For many local baseball announcers affiliated with also-rans, the season's final weeks turn into a grim countdown of games left until October mercifully arrives.
Not so for SNY's Ron Darling, no matter how dreary the Mets' prospects are come late summer. "When I hear that, I always snicker, because it certainly is not the case for me,'' he said.
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That is because Darling annually gets to work the postseason as an analyst for TBS, which Saturday night found him at Yankee Stadium for Game 1 of the ALCS. "It does re-energize me,'' he said. "Am I rejuvenated? Absolutely.''
Darling said that when he considers his career as a major-league pitcher, "I never think about the successes I had in the postseason. I'm just haunted by the failures. So this is my second chance in life to be a great seventh-game pitcher, a great elimination-game pitcher. I'm an elimination announcer now.
"This is the only time, maybe other than Opening Day, where the hair on the back of my neck stands up.''
(As a Met, Darling started Game 7 of the 1986 World Series and got a no-decision; he started and lost Game 7 of the 1988 NLCS. He was 1-3 overall in seven playoff starts.)
This is the fourth consecutive year Darling has worked a Yankees series in the postseason, but most Yankees fans seem to have accepted him despite his association with the Mets.
"I think in some ways I'm seen as a New Yorker first,'' said Darling, who lives in Brooklyn. "I think the Yankees people think of me as a New Yorker. I've lived here 30 years now.''
Darling was rooting for the Yankees Friday only because it saved him a late-night flight to Detroit if the Orioles had won. Instead he watched CC Sabathia dominate the O's on TV, knowing it would mean a short trip to the Bronx to join Ernie Johnson and John Smoltz in TBS' No. 1 booth. (Cal Ripken worked with Johnson and Smoltz for the ALDS.)
"I wasn't rooting for a team; I was rooting for a destination,'' he said. "I knew if one team won, I was going to sleep in my own bed. If the other team won, someone was going to send me a car to drive me to Newark [Airport]."
Darling relished the former possibility because Friday was a respite from an itinerary that had taken him over the previous 12 days from Miami to Atlanta to San Francisco to New York to Cincinnati -- including making a red-eye out of California last Sunday with five minutes to spare.
"Wacky week,'' he said, "but good games.''