1. Books

Festival of Reading: Dewayne Staats writes about being the voice of the Tampa Bay Rays

Dewayne Staats
Dewayne Staats
Published Oct. 14, 2015

The Tampa Bay Rays have run through nearly 400 players since 1998. They have seen 137 pitchers win at least one game, and 158 hit at least one home run. There have been five managers, three general managers and two owners.

And through it all, there has been one TV voice. One sturdy and distinctive voice. A voice that, by now, sounds like an old family friend you invite night after night into your living room.

Dewayne Staats was here before Evan Longoria. Before James Shields. Before Carl Crawford and before catwalks became a fixture in Tampa Bay's lexicon.

His career has spanned parts of five decades and four Major League teams, but it wasn't until recently that Staats stepped out from behind a microphone to write a book, with award-winning former Tampa Bay Times reporter and author Dave Scheiber.

So the obvious question:

Why now?

"When I went to Chicago with the Cubs (in 1985), there was a publisher who tried to talk me into doing a book then. I thought, 'I'm 32, what am I going to put in a book?'' ' Staats said. "But I always thought about it, and Dave kept telling me there was a story here.

"So I told him I didn't want to do one of those books where a guy says, 'One time I did this,' and 'One time I did that.' I didn't want to do that book. I told Dave if we could put a perspective on it, a point of view, that was something I'd be interested in.''

The result is Position to Win: A Look at Baseball and Life From the Best Seat in the House.

The book is much like Staats himself. More humble than vain, more thorough than brassy. And the story Staats wanted to tell was both simple and important.

The son of a factory worker from the suburbs of St. Louis, Staats was determined to make a life for himself in baseball and approached his goal methodically and confidently. By the time he was 24, Staats had cracked the big leagues as an announcer for the Astros.

There were no great revelations or dramatic crossroads. It was just perseverance, preparation, gumption and some good fortune at opportune moments.

"The point I was hoping to make is we all have a gift. It's innate. So try to identify that gift and work as hard as you can to make it as good as you can,'' Staats said. "Now when people think of gifts, they usually think of an athlete. But a gift can be anything. Some people have the gift to be a great caregiver. A great singer. A great mathematician.

"Find that gift, and enjoy it and push it. It's not just going to come to you; you have to look for opportunities and go after them.''

Staats doesn't do salacious. If you're looking for baseball's dirt, he said, there is no shortage of publications happy to oblige.

His story is meant to be uplifting, even when it turns tragic. A generous portion of the book's latter half is devoted to the cancer diagnosis and eventual death of his wife, Dee.

Although this is ostensibly a book about baseball and broadcasting, Staats said it was necessary to include Dee's story, and her impact on him and their two daughters.

It's part of the uniqueness of baseball — and its day-to-day presence on television and radio for six months out of the year — that fans can feel so close to someone they may have never met. And that, in the end, is what makes the book work. It's a chance to get better acquainted with someone Tampa Bay has known for close to 20 years.

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"I've had people ask what standard I use to measure success,'' Staats said. "For me, it's when we're out in the community, maybe out to dinner, and people feel comfortable enough to approach us and say hi as a friend or family member might.

"If someone is willing to do that, then to me we've been successful. To have made people feel that comfortable. That's my aim.''

Contact John Romano at jromano@tampabay.com.


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