Baseball fans will easily be able to recognize the voice of Cory Provus. A native of the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Provus has worked his way from a one-inning-per-game broadcaster with WGN Radio calling Cubs games, to the radio voice of the Minnesota Twins. He and his wife, Dana, have two small children and have happily settled in Minnesota. Twins fans sure hope it’s for the long haul.
Did you know coming out of Highland Park that you were going be a broadcaster?
I was either going to be a game-show host or a sports broadcaster. My cousin is Brad Sham, the voice of the Dallas Cowboys, so when I was old enough to realize what he did for a living I thought that was it. When you combine that with my love for Harry Carey, growing up in a passionate sports town, with all the big teams. My first team was the ‘84 Cubs. I was 6-years-old and that was my team. I could go around the whole infield and tell you who was where. That was the team that drove me to love sports.
How does a Chicago kid leave a job with the Cubs and eventually find his way to Minnesota?
I wanted a play-by-play job. I was almost a beat reporter for the Cubs for WGN Radio. The most glamorous part was doing 5th inning play-by-play every single game. The Cubs view the job as important, but WGN viewed it different. It was very, very long days. What was the next step: Get a play-by-play job. And that’s what Milwaukee was.
If I didn’t work with Ron, I’d probably have been at a loss for words with Uecker. I’d have been too nervous, too uptight, too concerned. But Ron, a lot like Uke, are champions at laughing at themselves. They were just guys that don’t take it so seriously. It’s baseball, it’s a big business, there’s a lot of money involved, and interest and passion and all that. But at the end of the day, it’s a game. Let’s also have fun with it, have fun with yourself, laugh at yourself.
Uke will make fun of his own career. Look at his career: He was a .200 hitter with 14 home runs. He was the butt of every baseball joke going; he still is. But the guy makes people laugh, and that was a lot like Ron.
What was the impetus for leaving Milwaukee for Minnesota?
It was the lead job. You always want to be a guy that starts the game and ends the game. At the Cubs, I was the middle guy. With Milwaukee I was doing three innings of play-by-play. And then I got this job. It was five innings when I started, and last year we went to six innings.
You worked with legends, but you also replaced a legend, John Gordon. How scrutinized was that first year?
I’m sure it was and I’m sure it will continue to be scrutinized. I can’t replace a guy who was in somebody’s home for 25 years. John Gordon was in lives for 25 years. I don’t want to replace anybody, but I’ve always said I want to add to that history with Twins radio, with the team and with the fan base. In the past, I’ve replaced guys who’ve been beloved. The guy (I replaced) in Milwaukee, Jim Powell, was Bob Uecker’s longest partner. You’re replacing someone who was with him for a long, long time. That was tough and I got through that.
Are the Twins going to take the next step?
They’re heading in a better direction now than a year ago. Last season was a great year and anyone who says otherwise is foolish. Who wouldn’t have taken an 83-win year after all the 90-loss seasons? To see the team play relevant baseball into mid-September was great. I think they can contend for a playoff spot. Are they ready to dethrone the Royals? No. Are they going to be picked to win the division? No, nor should they be.
Is it easier to call the game straight or bring the passion?
Have to bring passion. I’m not a self-described homer. I don’t say ‘we’. I don’t say “We’re on a four-game winning streak.” I have nothing to do with it. I never refer to the team on the air as “Minnesota.” If you’re talking to people about the game, do you say, “How did Minnesota do tonight?” No, you say, “How did the Twins do tonight?”
I can never call the Cubs “Chicago,” I can never call the Brewers “Milwaukee”. Minnesota is the state, but the Twins are the team. That’s why I refer to the team on the air. I hope people can tell who I want to win based on inflection, and based on the past knowledge and information.. (Vikings announcer) Paul Allen is a different guy, I find him incredibly entertaining. I can’t do that. That’s just me. It would sound forced. I love that he does his thing.
I end the last broadcast of the year saying our job is to inform, educate and entertain. Do that everyday, we’ve done our job. If we nail those, I’m very proud of the product we put out that day, regardless of if the Twins win or lose.
What advice would you give to aspiring broadcasters?
Don’t be picky about first job or jobs. My first job out of school I was in Blacksburg, Va. I was there for three years and I thought I’d be there for nine months. I’m not going to say that it’s not going to happen, but the odds are against you getting a job in the market you desire. You have to be prepared to go small. And it’s good to go small.
Also, if you want to do play-by-play, take a play-by-play job. Go do minor league baseball or hockey. Get on the air and get experience. You need luck along the way. Be diligent, work hard and be nice.
How was the adjustment to Minnesota?
My son is 2 ½, and my daughter was born in October. They’re still young enough that they still come down with me for spring training so they can enjoy the warmth of Florida for a change. But my wife loves it here. That was a big part of moving here. My wife had never left her comfort zone. We came up here and didn’t know a soul. She was going to be immersed in something foreign without her partner around because I was going to be travelling so much. It was a big gamble and there were some tears over this decision to move because of that. But I’m incredibly proud of her. When she got here, she took every name and met a bunch of people. She has opened up so many doors on her own. She has a great life here. When I’m going on a 10-day round trip, I’m not worried. I know she’s got a great support base when I’m gone.
What’s your favorite Jewish food?
My wife’s grandmother makes this kugel that’s off the chart. When my wife makes it, I tell her it’s not her nonni’s kugel, but it’s good. I could eat it every day.
What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?
Hanukkah. With the kids lighting candles and opening presents it’s really fun.
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