In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Rick Hamlin checks in with an old friend.
Posted in , Oct 1, 2020
Thinking about National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15), I gave a call to my old friend, Jorge Jarrin. He does the Los Angeles Dodgers broadcasts on the Spanish radio network KTNQ with his father, veteran Hall of Fame broadcaster Jaime Jarrin. Here’s what he had to say.
Rick: Hey, Jorge. Tell our Guideposts readers what you do.
Jorge: We have the distinguished honor of bringing L.A. Dodger baseball to the Spanish-speaking community of Southern California and elsewhere. I hear from people in Mexico, Argentina, Singapore, Australia, halfway around the world. People who love baseball.
Rick: I remember your telling me that you have fans in Alabama.
Jorge: We received a call from a station manager in Montgomery, Alabama. “Why the Dodgers?” I thought. Why not a closer team like the Braves? Our demographics can change overnight. I’ve discovered that wherever you have an influx of Spanish-language consumers, especially from Mexico, and you ask them, “What team would you like to hear?” It’s often “The L.A. Dodgers.” Some of it goes back to [former pitcher] Fernando Mania. But it’s also because we’re dedicated to bringing our listeners every game they play, 162 games in a normal season.
Rick: When did the Dodgers start doing your radio show?
Jorge: 1958. We’re the longest-running Spanish broadcast in baseball, 63 years. We do all games, not just select games. The Dodgers have always carried all 162 games.
Rick: Who was the first broadcaster?
Jorge: Rene Cardenas. Then in 1959, my father joined. It was the year after they arrived from Brooklyn, and he’s been doing it ever since.
Rick: When did you join him?
Jorge: I began doing the TV broadcasts in 2012. Then in 2015 I joined my father on the radio. I’ve now completed five years.
Rick: What’s the biggest challenge?
Jorge: Being around my father 24 hours a day. (He laughs.) No, the real challenges are the challenges in my own head. That first year I asked myself: Could I measure up to my dad’s standards? A Hall of Fame broadcaster. I kept trying to seek his approval. After a year or so when I saw him take off his headphones when I was broadcasting, I knew he was confident and comfortable with me taking over.
Rick: That must have been hard.
Jorge: My youngest son Phillip put it this way, “Dad, you’ve earned the opportunity. Instead of trying to please your dad, please yourself. If you’re happy, there’s nothing more that you can do.” Our son Stefan went through a similar experience. Being drafted. Playing in the minor leagues. “Am I here because I’m good enough or because I’m the grandson of a Hall of Fame broadcaster for the organization?” You learn to take it day by day.
Rick: Our friendship goes way back.
Jorge: I met you the very first day of school in 1965, our first day of fifth grade. You sat in the desk in front of me. Your last name starts with an H, mine with a J. Alphabetical order. We’ve been friends ever since.
Rick: I’m lucky.
Jorge: My future best friend right in front of me. Sometimes I imagine Jesus thinking, “Shall I put these two together?” Then going, “They’ll meet anyway. Putting them in the same classroom will be enough.” He didn’t have to do the seating chart.
Rick: You were so cool.
Jorge: I might have been cool in your mind, but I didn’t feel cool back then. I was the new kid on the block, different from everybody else. My brother and I were the only Latino students in the school. Here I found a guy, friendly, open and engaging. You were a lifeline. I was trying to find my balance. All I needed was one good friend. Life is about constantly finding your balance.
Rick: Does your faith help you?
Jorge: We all worry about things out of our control. When I have these doubts, my wife Maggie reminds me to put my worries aside. The doubt comes from a dark place. I need to put it in God’s hands. Give it to Him. Let Him shoulder the burden.
Rick: Where would we be without our wives?
Jorge: Maggie is like a rock. She reads her devotional every day. I need her perspective. When things start to get a little too much, she’ll help me step back. “Let’s pray about this,” she’ll say.
Rick: You get answers to those prayers?
Jorge: There are times when I get an answer that’s so clear and obvious. And times when I wonder if I’m being heard. “Why have You not answered me?” I ask. The answer might be right in front of me, and I don’t recognize it. My prayers in many situations have been answered. One door closes and another opens. It’s how you choose to look at a thing.
Rick: Good advice.
Jorge: People talk about the good old days. “Back then we stayed outside until the lights came on.” But memory is selective. We choose to remember the nice things. I wouldn’t want to live in an age before penicillin. Or you drive across the country and think about how people made it through the desert pulled by an ox. How did they deal with dentistry with no novocaine? This is the greatest time. It doesn’t mean we’re immune from difficulty and evil.
Rick: What’s it like being at the ballpark these days?
Jorge: We miss being around the fans, people who truly enjoy a pastime. We miss that energy. Every time I go to the stadium, I fill out a three-page questionnaire. I send it in and get a barcode in return. I show that barcode at the entrance, and they take my temperature. We can only go from the parking lot to the broadcast booth. Can’t go see the players. Can’t gauge their reaction in person. Can only Zoom them. I feel bad for people who loved to bring their children to the ballfield, that time together. I feel especially bad for people who have lost their jobs.
Rick: Thanks, old friend. I love you.
Jorge: I love you, too. And I love that we can say that to each other. These are the things that are of the most importance. Friendships. Our families. These are the things that matter.