Benz: ‘I love sports; I live sports’

MINNEAPOLIS – Dave Benz has seen his fair share of sports. FOX Sports North’s new Minnesota Timberwolves play-by-play announcer has already worked in eight different markets, covering sports at all levels and doing everything from in-studio shows to talk radio to reporting to, of course, play-by-play.
Benz is wrapping up his job with Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area/California, where he has covered the 49ers, Giants and A’s, primarily. He’ll be bouncing back and forth between San Francisco and Minneapolis in the coming weeks, working on MLB playoff coverage in California and easing his way into the Timberwolves job. He’ll be present in the Twin Cities for the first week of Timberwolves training camp and their home preseason games, and he and his family plan to be full-time residents of Minnesota by the end of October.

A short conversation with Benz  allows us – and you – to get to know the man who will be the new voice of the Timberwolves:

FSN: How did you end up in this field?
BENZ: I’ve always loved sports ever since I was a little kid. I always would do play-by-play in the stands. It was always intriguing for me to do play-by-play. But it’s weird because it was a dream for me to do that, but I never really thought about it as a profession. I just kind of had fun with it.
When I graduate high school, I actually went to college for one year for electrical engineering. I hated that and didn’t know what I was going to do. And then a buddy of mine who I’d gone to high school with, that first year after college, we reconnected. He put a cassette in the tape deck of his car when he picked me up, and I found out it was him doing sportscasting on the radio. I was like, “What’s this?” And he goes, “I took a sportscasting class. I’m thinking about becoming a sportscaster.” I was like, “You can do that?”
You know, ever since then, I’ve been driven to do that. Ever since then, I’ve been working to that end, doing whatever I could to keep on moving forward in this industry. It’s been a lot of moves. Minnesota will be the ninth state that I’ve lived in. I’ve been a lot of places. I’ve met a lot of really great people. I’ve worked with a lot of really great teams. It has been difficult to move so much, but at the same time, on a lot of levels I wouldn’t change a thing.
It’s been absolutely an experience that’s unforgettable. That’s pretty much, that’s just basically me. I love sports. I live sports. My dad was a huge baseball fan when I was younger, so he kind of lit the fire under me. We were always watching baseball together. Well, it wasn’t just baseball. I can remember when I was little watching the Laker-Celtics NBA finals games in the garage in the summer time on a black-and-white TV. You don’t know how cool that was, sitting outside, watching basketball.
I’ve basically been around it my whole life. It’s something that I care about, and I’m fortunate enough to be able to find my way in this crazy industry.

Well it sounds like you’ve gotten a chance to travel a lot of places and experience a lot of sports. What are some of the things you’ve covered that really stick with you?
BENZ: It’s kind of a potpourri of things. I always think in my mind of the top sporting events I’ve seen personally, and a couple of them I’ve seen as a fan. Like I was at the 1993 World Series when Joe Carter hit the home run off Mitch Williams to win the whole World Series. That was pretty cool.
But (professionally) I was on the field in Texas a couple years ago when the Giants won the World Series against the Rangers. I was there covering it for Comcast, so that was really cool being there for that. It was the first time they’d won the World Series since they moved from New York.
Last year I was doing the 49ers postgame show, and that divisional playoff game against the touchdown, the Saints came down a touchdown, they came back down to score a touchdown – that was one of the best football games I’ve ever seen.
You know, I’ve been to the Masters. I was at the NBA Finals when the Heat beat the Mavericks the first time. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been to the NBA All-Star Games. I’ve been to a handful of Super Bowls. I’ve been very, very lucky that I’ve covered the biggest moments in sports, or at least some of the biggest events in sports.

FSN: What was it about this job with FSN and the Timberwolves that made it appealing to you?
BENZ: NBA play-by-play has always been what I’ve wanted to do, ever since that light bulb went off and I wanted to be a sportscaster. My dad’s passion was baseball; my passion has always been basketball. I love baseball, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve always loved basketball. It probably started with where I grew up, because I grew up in Syracuse. They have a great college basketball program. Watching all those guys go to the NBA, I continued watching them in the NBA.
I still love the college game, but you can’t be any better than the NBA. I think they’re the greatest athletes in the world, and the show that they put on on an almost nightly basis, it’s unparalleled in the world of sports. It’s just been the one thing that I’ve always, always dreamt of doing, doing NBA play-by-play. So when I found out there was an opening with the Timberwolves – obviously those jobs don’t open very often for pretty good reasons – I pounced on it.

FSN: How do you prepare for a job like this one, when you move to a new team and will have to be talking about players and their games for several hours a night in a matter of weeks?
BENZ: Right now, I’m just trying to immerse myself in everything I can about the team. I’m trying to read all the news stories and watch as much video as I can. But really, I think the biggest thing is there’s only so much you can learn from Google. I think the best thing is going out there and meeting the players and meeting the coaching staff and really meeting the fans. I’m really looking forward to connecting with the fans and hearing from them about what their great memories are. It’s not only just current teams, because obviously there’s a lot of new players, but they’ll have memories about the franchise, the days of KG (Kevin Garnett) and (Sam) Cassell and (Latrell) Sprewell. I want to get their thoughts on what makes them so drawn to the franchise. I think that’s going to be the best way for me to understand the history of the franchise and the passions.
As far as this year’s crop of players and this year’s coaches, getting to know them and getting to talk to them and getting to know what makes them tick, what are their stories – I want to (put) all that into the broadcasts every day.

Joan Niesen on