KANSAS CITY, Mo. – New Royals television announcer Rex Hudler simply couldn’t contain his excitement when he found out he’d landed the job with FOX Sports Kansas City.
“I got a call from the Royals president, Dan Glass,” Hudler said by phone from California, “and it was like, to me, getting a call from the President of the United States. That’s how much it meant to me.
“I actually broke down in tears of joy. Of course, that was after I hung up the phone. I didn’t want (Glass) to hear me crying.”
That type of enthusiasm is what Hudler pledges he’ll bring to the telecast, though he also vows he will do his best not to go over the top.
“I’m an emotional guy and I’m passionate,” he said. “I can’t help that. Being able to come to this team now, at this stage, as good as they’re going to be, it’s just incredible. I won’t apologize for being excited about that.”
Hudler will join a restructured Royals broadcasting team. He will do about 120 games as the color analyst, working with Ryan Lefebvre, who also will do an unspecified amount of games for the Royals radio network with either Bob Davis or Denny Matthews. The Royals also hired Steve Physioc, who will do about 50 games of play-by-play in the television booth. Lefebvre is expected to do about 90 games in the television booth.
In addition, former Royals closer Jeff Montgomery will join the television booth to do about 20 games as an analyst. Physioc also is expected to switch over to the radio booth on occasion as well.
“It’s going to be a heckuva team calling the games, too,” Hudler said. “I can’t wait to get the chance to work with Ryan and be around Bob and a Hall of Famer in Denny. And, of course, ‘Phiz’ and I go way back.”
Hudler played for the Yankees, Orioles, Expos, Cardinals, Angels and Phillies during his playing career. He then served as a color commentator for the Angels for 11 seasons through 2009 when the contracts for both he and Physioc were not renewed.
“I kind of saw that coming,” Hudler said. “They had cut my schedule down and they indicated to me they were downsizing. They had six broadcasters and they wanted to go to four. Steve and I were the odd guys out.”
In Kansas City, Hudler will step in for Royals Hall of Famer Frank White, who was let go in December. White had replaced Royals Hall of Famer Paul Splittorff, who passed away last year.
“There’s no way I can fill any of those shoes,” Hudler said. “I played against Frank and know how great he was. And Splitt, I loved the guy. You can’t fill their shoes.
“I remember when I started with the Angels I was replacing Sparky Anderson in the booth. You don’t fill those shoes. You don’t even try.”
Hudler said he expects to bring the fans closer to what the players on the field might be experiencing.
“I consider myself a 51-year-old player,” Hudler said. “I see the game through the players’ eyes. I study the pitching match-ups just like I did when I was playing, and I hope to bring that knowledge to the booth and share it with the fans.”
Hudler said he understands the suffering and the passion of the Royals’ fan base.
“They’re ready to win, and so I am,” he said. “I played in St. Louis. I know the passion over there and I know there’s passion four hours across the state in Kansas City.”
Physioc has roots in the area. He is a graduate of Kansas State and was the voice of Kansas State football and basketball from 1979-82.
Lefebvre will be back for his fifth season on FOX Sports Kansas City, and is looking forward to his added role on the radio broadcasts.
“I was raised listening to old-school (radio) announcers,” Lefebvre said. “I would like to think I have a little of that old-school announcing in me. That makes this situation ideal for me.
“I love the challenge of being able to do both TV and radio. You’re announcing the same sport but you use two different approaches and that makes it a challenge. I like that.
“Doing both is a little like being a player and being told you’re going to play center field and shortstop — the two premier positions on the field. That’s what I have now — two premier positions.”