Five-hundred games later, Salt Lake Buzz broadcaster Steve Klauke is back where he started - in Vancouver - calling the action.
No one has seen more Buzz games than Klauke, who has covered all but two games on the radio since the franchise's twice-delayed opener in 1994. His broadcast of today's Buzz/Canadians games marks No. 500."I guess it just means No. 501 is next," said Klauke. "It's a milestone of an opportunity I've had. I'm grateful to all who've made it possible."
Much of the credit, however, belongs to himself - the man whose trademark home run call is "It's up there. It's out there. It's gone."
Since broadcasting a high school football game at age 13, Klauke has more than paid his dues. Now 42, the Illinois native has called 38 high school championships in three different states; filled in for Hot Rod Hundley on a Utah Jazz broadcast Dec. 1, 1994; and provided play-by-play and/or analysis for the following: Triple-A All-Star Game, NBA All-Star Weekend activities, NCAA Division III College World Series, International Softball Congress championships, junior colleges, American Legion, preps, little league, Utah Grizzlies hockey and Jazz pregame, halftime and postgame shows.
"This is what I got into the business for," said Klauke. "Calling games is what I love about the job. It's what I've wanted to do since I was a kid. The enthusiasm is there day in and day out."
Like players and coaches, Klauke adheres to a daily routine.
In terms of being prepared, Klauke makes the Boy Scouts look disorganized.
"I'd like to think I'm thorough," he said while preparing for a recent home game. "Research is important. A lot of baseball is storytelling."
Klauke, who works without an assistant or color analyst, spends at least one hour each morning updating his scorebooks and filling out 4x6 index cards he keeps on every player in the Pacific Coast League against Salt Lake. The detailed records include such facts as how Buzz batters fare in various situations - information he regularly passes on to Buzz manager Phil Roof.
"He's good and he is up on things," said Roof. "It's amazing what he does by himself. He's a one-man show."
Klauke's index card collection has exceeded 1,500 and compliments six reference books, major league media guides of all PCL affiliates, a rule book and a statistics book, designed by the broadcaster.
"Klauke definitely does his homework," said Buzz catcher Mike Durant, who has spent parts of all four Buzz seasons in Salt Lake. "He knows the game and is big league."
The "Voice of the Buzz" arrives at the ballpark more than three hours before each contest, lugging his own equipment (the broadcast unit weighs 25 pounds) and data to the press box.
He's lost his luggage and experienced severe air turbulence while traveling the PCL circuit, which includes annual visits to Calgary, Edmonton, Tacoma, Vancouver, Tacoma, Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson. Still, he wouldn't trade jobs with most anyone.
"For me to pack up and move now, it would have to be the right kind of situation and job," said Klauke. "I'd like to get to the major league level, no matter the sport. But It's really something special to be here."
Klauke credits his wife Sue and children, Adam and Lisa, for supporting his efforts, which include extensive travel and covering the kitchen table with index cards and reference books on game days.
"He's a professional. I have a lot of respect for him," said Roof. "And he is good enough that eventually he'll get to the big leagues."
Durant said he learned to appreciate Klauke when driving to Salt Lake City with his wife after being sent to the Buzz by the Twins last summer. They listened to a broadcast upon reaching town.
"He makes Salt Lake as close to the big leagues as anyone can," said Durant. "You don't need a TV. He paints a picture on the radio."
Klauke has done so under some very trying circumstances.
In May of 1995, he fainted in the middle of a broadcast at Franklin Quest Field after banging his knee on a table. A year later in Calgary, Klauke's broadcast unit was knocked down and broken by 50 mph winds. He proceeded to do the final two games of the series via telephone.
Despite the tribulations, Klauke has missed just two games since the Portland Beavers became the Buzz in 1994. The absences came when Klauke picked up his 1995 Utah Sportscaster of the Year award at a national convention in North Carolina. His fainting spell, which took him off the air for two innings, was covered by colleagues.
In this year's team media guide, Klauke lists his Top 10 Buzz baseball memories. He lists them in no particular order. One of his recalls is Salt Lake's 8-7 loss to Colorado Springs in the deciding game of the 1995 PCL Championship Series.
"The bloop single by Jim Tatum in the ninth inning is a vision in my mind that will never go away," said Klauke. "It was disappointing."
On the other end of the spectrum, Klauke fondly recalls the first-ever Buzz win, 10-3, in the second game of a doubleheader in Vancouver. The twinbill came after two days of rain delayed the start of the '94 season.
"Finally getting to do games is when I realized I had a pretty good job," said Klauke. "It's what I always wanted to do."
But 500 times?
"Maybe I have calluses on my vocal cords," said Klauke.
Concluded Durant: "He's definitely the ironman on radio."