By James Cullum | [email protected]
Family dinners at the Flemming home tend to sound like live presentations of ESPN’s SportsCenter.
That’s for good reason – Dave Flemming has been a radio broadcaster calling the play-by-play for the San Francisco Giants since 2004, and his brother, Will, does the same for the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Triple-A farm team for the Boston Red Sox based in Providence, Rhode Island.
“Baseball is our first love,” said Will Flemming. “And there is a romance in baseball broadcasting that is hard to ignore.”
There’s no question the Flemming brothers Dave, 40, and Will, 37, have picked a difficult road. There are 30 teams in professional baseball and broadcaster positions are highly coveted, few in number and seldom relinquished. Dave Flemming’s radio partner, baseball-announcing legend Jon Miller, has, for example, called professional contests for more than four decades.
“Vin Scully announced Dodgers games for 67 years until his retirement last year. Who else has worked in the same company in the same job for that long?” asked Will Flemming. “Maybe nobody. These jobs do not come out very often.”
The brothers are graduates of St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School in Alexandria, where they both played baseball. They’re also both graduates of Stanford University, where they called college sports games for the school radio station. They’ve both called games for the Pawtucket Red Sox. That’s right –Dave Flemming occupied his brother’s current radio booth for three seasons before he joined the big leagues.
When he started working for the San Francisco Giants in 2004, Dave was the youngest broadcaster in baseball at just 26 years of age. Since then, he’s announced the Giants’ 2010, 2012 and 2014 World Series wins.
His broadcast partner, Hall of Fame announcer Jon Miller, was one of his inspirations for getting into announcing in the first place. Miller was the one who called an unforgettable game that Dave and Will Flemming witnessed on Sept. 6, 1995, when Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken passed Lou Gehrig for the record of consecutive games, at 2,131.
Their mother, longtime Alexandria resident Carter Flemming, knew the game was going to be sold out and bought the boys a pair of tickets from a scalper.
“I decided this was a moment they had to see, to be able to say they were there,” she said.
Carter and her husband, attorney Mike Flemming, never imagined that their sons would go into baseball professionally, though Mike is a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan.
“Mike and I never thought they would end up basically in the entertainment business. David, as a young boy was very shy, quite studious. I always thought he would be a teacher somewhere. With Will, being the second child, he was a little more outgoing because he wanted to get noticed,” Carter said. “He is on the surface a much more gregarious person. So, I always thought he would he a lawyer arguing cases in court or in a career interacting with people on Capitol Hill.”
Will, who graduated from Stanford three years after his brother, never planned on making broadcasting his career. He initially went to Silicon Valley with plans to make a career in startup tech firms, but, shortly before turning 30, he made a life change and was hired as the announcer for the Lancaster JetHawks minor league baseball team. A year later he joined the Potomac Nationals, the Washington Nationals farm team based in Woodbridge, followed by a year with the Indianapolis Indians. He’s now spent a year in his brother’s former chair.
Want to make it in sports broadcasting?
“You have to realize that it’s a hard tread, that you may never make it to the top,” said Dave, who also announces Monday Night Baseball on ESPN and NBA Basketball on ESPN Radio. “You have to absolutely love what you are doing, because in the lower levels you are not making any money. In our business you really have to pay your dues. It is not easy when you are not at the top level, and if you are willing to do that and put up the time and get better, the rewards are incredible.”
The downside is that he spends half of the year on the road with the team, away from his wife, Jessica, and their three children. When asked what advice he had for people who want to get into his line of work, he reached into the family vault.
“I think about what my great grandfather, Luther Dudley, the former president of the Alexandria National Bank, used to say. I knew him, and he used to say in his deep voice, ‘Tell ‘em who you are.’ What he meant was you should let people know what you want to do, ask if they can help you and people will help you get to that destination. And be proud of who you are. I’ve kept that in my mind all these years,” Dave said.
Will Fleming, also married, would love to announce for a professional baseball team close to Alexandria. While he has announced other sports, baseball remains his passion. He’s also called the NCAA championships for Turner Sports, and was reportedly chosen over more than 100 other voices in a nationwide search for his job with the Pawtucket Red Sox.
“In baseball, the nature of the sport, particularly in radio demands a completely different ability to weave stories and take your audience on a journey,” he said. “I think that in the beginning of a baseball game, you go into it like it’s a blank canvas. It’s the time in- between pitches and outs that distinguishes baseball radio sports than other broadcasts.”
For parents Carter and Mike, who still live in Alexandria, some of the most thrilling moments are seeing their sons in action.
“We got the media passes and walked into David’s radio booth,” Carter said. “And looking out on that AT&T park overlooking San Francisco Bay, completely packed with people, and there sat David with his headphones, talking to the people who couldn’t be at the sold-out stadium,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wow, no wonder he wanted to do this.”