New Pawtucket Red Sox broadcaster Jeff Levering knew the Laser Show long before it burst onto the scene at Fenway Park.
As a youngster, Levering played summer baseball with Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
Levering, who went on to play at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., where he studied broadcast journalism and was the DH on Chapman’s Division 3 national title team in 2003, has kept in touch with Pedroia throughout the years.
The 29-year-old announcer comes to Pawtucket after three seasons as the radio voice of St. Louis’ Double-A affiliate, the Springfield Cardinals.
He went one-on-one with The Eagle-Tribune’s Christopher Smith.
Smitty: When did you meet the Laser Show?
Levering: We were on a travel ball team for summer league when I was 15 years old. We were both sophomores in high school. We just finished up our sophomore seasons and they put together a good, elite team.
Smitty: Were you considered elite like Pedroia?
Levering: At that time I was. And it was nice because I hit either in front of him or behind him. So we were always hitting 2 or 3. So it was great. He’s a great guy. I had a chance to see him again down in Fort Myers and catch up with him a little bit and he hasn’t changed.
Smitty: So Pedroia was boisterous back then, too?
Levering: Oh, yeah, absolutely. We had a couple of real characters on the team. Pedroia was definitely one of them. I was the other one. We kind of led that team and we had a blast. We had a lot of guys who played D-1 college. We were definitely kind of the voices.
I was there for his major league debut in 2006 in Anaheim. I was working for the Angels at the time. And then I was there in ‘09 during the playoff run for him as well.
Smitty: When Pedroia was in the minors, did you follow him?
Levering: I absolutely did. His debut was fun. I was a PA (public address announcer) for the Angels. One of my jobs was going into the clubhouses and writing down the lineups and bringing it back to the TV truck. Well, he had just been called up, and I didn’t want to really make a big deal out of it. So I walked in the (visitor’s) clubhouse and I kind of scanned, didn’t see him and walked back out and as I’m walking through the catacombs of Angel Stadium, I hear (the clicking of his) cleats and he was running after me.
He was like, “Jeff, what is going on, man? Unbelievable. Great to see you.” So I left and didn’t even say hi to him and he chased me out in his cleats in the middle of Angel Stadium. He just gave me a big hug and I said, “Congrats.” I saw his folks that night, too.
Smitty: Did you know at 15 that Pedroia had major league potential despite his height?
Levering: I never questioned the height aspect of it. I knew there were ballplayers who were shorter in stature. But the question for me was going to be is he going to have the arm strength? Because he was a shortstop at the time.
Part of his demeanor is just his pure grit and perseverance and that’s something he has never wavered from. Because of that, he went to Arizona State and dominated and dominated from every level minor leagues to the big leagues — Rookie of the Year to a major league MVP. It’s pretty special.
Smitty: How difficult is it to make a career in broadcasting?
Levering: I was very lucky. My first job was an internship with FOX Sports in LA. Once my internship was over my senior year, I just kept showing up and they didn’t tell me to stop. So that turned into a full-time job — great experiences, great connections and it’s all about the connections in this business. So that parlayed into a job at Rancho Cucamonga (for the Single-A Quakes).
I was there for three years. I got that play-by-play job after having done six full games in my entire career. I was very lucky to have the situation. It was because of a connection that I had. The assistant GM who was doing the hiring had played for the same coach who recruited me in college. So again, it was the connections, and I got better in my three years in Rancho and I was in Springfield for three years and now here I am.
Smitty: Many PawSox announcers have gone on to announce in the majors or NBA or NFL. Is baseball the sport you want to do?
Levering: It’s the sport I know the best and I feel most comfortable doing baseball even though I’ve done the other sports. Even in college, I did water polo, volleyball and all sorts of other crazy sports. I started as a PA guy and then just with classes started doing some TV stuff and all my background is in TV. The ultimate goal is to get to the big leagues if (with) the Red Sox or the Tampa Bay Rays or whoever it is who’s going to offer me an opportunity. Just like these players, it’s a chance to climb the ladder.
SMITTY'S BLOG For more info on the Red Sox and Major League Baseball, check out Christopher Smith's Smitty on Baseball blog at blogs.eagletribune.com/smittyonbaseball Follow Smith on Twitter at SmittyonMLB.