It was a one year ago Sunday that John Sterling knew his professional life had changed.
It was WFAN’s first Yankees radio broadcast of spring training, a game recalled for Clint Frazier suffering a concussion after making a catch in the outfield against the Pirates.
For Sterling, it was the first time he got to test drive his vision after undergoing laser cataract surgery on both eyes in January 2018.
“The Yankees had a lead, and I wanted to see who was warming up,” he said. “It was the first exhibition game. I turned to the left to look at the leftfield bullpen and I could see the number on the guy’s back. I thought, ‘Wow. Wow!’ That’s the way I felt throughout [the season]. It was much easier.”
Clear vision is no small matter for any announcer. But it was a game-changer for Sterling, 80, who for many years has been criticized for mis-seeing or wrongly anticipating plays, particularly on balls hit deep into the outfield.
After the surgery, there were fewer such mistakes last season.
“When I came back home [from Florida] I did my first ‘Yankeeography’ [on the YES Network],” he said. “I’m in this big studio in Stamford [Connecticut] and I looked across to the Teleprompter and I could read it perfectly, without even trying. I don’t know how laser cataract surgery could not improve you.”
Sterling, whose initial appearance of this spring is scheduled for Saturday against the Red Sox, recalled his surgeon doing a John Sterling imitation when encouraging him to undergo the procedure. “He was on a chair with wheels, and he had a great line to me,” Sterling recalled. “He said, ‘John, when you have laser cataract surgery you won’t see much better, you’ll see muuuuuuch better.’ Of course, I broke up.”
Sterling said he does not regret waiting this long to have it done, because it should take him to the end of his career in fine form. “It’s good I was able to last [this long], and now it’s done,” he said.
This will be his 31st season calling Yankees games, the past 15 alongside Suzyn Waldman, with no end in sight.
“The Yankees and WFAN have assured me I‘m there as long as I want, and I’m very young in body and mind and spirit and voice, and so is Suzyn,” he said. “And next year I’m going to have four [children] in college, so I’ll be working for quite a while.”