— Aaron Boone (@AaronBoone_ESPN) April 8, 2014
Tonight, when Adnan Virk takes his seat in the broadcast booth at the Rogers Centre in Toronto to call Wednesday Night Baseball’s Houston Astros at Toronto Blue Jays game (7 p.m., ESPN2), the southern Ontarian will be fulfilling a childhood dream. Born in Toronto, at six Virk moved to the small Canadian town of Kingston, Ontario, where he spent his summers cheering for the Blue Jays and dreaming of a career in sports broadcasting.
Ahead of tonight’s game, Virk chatted for a few minutes with Front Row about his Toronto roots, favorite Blue Jays memories and the influence of ESPN colleague and fellow Canadian Dan Shulman.
As a Toronto native, what are some of your favorite Blue Jays memories and how much does this homecoming mean to you?
It’s unbelievable. People talk about having a bucket list and this is on that level. Calling a game and doing play-play for my hometown team is absolutely my dream – it’s surreal. I never would have imagined that I’d be calling a Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre for ESPN. It’s so unbelievable and so gratifying.
I remember vividly when George Bell and the Jays clinched the division in ’85 but what really stands out, I think for all people from Toronto and southern Ontario, is ’92 and ’93. I was at that formative age where you really remember stuff as a kid. I was 14 when they first won the World Series and then 15 for that Joe Carter home run, which is such an unbelievable moment – to hit a walk-off home run in the World Series. And to win it back-to-back really was amazing. The SkyDome was this shining jewel and the crowds were unbelievable. It was such a great time to be a baseball fan.
Did you listen to ESPN colleague Dan Shulman in Canada while you were growing up?
I remember listening to Dan Shulman in ’93-’94 when he was on Prime Time Sports at 6 p.m. on The Fan 590. It was a big deal in Toronto and southern Ontario. I was in high school at the time and I remember thinking this guy is terrific. I also listened to him on Blue Jays games with Buck Martinez and remember thinking Dan and Buck were as good as it gets. It was such a privilege to listen to them and the way they called games. I’m sure it influences me to this day.
Why do you think it’s important to showcase teams like the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays and all of MLB’s 30 clubs?
I really think that baseball is at its roots a pastoral game. One of the pleasant surprises I’ve found at ESPN was meeting other Jays fans not from Toronto or Canada. But they grew up in ’92 and ’93 and they loved Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter, Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor and John Olerud and that makes sense to me. People forget that there are Jays fans in the states who grew up in that era.
And there are big-time Astros fans. My buddy Robert Flores, who is a terrific SportsCenter anchor, is a huge Astros fan. There are fans who love the Blue Jays or the Astros all over the country, not just in Texas and not just in southern Ontario. Sometimes people think you’re just going to show the biggest market teams but Baseball Tonight and the MLB package at ESPN serve the viewer and viewers are fans of all 30 teams.