Russ Langer, the voice of the Aviators, is in his 20th season calling baseball in Las Vegas and his 32nd year in a career that started with Single-A in the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization.
“They’re only 30 guys doing this at Triple-A in the whole world,” said Langer, who will call the Aviators’ first-round playoff series starting Wednesday in Sacramento.“That’s a pretty select group in the grand scheme of things.”
It’s also a responsibility he doesn’t take lightly, based in part on the meaningful feedback he’s received from listeners.
A woman who had been in a near-fatal car accident once wrote him, explaining that she was a big baseball fan and his broadcasts “got me through many painful nights.” She told him his “humor and painting of the picture got me through being in a cold, impersonal hospital bed.”
The stories don’t stop there.
Another time, a man approached Langer, introduced himself, then said, “This is Ben, my 11-year-old son, and he’s blind. I want you to know you’re my son’s eyes for the game.”
Langer remembers the son “literally trembling with excitement.” The son said, “I can’t believe I’m meeting you. When you get excited on the air, I feel it. I feel it through the radio and I get excited.”
Langer said such stories are why it’s so important for broadcaster to bring their “A” game every single night. He says you never know who’s listening and what it could mean to them.
Aviators manager Fran Riordan understands just how important Langer and his voice are to baseball fans in the Las Vegas Valley.
“Russ has got some golden vocal cords. He’s got one of the best radio voices I’ve ever heard,” Riordan said. “You combine that with the fact he does all his research” and is steeped in the history and tradition of Las Vegas baseball, and Riordan said it’s obvious how integral a role he’s played in the Aviators’ popularity at Las Vegas Ballpark.
Riordan admitted he doesn’t get to listen to Langer as much as he’d like since he’s on the field managing during games.
“But I’ve been ejected a few times this year, and when I get ejected one of the few things I look forward to is going back to the clubhouse and listening to Russ broadcast the game.”
Langer said calling Aviator games this season has been one of the highlights of his career.
“There is a major league-type buzz that is prevalent in our crowds on a daily basis, and the team has responded with a playoff-caliber season,” he said. “The high quality of play has created a level of excitement seldom seen in Triple A. There will never be another first season in this incredible ballpark, and this first season has been one for the ages.”
In addition to his duties with the Aviators, Langer is beginning his eighth season as the play-by-play voice of UNLV football. He also calls spring training games for the Chicago White Sox after previously doing so for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays. He’s also called the Triple-A All-Star Games in 1995 and 2016.
He said such varied duties keep him from being one-dimensional.
Through it all, Langer has been living his childhood dream, a dream that culminated when he called major league games for the Montreal Expos in 2003 and Baltimore Orioles in 2006.
Langer is a two-time Minor League Broadcaster of the Year with two different organizations and has been named Nevada’s Sportscaster of the Year 10 times, including seven in a row from 2007 to 2013. He was named Sportscaster of the Year during his time in New Mexico in 1999.
But for him, his primary motivation remains the connection he makes with his listeners.
“For the White Sox to hire me to do the spring training webcast since 2012, that’s a great honor,” he said. “But the connection with the fans is just as big of an honor as anything.”
Game 1: Wednesday at Sacramento, 6:35 p.m.
Game 2: Thursday at Sacramento, 6:35 p.m.
Game 3: Friday at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m.
Game 4: Saturday at Las Vegas, 7:05 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 5: Sunday at Las Vegas, 12:05 p.m. (if necessary)