Born and raised in the Midwest, Minnesota Twins radio play-by-play man Cory Provus is familiar with what kind of baseball this part of the country offers.
Provus has worked games on the radio with the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and enters his third season calling games with Dan Gladden for the Twins. He was in town last Thursday as a part of the Twins Winter Caravan and said as he enters his third go-around with the Twins he’s fully comfortable in his role calling games in Minnesota.
“When I go down to spring training it’s not like you’re seeing strangers,” Provus said. “There’s always some apprehension your first time like it was in Chicago, like it was in Milwaukee, like it was with the Twins. That first time you’re around players, you’re around staff, you’re around coaches, they don’t really know. What’s so great about baseball is you have so many games so chemistry and trust develops quickly.”
During his three seasons with the Brewers from 2009-11, Provus got to develop that chemistry and trust with Brewers radio announcer and Hall of Famer Bob Uecker.
Provus said he learned many things from his games with Mr. Baseball, but most importantly to never take the game too seriously.
“People have a lot going on in their lives, whether it’s personal, professional, bills are piling up and we look at our job as to be a distraction,” Provus told the fans at the Caravan’s stop at the Eagles Club in Lake Hallie last Thursday.
“Lets do our homework, lets have some fun, but lets also do it with a sense of levity,” Provus added of Uecker’s message.
Uecker stepped away for a period of time from the broadcast booth in 2010 due to heart surgery, but returned at full strength for the 2011 season. Combining the return of Uecker with the strong team the Brewers fielded that season with a National League Central Division title and berth in the NL Championship Series gave Provus an experience he said he’d always remember.
“It was such a fun summer,” Provus said. “So many great games, so many great moments. Being on the field when Nyjer (Morgan) had that walkoff hit in Game 5 against Arizona of the (NL) Division Series. Just being on the field covering the locker room and immersing myself in the celebration and the joy of Milwaukee fans, those are moments that stay with you forever. No matter if you’re now working in a different city with a different team, you can never take those moments away.”
Provus added that it was the personalities of players like Morgan that may have ruffled some feathers elsewhere, but made his job fun to go to every day.
“It was a team that had so much personality,” Provus said of the 2011 Brewers. “Nyjer Morgan, say what you want about the guy now, but he was fun to be around. He brought energy, he brought solid play. Yeah, he said some things that bothered people, most notably in St. Louis, that’s just who he is.”
After the 2011 season Provus moved on to call games for the Minnesota Twins and joined Dan Gladden in the radio booth. The Twins have posted 66-96 records in each of Provus’ first two seasons with the club, but an offseason investment in the starting rotation has helped breed optimism in Minnesota. The squad spent a combined $73 million dollars on veteran free agents Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco to pair with returners Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia with a group of young pitchers going to spring training to battle it out for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. That rotation will look to improve on last season’s 4.55 team earned run average, a mark that ranked second-to-last in all of Major League Baseball.
“The pitching will be better,” Provus said. “I think you feel good about the bullpen, specifically the back end with (Jared) Burton and (Glen) Perkins and (Caleb) Thielbar and (Anthony) Swarzak and (Brian) Duensing.
But the Twins also need to improve on offense. They tied for 24th in MLB in batting average last year and 25th in runs scored. The Twins opted not to use free agency to address their lineup, as they did with their rotation. Instead the team moved All-Star catcher Joe Mauer to first base to play every day and Provus said Twins general manager Terry Ryan is banking on improvement out of the youngsters.
“He’s hoping for significant improvement from (Trevor) Plouffe at third, (Pedro) Florimon at short and Josh Willingham in left,” Provus said. “Aaron Hicks is still a very big part of this future. He had a bad year, did not play winter ball so he’s going to come in and try to win a job. It’s not his, he’s got to win it again.”
But the future for the Twins looks bright. The team hosts the 2014 MLB All-Star Game in July and a well-stocked farm system has many players on the verge of breaking through to the big league level and Provus sees brighter days ahead in the Twin Cities.
“Everybody raves about this Twins farm system and a lot of these guys are coming to (spring training) camp,” Provus said. “Miguel Sano will be in camp. (Byron) Buxton will be in camp, Alex Meyer will be in camp , so they’re going to get some experience. Now, I don’t think they’re all going to make the team right away. I think it’ll be a surprise if any of them do make the team right away. If I had to guess I’d say there’s a good chance Sano and Meyer will be with the Twins at some point this year.”