By Ben Friedl
One of the main reasons I chose to attend Medill was the chance to meet and learn from prominent members of the journalism industry. But never did I think that week one at Medill would consist of meeting Len Kasper, the voice of the Chicago Cubs.
Is this my new normal? Surely not, I thought to myself as I lay in bed the night before, anxious to be meeting such a prominent person in Chicago sports media.
But sure enough, now that I am in the Medill Sports Media specialization, this is the new normal.
It was a cool, rainy, September Chicago morning as the Medill Sports Media cohort assembled in front of the Cubs team store outside of Wrigley Field as the stadium’s historic aura beamed over us wide-eyed students. A certain, indescribable feeling bounced through the air that day in a way indicative of one thing and one thing only: pennant chase baseball. Thus, today was not only an important day for us students — it was an important day for the Cubs, because in a few short hours, they would be hosting the rival St. Louis Cardinals.
As the context of the day seeped into all of us, Len Kasper arrived. He stood with us as any normal fan would: In the public, amongst the crowd, in his Cubs quarter-zip jacket and Sketchers. After brief introductions, Len’s crafted announcer’s voice began divulging his secrets of the trade.
He spoke about his upbringing as a lifelong sports fan in the Michigan area, eager to attend any Detroit Tigers game he could. This love for the game of baseball eventually took him through college with the goal of working in sports media, a goal he embarked after college through a Wisconsin sports radio station. Len continued by saying how that job led to his opportunity to call games for the Milwaukee Brewers, as well as a friendship with current ESPN and MLB Network broadcaster Matt Vasgersian.
This story stood out because it supported Len’s main takeaway: Seize every opportunity, and don’t let your ego get in the way.
I found this statement especially apt because I think we often disregard certain opportunities because of our ego. We may think we are too qualified, or we may feel like our talents could be used to a far greater extent. However, this should not discount doing our due diligence and exploring every opportunity that presents itself.
Len also spoke to how social media and relevance in the public eye effects his job. “I love interacting with the fans,” Kasper reiterated, “and social media gives me another avenue to do just that.”
I really appreciated this answer. Despite his fame in the Chicagoland area, Len remains committed to genuinely interacting with the fans. In fact, immediately after speaking with us Medill students, Len went to conduct his regular podcast — yet another way he uses different technological mediums to interact with the Cubs fanbase.
Understandably, Len didn’t have too much time to talk with us as the Cubs had their most important game to date that afternoon. However, the fact that he took time out of one of his busiest days of the year to speak with the next generation of sports journalists was something that I, along with the entire cohort, were incredibly appreciative of.
Unfortunately, just a few days after Len spoke with us, the Cubs lost the National League Wild Card game to the Colorado Rockies and effectively ending baseball season for Len Kasper and the city of Chicago. The ending might have been disappointing, yet Len took to Twitter to thank the fans.
Thx to all @Cubs fans for making me feel so special. Nothing better than fist-bumping you on the Wrigley ramps every day. I always have withdrawal for a few weeks after the season due to missing that daily connection on/off the air with you as we ride the rollercoaster together
— Len Kasper (@LenKasper) October 3, 2018
As I sat at home and saw this tweet, I thought it was another testament to Len’s awareness of his role in the community, as well as his kindness as a human being. I also thought that I could get used to this new normal.