SALT LAKE CITY — Steve Klauke is hitting another milestone. On Monday, he’ll call his 3,500th game as the radio voice of the Salt Lake Bees.
“When I first started doing this in ’94, I had no idea that in 2018 I’d still be doing it,” said Klauke, who figures he’s been on the air for 32,000 innings and almost 190,000 outs with the franchise.
The Bees are honoring Klauke with a pregame reception. He’s scheduled to throw out the first pitch at Smith’s Ballpark. Larry H. Miller Charities is making a $3,500 donation on his behalf to the Christmas Box House.
“First of all, the milestone is amazing. That’s a whole lot of nights at ballparks around the country,” said Bees president and general manager Marc Amicone, who has high praise for Klauke’s broadcasts. “I would say he’s by far the best who is not in the major leagues. I really believe he’s the best play-by-play guy who is not in the major leagues.”
Amicone added that it’s also incredible that Klauke does what he does without an analyst.
Klauke is big on preparation. He’s a bit old school with the use of a spiral notebook. However, it’s continually updated with notes on every player and other stuff to talk about during games. Klauke also goes to batting practice each day and has a goal to start four or five sentences each broadcast with insights gained by discussions with others.
As a self-described conduit between fans and the team, Klauke accumulates stories. There’s nothing else the 63-year-old, who also calls the action for Weber State athletics, would rather be doing.
“There are very few people that have as beautiful of an office view that I have — whether its courtside, high above the 40-yard line or behind home plate,” said Klauke, whose first radio gig came when he was just 13 years old in Illinois.
Since then, Klauke estimates he has broadcast more than 6,000 events in his career. Locally, that includes games for the Utah Grizzlies, Utah Jazz and Utah Utes. He also called an NBA game for New Orleans in Salt Lake City.
Klauke has worked Major League Baseball as well. He broadcast six games for Salt Lake’s parent club, the Angels, two years ago — working series at Seattle and Baltimore.
Over the years, Klauke has seen a lot of unusual things on the field. Not so long ago, he called a walk-off balk and a walk-off inside-the-park home run. Klauke also saw a Salt Lake pitcher get blown off the mound by a gust of wind for a balk. He witnessed an Angels pitcher dropping a ball for a balk.
“Every day I come to the ballpark expecting the unexpected,” Klauke said.
Klauke’s colleagues, though, admire his consistency.
“He’s the dean, man. He’s the dean of sportscasters in this state. He’s been doing it for more than 20 years,” said Bill Riley, who broadcasts games for the Utes and Real Salt Lake. “Every sport has its challenge when you’re a play-by-play guy. Every sport is different and every sport has its own cadence and rhythm.”
Riley added that baseball is the toughest sport to do, something even more difficult to do solo.
“What he does is remarkable and for him to be able to do it for 3,500 games is amazing,” Riley said. “He’s one of a kind.”
BYU’s Greg Wrubell expressed similar thoughts. He also noted that baseball is the true grind in broadcasting, calling it mentally taxing because you’re also scoring the game and preparation is compressed by the number of games each week. Wrubell added that anyone reaching a “remarkable career milestone” like 3,500 games is to be applauded.
“Klauke is characterized by his kindness. He’s truly a generous, affable, friendly gentleman of a broadcaster,” Wrubell said. “I’ve turned to him for advice on things in the past and help in the past.”
Wrubell explained that there’s a pretty tight fraternity between the play-by-play broadcasters in the state. They’re never too far away to pick up for the phone for counsel.
“He’s a great example to all of us here in the state,” Wrubell said. “I’ve enjoyed listening to him over the years.”
Klauke’s style is very unique and his delivery is very rhythmic, he continued.
“His voice is very classic,” Wrubell said. “He’s enjoyable to listen to.”
Utah Jazz broadcaster David Locke describes Klauke as “very listenable.” It’s a reference to a critique Klauke offered when Locke was just getting started in the business. Locke asked for Klauke’s opinion on a tape he recorded while calling a game from the bleachers back in the day.
“I was like what does that mean?” Locke said of the feedback from Klauke.
Nowadays the broadcasters often send each other “you’re listenable” texts on a regular basis.
“So if you want to know what I think of his 3,500 games, I think they’re listenable,” Locke joked.
On a more serious note, Locke said it’s difficult to put Klauke’s run of games into context.
“It just seems like an outrageously high number. I think maybe the impressive thing about it is the level he’s brought to each and every one of them more than the number,” Locke said. “As a fellow broadcaster, when you tune in and hear him, you always know the level of quality preparation and effort.”
Perhaps more importantly, he added, is that the enjoyment is going to be the same.
“Every time you see him it makes you happy. He’s always got a story to tell about some experience,” Locke said. “He’s always excited for the next broadcast. It’s inspiring to be around and see.”
Listeners have also let Klauke know how they feel. One recently asked him to sign a baseball and posted a message on Twitter.
“Thanks for the ball Steve. I’ve grown up with you as the voice of baseball. Excited to add it to my bookshelf,” it read.
Klauke’s lengthy career was also noted at one of his high school reunions.
“Several people came up to me and said there are a lot of people in this room who are making a lot more money than you are,” he recalled. “But you are the only one in this room who is doing what they wanted to do when they were in high school.”
Despite the high number of games and travel schedule, Klauke enjoys his job.
“There are days I’m tired,” he said. “But I’m never tired of it.”
Klauke credits those around him — at the station and with the organizations he covers — for making it a team effort.
As for getting to baseball’s highest level, Riley noted that it’s difficult for Klauke because there are only 30 play-by-play jobs. He said it takes prying opportunities from “cold, dead hands” to get one of them.
“Steve is absolutely a major league talent. It’s like anything in life, in our jobs and things, it’s timing,” Riley said. “And for whatever reason, the timing hasn’t worked out. But you could plug Steve Klauke into any major league booth in the country and nobody would bat an eye because he’s a major league talent.”