Jays From the Couch catches up with legendary Blue Jays Radio voice, Jerry Howarth
It has been four months since Jerry Howarth left his role as the voice of the Blue Jays, a position he held for 35 seasons. In that time, he has always been a calming force for players and fans alike, giving his time and care like no other. Catching up with this legend, it is great to hear little has changed. JFtC sat down with Jerry to talk baseball, what’s coming next for the Blue jays and the return of another legend Josè Bautista.
JFtC: I`m sitting at the Rogers Centre with the legendary Jerry Howarth for a catch up. Hi Jerry how are you?
JH: Hi Cath very good thank you.
JFtC: Tell all of us what you’ve been up to since retirement?
JH: Well I’ve only been retired a little over four months, I come out the first game of a series, so I’ve been out about 12-15 times. I get to visit not only with John Gibbons and the coaches and the players, but the other team’s t.v and radio broadcasters whom I’ve known for years and years. Then fifty percent of the time I’m preparing and studying like a broadcast playing duplicate bridge which is a very competitive game. People who are listening and play duplicate bridge know that it’s a tough game to play and I want to be the best that I can at it. Then the other time I spend with my wife and our three grandsons and I enjoy that thoroughly, my wife and I do things together, so I couldn’t be happier, no regrets retiring.
JFtC: Are you still coaching basketball?
JH: I did that for 25 years and a couple of years ago, the 25th year, our high school senior boys basketball team played for the city championship. We had a great run. I coached those kids for three and four years, and I retired from that, so I’m also very happy to have done that and now have my free time and enjoy it. That’s what I do, I enjoy the baseball, I watch it a little bit on t.v., listen a little bit to my successor Ben Wagner, but right now my own free time is mine and I thoroughly enjoy it..and doing this with you too I might add.
JFtC: What do you think of your successor and how he’s been doing?
JH: Well I really admire Ben because I spent five years in the minor leagues and then got my early break and came to Toronto at 35. He spent 14 years in the minor leagues, just got his break to come here, he`s 37. He could have a 30 plus year career like I did. I have a lot of respect for him, he does a good job, he’s professional, he’s thorough, and I think some day, if he’s paired with a former catcher like I was with Joe Siddall or JP Arancibia for instance, somebody like that, I think the sky’s the limit for what he can do, because his play by play is excellent. If they can get a former player to then shed light on what’s happening down on the field like I was able to be blessed with, that’ll make all the difference in the world.
JFtC: What do you think of the team and how they are playing this season?
JH: Well, it’s been a long season. The way I look at it is this. In ‘15 and ‘16 the window of opportunity was there each time, especially in ‘15, they came within two games of going to the World Series. The next year they got beat by a team that went to the World Series in game 7 -Cleveland losing to the Cubs. Now that window is closed. It’s an older team. Those players who are now older, they were the key ingredients as far as ‘15 and ‘16. I think now they have to begin to re-tool a little bit, I think they’ll be sellers definitely at the July 31st trade deadline. The starting rotation has a little history of injuries and that’s cropped up, but I think in the next two or three years they could be like the young Toronto Maple Leafs and get back to a very strong athletic team and once again be on the verge of being a competitor.
JFtC: What did you think of Ryan Borucki and his debut?
JH: There`s an example of what I’m talking about. He’s a left-hander who’s had two quality starts, the win-loss record is not as important as how do you pitch, and his last start was off the charts. When you go seven innings and you only give up two runs but you strike out eight and don’t walk anybody and you keep the ball down, he’s one of the new members of what is going to be a solid starting rotation. There are others down there too. I like Mark Shapiro, and Ross Atkins, I think they’re going to do a great job in transforming this team for the fans to once again be a solid contender. Might be two or three years down the road but it will happen again.
JFtC: In that contending team do you see Vladdy Jr being a part of it?
JH: I see him here in September to get started, then I see him playing here next year, and for the next x number of years however they want to put it. I see Bo Bichette doing the same thing, then after that Cavan Biggio, Danny Jansen a catcher, I think he’s ready to come here and play next year and start to make his mark. There are a lot of good young talented impact players in the minor leagues who will come up here starting in September, next year and in 2020 become comfortable players and pitchers and then from that point on, the fans will begin to see a very good young team, like the Houston Astros a couple of years ago, and the New York Yankees a couple of years ago as well.
JFtC: So we’re here for Jose Bautista’s return game, what do you think he’s going to show us?
JH: First of all I think the crowd will give him a wonderful thunderous ovation for what he did here for ten years. Remember in ‘15 and ‘16 he was the reason. There were a lot of people around him, but he was the essential hub of the wheel. I think here with the Mets, here again it’s interesting to look at his numbers. This is why a batting average is not that important anymore. He’s hitting .216, with an on-base percentage of 434, his slugging percentage about the same, the OPS to put the two together almost 900, almost as many walks as strikeouts. That’s why he’s still performing with the Mets and doing well. But I think too, father time has caught up to Jose, and that’s ok. He had his wonderful career, really spent right here in Toronto.
JFtC: He was a leader in the clubhouse for Toronto for so many years, who do you think has taken up that role?
JH: when he left, it was Josh Donaldson, and now that Josh is hurt and his career too has been affected by father time and injuries, I think right now, when you start to look at this young team, i think in a quiet way Teoscar Hernandez, in a more outspoken way, Randal Grichuk. Those are two pieces . Kevin Pillar is a pretty good leader in that clubhouse and still contributing, saw that great catch a couple of days ago. There will be others that will come here too. I like Luke Maille. When I look around and i see a cheerleader like Yangervis Solarte, some others that are contributing. If Devon Travis can overcome his injuries, there’s another one, a magnificent person and player. Right now it’s all beginning to start to take on a new shape.
JFtC: I’m going to be able to do these catchups with you every season until we win the World Series right?
JH: That means it’s going to end in a couple of years so no. We`ll keep doing this no matter what.
JFtC: When do you think we’re going to bring the World Series home?
JH: That’s hard to say. I think if you’re going to realistically project, you almost have to look at it like the Toronto Maple Leafs. You have to build a solid core and foundation through your draft picks, which the Leafs have done the last three years. Now they’ve added John Tavares. That’s like the Blue Jays in ‘92 doing the exact same thing and adding Jack Morris and Dave Winfield. What did they do? They won a World Series. What could the Leafs do this coming season? Win a Stanley Cup? Yes. As far as the Blue Jays, they’re still away from building the core foundation, so if that takes three or four years and then they add a Winfield and a Morris, maybe we`re looking at a World Series in… 2020-2021 to build the foundation, 2022-2023 to vie for it, I`d say 2023-2024 hopefully, a World Series and a World Series Championship. We’re looking at six-seven years.
JFtC: Alright it’s a date!
JH: It’s a date, let’s do it.
JFtC: Thank you so much Jerry for your time.
JH: You’re welcome.
The good news is Jerry Howarth continues to be a voice in the Blue Jays baseball world, albeit a quieter one. The bad news? It might be a bit of a wait for that World Series ring… but optimism abounds and this is, after all, baseball in all of its beautifully unpredictable glory.
*Featured Image via C Stem- JFtC
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Catherine Stem is a Blue Jays fan and writer who has combined both of these great things by writing for Jays From the Couch. Through all the ups and downs of baseball, all aspects of the game are explored. Keeping a close eye on the Blue Jays Triple A team, the Buffalo Bisons has also become part of her make-up.