Howie Rose grew up rooting for the Mets, as did his most recent radio partner, Josh Lewin. Wayne Randazzo did not. But do not hold being a Cubs fan in suburban Chicago in childhood against him.
Randazzo insists he has adapted to the city – and team – he has been associated with since 2015.
“New York wraps its arms around you and brings you in,” he said. “It feels like home. Walking into Citi Field feels like home. The Mets have been incredible to me since my first day there. I think it certainly has made me feel like a New Yorker.”
Now more than ever. With Lewin having relocated to San Diego, Randazzo will succeed him alongside Rose after four years as pregame and postgame reporter/host and filling in in the booth on radio and television.
The move coincides with the Mets moving from WOR (710 AM) to WCBS (880 AM), putting them under the same corporate umbrella as WFAN and the Yankees for the first time since 2013. Entercom owns both stations.
“Being a part of WCBS as the new flagship, I mean, those call letters are legendary,” Randazzo said. “So you really feel the fabric of the city being a part of a station like this.”
Randazzo will continue to work the postgame show, with veteran Mets reporter Ed Coleman on pregame.
It begins with Rose and Randazzo hosting a “Mets Hot Stove” on WCBS on Thursday, then with the station’s first spring game as the Mets flagship on Saturday against the Braves.
Randazzo, 34, expects a smooth transition. So does Rose.
“There’s so much I love about him,” Rose said. “He’s a sponge. Whenever I’ve given him a suggestion or an idea, he’s implemented it. That doesn’t mean it’s right. It’s just my opinion.”
Rose, 65, recalled that when Randazzo first came to New York, he asked him to recommend books to learn about Mets history.
“I love the idea of mentoring and paying it forward,” Rose said. “It’s that time for my generation. It’s cool. I had people, like Marv Albert and others, who did that for me. I embrace the idea of doing it for somebody else.”
Randazzo is all for it.
“That’s the thing outside of calling the games that I’m looking forward to the most: Being able to soak in what he brings every day and sitting two feet away from him while he’s doing it,” he said of Rose. “I’ve learned so much from him already, and some stuff that he doesn’t even realize he’s taught me.
“Any question I’ve had from the moment I started, he’s been 100 percent there for me. Last year I sent him my TV reel after I filled in for Gary [Cohen]. It was, ‘Hey, whenever you can get to this let me know.’ The clip is like 10 minutes. He called 10 minutes after I sent it. He watched it immediately, and had a couple of things to point out.”
One of the things for which Randazzo relies on Rose is knowledge of Mets history. As Randazzo pointed out, even if he had grown up a Mets fan, he is too young to recall the 1986 champions, let alone 1969.
“Learning the ’69 Mets from the perspective of New York has been extremely interesting for me,” he said.
His perspective previously had been shaped by the team the Mets blew past in the standings that year; he read all about it in the late Cubs star Ron Santo’s book.
Randazzo was at Wrigley Field for Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS against the Marlins, in which a Cubs fan named Steve Bartman got in the way of a foul ball and helped open the door for a Marlins comeback.
“That was a weird night at Wrigley Field that certainly took a sour turn,” Randazzo said in an understatement.
So he was able to appreciate what the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016 meant.
“My grandfather was a big Cubs fan and passed away before they won the World Series,” he said. “I think you thought about more than anything, all the people that lived an entire life and loved that team and didn’t see them win the World Series.”
But Randazzo is a New Yorker now, and long ago lost his Midwestern accent.
“I was listening to myself call a hockey game with a Chicago accent and I was like, ‘Oh, boy, you have to kill this; that’s not going to help you in your career,’” he said.
He is looking forward to the move to WCBS in part because of being back in the sports radio fold with WFAN, which during the WOR years was unable to showcase Mets personnel.
“The Mets fans win in this case,” he said. “I know [general manager] Brodie [Van Wagenen] has been on with Mike [Francesa] a couple of times since the switch, and that’s a great thing. Evan [Roberts] is going to be down in spring training doing a show.
“It allows Mike to do shows from Citi Field. It allows Eddie to come back into the broadcast. To have him back doing the pregame show, I’m sure Mets fans are excited about it.”
Said Rose, “The five years at WOR were blissful. I’ve never been treated better. It was just a wonderful, wonderful five years. On that level, I was sad to see it end. But it is somewhat energizing to be back in a cluster that allows us to be involved with an all-sports station.
“Yes, WCBS is all news, and for me it’s a homecoming, too. I worked at WCBS for three years in the mid-‘80s and loved it there. On that level alone, it’s fun to be going back.
“But the energy and synergy involved in not only having our calls heard on a wide variety of Entercom stations in New York, but FAN especially, is important. It’s important to reintegrate the Mets and our broadcast into that powerful station.”