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Grant Green hits walk-off home run to help Salt Lake Bees beat Fresno Grizzlies

SALT LAKE CITY — When Salt Lake left fielder Grant Green stepped into the batter's box in the bottom of the ninth with the game knotted at seven apiece, he wasn't thinking about winning the game, but rather putting together a nice at-bat. Green was 0-for-3 at this point, and has been struggling ever since being optioned down from Anaheim before the homestand.

"The hits will come if I have quality ABs, and that's the one thing that I need to get back to doing," Green said.

Well, the utility man for the Bees returned to his old ways, and certainly had a quality at-bat in that ninth inning, getting ahold of a pitch from Fresno closer Tyson Perez that carried just over the right-field wall to give the Bees the 8-7 win in walk-off fashion on Saturday. According to Green, this was his first walk-off homer of his career.

Yes, Salt Lake registered the win, but the Bees nearly blew it in the final inning. Carrying a 7-5 lead going into the ninth, Salt Lake brought in closer Jeremy McBryde in hopes that he would finish Fresno off.

Instead, the Grizzlies strung together a couple of hits that eventually scored two runs to tie the game up 7-7, forcing the Bees to bat and produce. Luckily for them, Green was up for the challenge to give Salt Lake its first win over Fresno this series.

Between the late-game drama and the postgame fireworks, this contest was one of the more exciting ones for fans to witness at Smith’s Ballpark this season, as 14,360 Bees faithful were treated to a barrage of hits and scoring throughout.

But if you weren’t able to make it to Smith’s Ballpark on Saturday, there’s a good chance you listened along to the voice of Salt Lake Bees radio, Steve Klauke.

The radio broadcaster just concluded his 3,124th game of work, and has been a mainstay on the Bees radio for quite some time. Joining Klauke in the booth on Saturday, however, was a new face to Bees fans but a familiar one to Weber State Athletics fans.

James Hajek played center for the Weber State men’s basketball team from 2011-15, playing in all 30 games his senior season. During his time in Ogden, the 6-foot-10 Hajek realized that basketball wasn’t in the cards for him after college. He earned a degree in business and even pursued an MBA degree shortly after.

But something just wasn’t right, Hajek wasn’t a businessman. In his heart, he was a broadcaster, and has known it, though subconsciously, since he was a little kid. Before he went to bed every night as a youngster, Hajek would tune into the Royals radio network to catch up on the latest Royals news while trying to put himself to sleep.

“I look back and it is something that I’ve always had a passion for,” Hajek said of radio broadcasting. “Maybe I just didn’t really know it at the time, but it is something that I’ve always enjoyed.”

So after working for the Ogden Raptors for a couple of years, where he was given the opportunity to test the waters, Hajek felt he was ready for the next step. Enter Klauke.

The longtime broadcaster for Salt Lake has mastered his craft in the booth over the years, and is the perfect mentor for young, aspiring broadcasters like Hajek. Every season, Klauke puts together a stack of index cards that highlight each minor-league ballplayer. Those cards include random statistics, facts and tidbits about every player, and not just Salt Lake players.

And though it’s not earth-shattering or groundbreaking, making those note cards and “doing your homework” is the secret to Klauke’s success all of these years.

“You’ve gotta spend time preparing and doing your homework,” Klauke said. “I told my kids growing up that I did more homework now than I did when I was in high school, but then again that explains my grades back then.”

He may not have been the best student back in the day, but Klauke’s diligence in the booth is unparalleled. But if Hajek, and any other young broadcaster, hopes to match his production, Klauke claims that “passion and enthusiasm” are two must-haves when it comes to being a radio broadcaster.

Hajek showed that passion by straying away from a path that he worked towards for four years at Weber State, and he showed the enthusiasm by reaching out to Klauke, who was named the 2014 Utah Sportscaster of the Year, to learn from one of the best.

“I just want to be able to sit in here, see how (Klauke) does his notes, see how he looks to his screen and then looks to the play on the field,” Hajek said. “I just want to see how he is able to work in those little nuances, whether it’s a story or an anecdote or something like that, into the game action. … It’s those kind of little things is what I really want to learn how to get better at.”

Only time will tell whether Hajek will be able to make it in the radio broadcasting business, but if he models his career anything like the award-winning Klauke, the basketball player-turned-broadcaster will undoubtedly be a success.

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GAME NOTES: Josh Rutledge finished the game with a home run, double and single. … SP Andrew Heaney pitched for six innings with five strikeouts. … The Bees put together a five-run fifth inning to take the early lead. … The attendance was 14,360. … The Grizzlies are the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros.

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BEELINES: Salt Lake 8, Fresno 7

Left fielder Grant Green sent a pitch out of the park in the bottom of the ninth to give the Bees the 8-7 win over the Grizzlies.

Record: 27-36

Next up: Fresno RHP Mike Hauschild at Salt Lake RHP Alex Sanabia (1-5, 5.04), Sunday, 1:05 p.m.

Twitter: @GriffDoug