigs. Levering toiled in the minor leagues for eight seasons, going from Single-A (
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
) to Double-A (
) to Triple-A (
Pawtucket Red Sox
), where he spent the past two years.
But at 31, he’ll be one of the two youngest play-by-play men in the Major Leagues, a distinction he proudly shares with good friend and
Seattle Mariners broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith
, also 31.
“When I started in Rancho in 2007, I set a goal to be in the Major Leagues by the time I turned 30,” says Levering. “I knew that was a lofty goal, but to be honest if I had spent five years in Rancho and wasn’t progressing I’d have given it up.
“But I made it to Double-A, and then up to Triple-A, so I kept going. And made the cross-country trek in the process, going from out west (Southern California) to about as far east as you could get (Rhode Island). There’s something appropriately symmetrical about landing back in the Midwest, and down the road from where my Chapman career ended.”
It was at Chapman, in a multi-camera class taught by another alumnus
Paul Higgins ’85
, that Levering first cut his teeth behind the microphone. His play-by-play debut was for a Panther softball game.
“I was awful,” he says with a laugh. “But I had fun and I liked my seat.”
With a little encouragement from Higgins, he began to think this was something he wanted to do for his career.
In a broadcasting age short on originality, Levering has morphed the many influences in his career into his own distinct storytelling voice. He studied another Hall of Famer,
calling San Francisco Giants games, while growing up in Sacramento, Calif. and still finds time to listen to the broadcasts now. He cites
and his broadcasting mentor
(former Angels announcer, now Royals) as most influential in his style.
“When you’re on radio, you’re the guy. You’re everybody’s eyes, so you have to be more of a storyteller. People want to feel like they’re there.”
But the biggest influence on his broadcasting is still his experience as a Division III player at Chapman and winning the national championship nearly 12 years ago.
“To have the opportunity to play at the next level (beyond high school) was such a blessing,” says ‘Levo’ as he’s known to his teammates.
“And looking back, I really value the experience I had as a role player and it really lent itself well to my broadcasting career. I know what it’s like for these players to come off the bench in the ninth inning with runners on base and have to get a hit. I know what it’s like to see a pitcher once and have to make adjustments the second, third, fourth time through the order. I know what it’s like to play different positions, to hit second, third, seventh in the lineup, and most of all the tight camaraderie we had as teammates. It gives me a broader perspective.”