Based on what I heard of WEEI’s Red Sox radio broadcasts during spring training, it will be at least a couple of weeks into the season before we’re used to the mix-and-match approach alongside Joe Castiglione in the booth this year.
Some of the assorted voices joining Castiglione — who enters his 37th season — in the Red Sox booth are intriguing; notably Josh Lewin and Mario Impemba, both experienced and well-regarded play-by-play broadcasters, have sounded like pleasant fits.
One beef: Either Castiglione or his partner needs to be more frequent in identifying who the unfamiliar voice is, at least until they become familiar. I listened to one game over multiple innings and had no idea who the other voice was until Castiglione eventually reminded us it was Will Flemming.
What I expect to be the best thing about the Season of Assorted Voices comes with 17 years of evidence. It’s going to be beyond enjoyable to hear Sean McDonough calling the Red Sox games again.
McDonough is primarily known for television work. He called Red Sox games to deserved acclaim on Channels 38, 68, and 25 for 17 years (1988-2004), has been a prominent voice on ESPN’s college football and basketball broadcasts for years, and even had a recent two-year stint on “Monday Night Football.”
But he does call the college football national championship game each year for ESPN Radio, and said he covets the opportunity to do more radio.
“And when they made it this convenient from a schedule standpoint, it was a no-brainer,’’ he said.
McDonough said he expects to call 30 or 32 games on the Red Sox flagship radio network this season, the final number dependent on whether a responsibility for ESPN pops up that requires him to adjust his schedule.
He worked with WEEI program director Joe Zarbano to select which games he will call, the first being April 11 against the Blue Jays during the first homestand. Most of McDonough’s games will be Red Sox home games — the only road series he will do is at Yankee Stadium — while he’ll also call series against the Astros and Dodgers, among others.
“We scheduled it around really important things like the member-guest golf tournament at my club that week,’’ he said with a laugh. “I’d really love to do that game here or there, but maybe my priorities aren’t quite in the right order.”
It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years since McDonough last called games as a Red Sox broadcaster. He parted under somewhat contentious terms — NESN and the Red Sox thought he was making too much money, so then-NESN voice Don Orsillo took over the call of all local Sox games — but McDonough said any animosity stopped lingering long ago.
He acknowledges the anticipation that will come with returning to the Red Sox booth, even if it’s on the radio side rather than television.
“Fenway is one of those places that’s special every time you walk in there,’’ he said. “When I first left the Red Sox and then would come back to do games for ESPN on ‘Monday Night Baseball,’ it was definitely a little strange, because for so long it was so routine to go there. And when I would go back after not being there for a while, it was almost like I was a stranger. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but it wasn’t as familiar as it was before. It wasn’t the same.”
He is looking forward to joining familiar company in the radio booth.
“I’m really looking forward to working with Joe Castiglione,’’ said McDonough. “He’s one of the nicest people on the planet. If you don’t like Joe, there’s something wrong with you.”
WEEI and parent company Entercom Communications reached out the McDonough in the fall when Tim Neverett departed after three years in the booth. “There’s just no way I could take on a full baseball schedule on top of everything else at ESPN, nor would I really want to,” he said.
But Zarbano checked in with McDonough again in January after the decision had been made to use various voices in the booth alongside Castiglione rather than replace Neverett with a single broadcaster.
This time, the offer was so enticing McDonough didn’t even consider saying no.
“They said you can basically do as many or as few as you want, you can pick which games you do,” he said. “I thought about that for about two seconds before I said yes to that.
“I’m at the point of my life where I want things to be fun. The first thing I thought when they proposed this opportunity was, ‘That would be fun.’ ”
McDonough has had a remarkable career away from Boston. At just 30 years old in 1992, he became the youngest broadcaster to call the World Series as a network employee when he did so for CBS. (Fox’s Joe Buck did so in 1996 when he was 27.)
But the Red Sox have been the center of his baseball universe since he was a kid, when he first dreamed of making sports broadcasting his career.
“When I was a kid, I’d go down to spring training with my dad [the late Globe columnist Will McDonough], and I’d just sit there and watch the Red Sox radio announcers do their job from the back of the booth,’’ he said. “My dad would just kind of smash me in there because he couldn’t bring me into the writers’ area in the press box. So I’d watch Ned Martin, Ken Coleman and those guys doing games, and I’d think to myself, ‘Wow, this is an awesome way to make a living.’
“I was one of those kids at 7 years old who would watch the games on TV and call the broadcasts and dream about being the voice of the Red Sox. That was always the job I wanted when I’d think about what I wanted to do for a living. And that’s never gone away.”