Beyond Left Field with Norm: Mike Safford

Mike thanks for taking the time to chat with 9 Inning Know it All.

SaffordPlease, tell us more about yourself.

I have been the play by play voice of the Boise Hawks for nine seasons (2003-05, 2008-present), serving as both the media relations coordinator and baseball information coordinator during that time. I am also the associate A.D. and sports information director at the college of Idaho and have been there since 2001. My wife Liza and I have been married 12 years (almost 13) and we have a five (almost six) year old son PJ.

You played football at Pacific Lutheran for Frosty Westering. He passed away recently. What did he mean to you and do you have a “Frosty” story that you could share?

Frosty was in a group of mentors in my life that have directly shaped me into the man that I am.  His philosophies were so basic, yet life changing.  I have never met such a humble man.

My favorite Frosty story was during my sophomore year and we had won a game against Whitworth and following the game we give “bouquets” – or attaways to guys who have made a difference in the game.

After 10 or so guys have received their props, one of our defensive tackles says “Tony was outstanding today, bringing us water and playing through us, a true bomber (redshirt).” Frosty goes hey Tony (we repeat) hey Tony (as part of the chant), go Tony (we repeat). Then Frosty stops, looks around, and says whose Tony? Since there really wasn’t a Tony – it was a make-believe guy. Then Frosty goes, oh well attaway, attaway the room busted up in laughter.

safford 2Who has the best press box that you have been in?

I really enjoyed being in the press box at Wrigley field – the vantage point is amazing and the history is one of a kind.  In the NWL, I miss old civic stadium, the charm and the sounds.  I really like what Hillsboro has done – easy to see/get information.

Did you have a favorite team and player growing up?

Growing up in Puyallup, I was a Mariners fan, but also loved the Cubs and Braves, since their games were on cable. Was a big fan of Mark Langston and Ken Griffey Jr. Being a football player, I have always been a fan of the Packers.

Is there a player or players whose name you love to announce?

There is something about the last name of Paniagua that I love to say. Whether its Salem-Keizers Armando Paniagua or our Juan Carlos Paniagua. It is just good. Same went last year with Balbino Fuenmayor.

Is there a sport you announce that’s easier than the other? And which do you prefer?

I find basketball to be the easiest sport to call. Action is fast paced but confined to a space. Football gives you plenty of time to talk (but with the new offenses speeding things up, it makes it tougher). Volleyball is a fun sport too, but I love baseball, opportunity to tell stories.

If you could call a baseball game anywhere, where would it be and why?

I would love to call a game at Cheney stadium in Tacoma. Growing up and attending countless Tacoma Tiger and Rainier games and listing to Bob Robertson and Mike Curto calling the games, I always wanted to be in their shoes.

I’m going to list off the NWL teams. Give us the best player to play for that team in the past 5 or 6 years and why.

Everett Aquasox-

Felix Hernandez – was an absolute stud at 17 years of age…watching him throw twice was fun. Also liked seeing Rafael Soriano on a rehab stint. Mike Zunino last season was a beast, we couldn’t get him out.

Vancouver Canadians-

That pitching staff in 2011 was outstanding. Justin Nicolino, Noah Syndegaard, and the bunch was outstanding. Kurt Suzuki in 2004 was the best catcher I’ve seen in this league.

Spokane Indians-

Jurrickson Profar looked like a big leaguer at 17 years of age. Martin Perez, John Danks, and Neftali Feliz were really advanced at a young age and it was fun calling both Danks and Feliz’s pro debuts.

Eugene Emeralds-

Will Venable looked like a bon-a-fied prospect, as did Jed Gyrko when he came through.

Tri City Dustdevils-

I thought Juan Nicasio and Rex Brothers were flat out nasty when they came through the NWL.

Salem-Keizer Volcanoes-

Pablo Sandoval really impressed me during his time with SK.  I also liked watching Dan Runtzler work in relief.

Yakima Bears/Hillsboro Hops-

Carlos Gonzalez was an outstanding player, but the season that Connor Jackson had for Yakima in 2003 was off the charts.

Boise Hawks-

Scary to say this, but Kris Bryant jumped way up the list this season. I haven’t seen many players (Zunino might be the other) who carved up the NWL like he did. Ricky Nolasco / Andrew Sisco were very good 10 years ago.

Since you have been doing play by play for Boise, who’s the best player you have seen?

That’s a tough question, but watching what Felix Hernandez did during the 2003 season on two occasions to Boise truly impressed me. Last year, we could not get Mike Zunino out.

Do you have a favorite place in an NWL city that you can’t wait to eat at?

Every city has a spot – I love the Fruiticana in Vancouver for fresh fruit/vegetables, the buzz inn in Everett, the Max in Spokane, Lucky Fortune in Salem, the Jail in Eugene (teriyaki place near University of Oregon), and I miss the El Mirador in Yakima (best Mexican food in the NWL).

Final question, give us your top five songs of all time.

Baby I’m a want you – Bread
Don’t stop believing – Journey
Anything by the Bee Gees
You had me from hello – Kenny Chesney
Wagon wheel- Darius Rucker