While people often pay attention to the baseball player who takes a long and circuitous route to the major leagues, the journey of the minor league broadcaster almost always goes unnoticed. This is quite the shame, because longtime Tacoma Rainiers broadcaster Mike Curto certainly has some great stories to tell.
As Curto wraps up his 15th season in the Cheney Stadium broadcast booth, he’s seen just about everything from independent league replacement players to the first perfect game in the long history of the Pacific Coast League.
Born in Palo Alto, Calif., Curto grew up listening to San Francisco Giants broadcaster Hank Greenwald. After he was cut in Little League – “which apparently wasn’t against the rules where I lived” – his focus shifted to his dream of baseball broadcasting.
During his four years at UC Berkeley, Curto devoted a great amount of time and effort to campus radio station KALX, eventually working his way up the ladder to the sports director position. His efforts paid off as he gained experience calling major-league spring training games for the Oakland Athletics along with Cal’s College World Series games during his senior year.
While that resume would dwarf most college broadcast-hopefuls, it still took two years before Curto received his first radio job with a short-season independent league ballclub. Sure enough, the Lafayette (Ind.) Leopards gave him a chance to witness a cash payday for the players out of the trunk of the league president’s Buick when the paychecks didn’t come initially. When all the players on one of the other team quit following another missed payday, Curto had the chance to call a game that featured a non-prospect striking out 23 “players” who had been picked up from the local farms in an effort just to field a team.
Naturally that league folded, and the next independent league team Curto joined folded soon after, but his real break came with an opportunity to spend two years with the San Diego Padres’ Class ‘A’ affiliate Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. There he had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of affiliated minor league baseball, work with numerous future major league ballplayers and even spend some time shadowing the PR department of the major league club.
After several years with Rancho Cucamonga, a new general manager cleared house and left Curto looking for his next opportunity. Tacoma came calling not long after, and he was hired in late 1998.
During his 15 years at the mic for Tacoma, Curto has received a couple MLB “call-ups,” filling in on several Seattle Mariners broadcasts and getting a taste of “The Show.” He also had the chance to call the 2001 Pacific Coast League co-championship team and has broadcast numerous no-hitters, with John Halama’s 2001 perfect game serving as the highlight.
Curto’s style tends to keep the focus on the players, as he believes fans want to hear about the men on the field rather than listening to tedious anecdotes from the man in the box. But as Rainiers fans simultaneously hope he gets a well-deserved full-time MLB gig and that he instead returns for a 16th season, they would do well to pay attention to some of the truly unique stories Curto has to tell.
- Brett Tomko - No-hitter (2001) Brett Tomko, Tacoma Rainiers pitcher, throws no-hitter on July 3, 2001 vs. Oklahoma City
- John Halama - perfect game (2001) John Halama, Tacoma Rainiers pitcher, tosses first 9-inning perfect game in PCL history on July 7, 2001 vs. Calgary Cannons
- A.J. Zapp - 9 RBIs (2004) A. J. Zapp sets a record with nine rbi's against the Fresno Grizzlies on Aug. 20, 2004
- A.J. Zapp solo HR (2004) A.J. Zapp crushes a solo HR over the Cheney Stadium "batter's eye" on Sept. 1, 2004 against Joe Blanton of the Sacramento River Cats
- Shin-Soo Choo HR (2005) Shin-Soo Choo blasts a solo HR over the centerfield wall at Cheney Stadium on May 6, 2005 off Salt Lake City Bees pitcher Scott Schneider
- Rainiers - PCL Championship (2010) Tacoma Rainiers win the Pacific Coast League championship defeating the Memphis Redbirds on Sept. 17, 2010