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updated: 4/1/2014 8:32 PM

Best of both worlds in Cubs booth for Coomer

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  • Ron Coomer, the new color analyst for Cubs radio broadcasts.

       Ron Coomer, the new color analyst for Cubs radio broadcasts.
    Bruce Miles | Staff Photographer

 
 

Believe it or not, the broadcasting bug bit Ron Coomer about the same time the baseball bug bit.

Coomer has been able to pursue both careers, and today he's the new Cubs radio analyst, working alongside stellar play-by-play man Pat Hughes.

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It might help that Coomer is a Chicago guy through and through. He's a graduate of Lockport High School, and he got to play for the Cubs on a gritty, fun-loving 2001 club.

Living in the Chicago area, Coomer had plenty of baseball to watch as a kid.

"You know, I really thought about broadcasting as a kid," he said during a recent visit as the Cubs prepared for the season to start. "I was a Jack Brickhouse fan to the max when I was a young kid growing up in Chicago, going to Wrigley Field and listening to his calls.

"So I've always thought about that part of it and loved it and probably became a bigger baseball fan because of it.

"Once I became a teenager and you're a good player, then you really want to be a player. But I always appreciated all the broadcasters we've had in our city. To be a part of it is great. But I've always liked that side of our business."

The 47-year-old Coomer took the radio job this past winter after Keith Moreland resigned to spend more time with his family. Coomer played six years with the Minnesota Twins and one with the Cubs before moving on to the Yankees and Dodgers.

After his retirement as a player, he went in to broadcasting with Fox Sports North, working as a pregame and postgame analyst for Twins games.

Coomer won awards for his work in the Twin Cities, so it looks like WGN radio and the Cubs got themselves a good catch -- Coomer's early work with Hughes during spring training was an easy listen, with Coomer providing a baseball player's insight along with a touch of humor.

"The comfort level of doing a game, I just really enjoy doing it," he said. "Working with Pat, it's phenomenal. He's going to be a Hall of Fame broadcaster. You just follow in the wake and help in the program of what he's been doing for years. He's great to work with and fun. He makes it real easy."

The Cubs might not be an easy watch or an easy listen this season because the losses are expected to mount. When a new guy comes to town to call games, fans always want to know if he'll be honest in his criticism. Coomer says not to worry.

"I just think it's simple," he said. "I've done this in Minnesota the last three years, and we had a team that struggled. We lost 90 games each year. You've got to tell the truth.

"I'm a big-league baseball player. I know if a play should be made our not, if a guy is hustling or not. You tell the truth. I'm not going to pile on a guy and keep burying him, but the truth is the truth.

"It's going to be the same when he does really well and when things don't work out. I will be honest. That's the style. It's Chicago. Say what's happening, and that's what we'll do."

As a player, Coomer compiled a career hitting line of .274/.313/.421 with 92 home runs. The 2001 Cubs team held first place for four months before fading in the end.

That club featured a strong, veteran clubhouse with players such as Coomer, Matt Stairs, Eric Young, Ricky Gutierrez, Kerry Wood, Joe Girardi and Jeff Fassero keeping things loose and keeping their teammates honest. Current Cubs hitting coach Bill Mueller was part of that team, but he suffered a severe knee injury in May and missed most of the year. The Cubs also had a right fielder named Sammy Sosa hitting 64 home runs and driving in 160.

Coomer has fond memories of that team, largely because of the veteran leaders.

"You just went through a list of guys I would go have dinner with if they walked in the clubhouse tomorrow and be instantly back to where we were in '01," he said. "We had great people on our club, with Kerry Wood being there longer than anybody else when we got there. He was just a phenomenal guy.

"E.Y. and Ricky and you start going down the list. Stairsie and I have known each other for a long time. We had a blast. Everybody would go out and hang out together at night and have dinner on the road.

"Jeff Fassero was another guy, a big key to how the clubhouse went. Jeff was a steady guy. He was a pro's pro. He pitched really well, but he was a good dude, too. (Jason) Bere was another one, a great guy.

"They're all in the game, too, if you think about it. All of us who played are doing something in the game. There was a love of the game."

If Coomer can pull it off, he'll end up being quite the popular guy in two baseball markets. As a Twin, he was announced as "Ron COOOOOOOMER" by legendary public-address announcer Bob Casey.

Now he's really back home.

"The people in the Twin Cities have been really nice to me and to my family," Coomer said. "The Minnesota Twins have been great. I've been there a long time.

"Chicago's my home, too. I grew up going to Wrigley Field. Thinking about walking around Wrigley and where my dad and I sat going to games and grabbing a hot dog … so when this job became available, even the Twins president understood. I'm extremely fortunate and really happy to be coming home."

bmiles@dailyherald.com

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