Detroit Tigers: Q&A with Mario Impemba

Detroit Tigers broadcaster Mario Impemba is down in Lakeland with the team preparing for the 2018 season. He took some time earlier this week to answer a few questions about growing up as a Tigers fan, the upcoming season, and more.

Since 2002, Mario Impemba has been the voice of his hometown Detroit Tigers on television. During that time he has shared the booth with several former Tigers, including Rod Allen, Kirk Gibson, and Jack Morris.

Earlier this week, I had the chance to ask Impemba a few questions as he prepares for another season in the booth.

What is your first baseball memory?
Going to Tiger Stadium with my dad when I was five or six years old. I have no memory of what happened on the field, but the the sights and smells of the park never leave you. How green the grass was, how far the upper deck seemed from the field, the smell of the Ballpark Franks. I was hooked.
What memories do you have of the Detroit Tigers from your childhood?
Back in the 70’s there weren’t many games on TV, so the radio was your friend. I felt like Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey were family. We had some bad teams in the 70’s, including the ’75 team that lost 102 games, but it didn’t matter to me. I listened to every game. For some reason I remember a game in 1975 when Nate Colbert hit a grand slam early in the season to beat the Yankees. I ran around the house like a mad man. I have no idea why I remember that specific at-bat or that specific game.
Who was your favorite player growing up?
Aurelio Rodriguez in the 70’s. Smooth third baseman with a great arm. I used to love the way he would field a ground ball, take a step, and then fire a bullet to first base. He knew he had all the time in the world because of his rocket arm. In the 80’s it was Alan Trammell. Always in control and not flashy. I loved guys who played the game that way.
What got you interested in broadcasting?
My love of baseball and the romance of listening to it on the radio. I used to listen to all of the greats at night when the radio signals would carry across the country. Ernie Harwell, Jack Buck, Harry Caray, and Harry Kalas. What struck me was that their styles were all very different. I listened to baseball differently than most kids. I would listen to the nuances of each announcer and take something from all of them.
What has been your favorite moment to call as the Detroit Tigers broadcaster?
Tough to answer. Verlander’s two no-hitters, the 2006 club clinching a playoff spot in Kansas City, and Miguel Cabrera clinching the triple crown all stick out.
What are your impressions of Ron Gardenhire and his staff so far in spring training?
Same guy that we knew in Minnesota. Very forthcoming, treats everyone with respect and I think the players like playing for him. As long as you play the game the right way, he just lets you go.
What player(s) have you been impressed with this spring?
Nick Castellanos first and foremost. He has it all figured out and I think will have a huge season.  With a lot of the veterans traded away, I think he’ll have a much bigger role in the clubhouse this year. He is working hard to become a good right fielder.

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What are you looking forward to most this season?
The energy that young players bring to the game. I don’t think the Tigers will be as bad as some think. I assume at some point this year we may see some of the kids in the minors and that’s always fun.
Which prospect(s) are you excited to see making their big league debut in the near future?
It’s difficult to pick only one or two.  Several guys really intrigue me.  I have had a chance to Jake Rogers a bit in spring training and am looking forward to following his development.  Christin Stewart has a chance to get to the big leagues soon with his power.  Beyond that, the next wave of pitchers in the system will be fun to track.  Alex Faedo is legit from what people tell me in camp.  Matt Manning and Beau Burrows have a chance to be stars.  I just think it’s fun to see the system re-stocked with premium prospects.
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