Orel Hershiser Talks Los Angeles Dodgers, Broadcasting and His Path to Stepping in For Vin Scully

By Bryan Kalbrosky

For the first time since 1950, Vin Scully will not be in the broadcasting booth — which is a huge media shakeup for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Joe Davis will do play-by-play for the team. But as Bill Plaschke noted in the Los Angeles Times, Davis will not work alone as broadcasting icon Vin Scully often did. Now, Los Angeles Dodgers legend Orel Hershiser will be the lead analyst in the two-man TV booth for four seasons as well.

Because Davis still wants to do football and college basketball, he will announce “130-ish” games for the Dodgers. Hershiser expects to announce roughly the same. We caught up with the World Series champion to talk about his plans for next season.

“I’m not going to ever be Vin Scully and I don’t think anybody ever will be and I’m not attempting to be,” Hershiser told The Big Lead.

“But I think I flavor a lot of what I’m trying to do — enlighten the audience or explain what I see as an analyst — with some flavors from what Vinny does.”

During the post-Scully era, Hershiser stresses that parts of the broadcast have to be about storytelling to emulate what the Dodgers’ (and a national) audience grew to love.

Even when analyzing players on the field, Hershiser wants to use a more literary approach to describe why things work from a deeper level. Next season, he aims for his vocabulary to be more colorful and flamboyant rather than just quoting or memorizing statistics.

For many years, Dodgers fans got to hear historical lessons, cultural lessons, examples, observations from Scully’s life as well as non-baseball metaphors to explain the sport. As an analyst, Hershiser doesn’t want to let that leave the flavor of listening to the broadcast.

“One of the main things I learned from Scully is that there is a story in every part of the game,” said Hershiser. “People will care about the game when they care about the people playing the game.”

Though he was once a Cy Young Award winner, Hershiser thinks it can be harder to be a broadcaster than it is to be a player because there are fewer options for employment. To land a gig, an interested candidate needs to attack with passion.

Now, he says, there’s more training available. But there wasn’t as much of that when he first broke into the business.

When Hershiser was a star pitcher for the Dodgers, he had considered a post-playing career in media. He spoke with Scully, the Spanish voice of the Dodgers Jaime Jarrín, former Dodgers play-by-play announcer Ross Porter and the late Brooklyn sportscaster Jerry Doggett.

“I always thought about how I wanted to be introduced someday as ‘he is’ not ‘he was’ when I was playing.”

His unique path to broadcasting, however, was not exactly straightforward. Though he had done some guest commentator work in the Little League World Series for ABC in 2000, but he didn’t consider it a full-time job.

Hershiser started out as an associate general manager of the Texas Rangers for John Hart in 2001.

In that position, he learned about and was included in meetings for naming rights bidding, scheduling, color schemes for uniforms, free agency, conference calls with the scouts and more.

These days, Hershiser still works as a pitching instructor for the Dodgers during spring training (via Dodgers Nation).

He then became the pitching coach for the team in 2002 and worked under manager Buck Showalter as the pitching coach for three seasons. But he only agreed to accept if he could remain involved with the team meetings.

“I did that because I wanted to increase my baseball education,” said Hershiser. “I felt like I’d get pigeon-holed and wouldn’t be able to continue my education in all those different avenues that I thought about.”

After the 2005 season, Hershiser became assistant to the president of the organization as the Executive Director of the Texas Rangers. But he quickly realized he didn’t want to be a part of a team transitioning to a new general manager so he called ESPN.

Chris Berman put him in touch with the person in charge of baseball and he was then asked to become a broadcaster. Quickly, he realized that he could stay in the industry forever if he set his own workload or he would burn out in less than five years.

Ultimately, he decided to do about one game per week and only occasionally fly into Bristol, Connecticut to do Baseball Tonight. He was also more than happy to do the Little League World Series and the College World Series.

Teams around the league didn’t forget his background and still had an interest in convincing him to join their staff in the front office or as a coach. His name was often mentioned as a candidate for various managing positions, including the Oakland A’s and the Dodgers.

“The phone would ring every once in awhile to get back into that,” explained Hershiser. “But what I fell in love with was not only being involved with baseball but still but having a lifestyle that was completely different from a player.”

Hershiser said he enjoys studying the game and work towards a goal but also appreciates the free time that he wanted as well — he became a competitive poker player in 2006 and was in the World Series of Poker in 2008.

When the Los Angeles Dodgers regional sports network SportsNet LA launched in 2014, he left the worldwide leader to become a television analyst for his former team.

Hershiser called the road games with Nomar Garciaparra and Charley Steiner. Next season, fellow former ballplayer Garciaparra will fill in for Hershiser when he’s not available.

When asked what current MLB players could have a broadcasting career, he immediately thought of a former Dodgers catcher.

“I think A.J. Ellis is really good,” said Hershiser. “I thought you wouldn’t see guys like Alex Rodriguez or Frank Thomas or different big names that have made a lot of money want to work. But maybe these guys are going to find out that playing golf is just boring.”