Tom Smart, Deseret News
Team broadcaster Steve Klauke is applauded by manager Keith Johnson as he is honored before calling his 3,000th game as the Salt Lake Bees play the Nashville Sounds in Triple A baseball Tuesday, June 24, 2014, in Salt Lake City.
SALT LAKE CITY — For over 20 years, Steve Klauke has been the voice of Salt Lake baseball.
His debut, though, was delayed. Twice.
The Salt Lake franchise opened its 1994 inaugural season in Vancouver with Klauke prepared for the call, but the first two games were rained out. Klauke, ever the storyteller, collected his first calls on the minor league trail while the Salt Lake Buzz — as they were then known — practiced in an old downtown Vancouver stadium.
"That happened to be the last year (Vancouver) hosted big league weekend at the dome stadium, so it was in a baseball configuration," Klauke said. "Each of the two days they let us go down to the stadium and do a two-hour workout. The fun part, Dan Rohn, our hitting coach at the time, he had his fungo and spent half the time trying to hit the ceiling with a pop fly, which he was never successful at doing."
Klauke's debut on the air may have been delayed, but it was well worth the wait. Two decades later, there were "handshakes and high-fives all around" as Klauke called his 3,000th game for the franchise, a 5-1 Bees victory over Nashville, on Tuesday afternoon.
Growing up in Chicago in the 1960s, Klauke remembers coming home from school and turning on Cubs games. Listening to Hall of Fame broadcaster "Jack" Brickhouse sparked Klauke's interest in play-by-play.
"I was a White Sox guy, but would watch the games," Klauke said. "At some point in time it kind of clicked in my head that I kind of liked what (Brickhouse) did and would like to do that some day."
At age 11, Klauke obtained his first tape recorder. He would attend games at Wrigley Field, Comiskey Park and Chicago Stadium, sit where nobody else was and practice calling the action into the recorder. To many of his listeners, that practice has made perfect.
In over 20 years Klauke has missed only 10 games, and only one of those was due to illness — he got food poisoning on a road trip in Vancouver. It's because of that good health and work ethic that Klauke has been able to obtain such a grand number in almost the minimum amount of time. He has called 3,000 of 3,010 — or hitting .997.
"Other then the fact that I have done my job well enough to keep it, it's a great big round number," Klauke said. "I am appreciative of the attention, but a lot of people in a lot of walks of life have been to work more than 3,000 times, so if you put it in that perspective it's not that big of a deal."
Klauke credits an understanding family for his longevity, saying that he knows that it's been tough on his wife and kids during the season.
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"It's been very very difficult and I give a lot of credit to my wife for raising the kids," Klauke said. "I have tried to do whatever I could. They knew that this job meant no summer vacations."
In 3,000 games Klauke has nearly seen it all and has made some classic calls, but he doesn't have a favorite. "There's so many different crazy things that have happened, and so many classic endings," Klauke said. "I will leave it to somebody else that listened to determine which one they thought was best. To me they're all fun."
The newly crowned "Mr. 3,000" has taken thousands of listeners on the 20-year ride with him, a ride that was worth waiting for.