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Setting the 'Pace:' New Mustangs radio voice taking break from NBA gig
By MIKE SCHERTING
Of The Gazette Staff
The beer showered down, the cup that contained the beer came next, and then Mark Boyle thought: This is trouble.
Indiana Pacers forward Ron Artest, the target of the beer shower, got up from where he was laying on the scorer's table and bolted into the stands.
The events that followed, captured on video, have been broadcast and rebroadcast. But for all the punches, chairs and whatever else was thrown during the much-publicized NBA brawl between the Pacers and the Detroit Pistons last November, Boyle may have taken the biggest blow. And all he was doing was trying to help.
"As soon as (Artest) got up - and this is not, by the way, the brightest thing I've ever done - but when he tried to go in, I tried to tackle him," says Boyle, who, as the voice of the Indiana Pacers radio broadcasts the last 17 years was right near the table where Artest had been laying. "He flattened me and I broke my back in five places. So, lesson learned. I like the guy, and I wish I could have helped him, but next time he's on his own.
"It was not a cool scene, not at all. In fact when we left the building - in most NBA buildings the team bus parks inside the building - when we were on the way out they told us that we should leave the building with our lights off in case anyone tried to shoot us. Which we didn't do it and no one shot us, so I guess they were overreacting. But you know when you hear, 'Hey, on your way out of here you might get shot,' it's not a very comforting feeling."
Boyle shouldn't come across such dramatics this summer. After being in the radio business since 1978, where he got his start at KATL in Miles City, Boyle will take a stab at professional baseball by broadcasting the Billings Mustangs games on KBUL (970 AM) and on the Internet (www.billingsmustangs.com).
The Minneapolis native says this is a one-time thing, that he's not making a career switch, not at this point in his life. He got into broadcasting to do baseball, his passion, but his career took another path instead, leading him to the NBA. So for a guy who's fished for piranha in the Amazon, done two speaking performances with the Indianapolis Symphony and competed in the U.S. Open chess tournament, all it would take to send him on his way to do a baseball season was getting permission from the Pacers and from his wife, Janette (who is from Miles City).
With permission granted, Boyle fished around and hooked up with Mustangs general manager Gary Roller. Boyle arrived in town earlier this week, and has been spending his time getting acclimated to the Mustangs and the Pioneer League, as well as the Mustangs parent club, the Cincinnati Reds.
His five broken vertebrae have healed for the most part, and his doctor has given him clearance to make the long bus rides.
On Wednesday, while watching the Mustangs work out at Cobb Field, Boyle, who didn't miss a Pacers' broadcast despite his injuries from the brawl, spoke about a variety of topics:
On how his peers reacted to his decision to do baseball this summer:
"It was surprising to me. I thought most people that I interact with on a regular basis would think it was crazy or stupid or both. I was surprised at how many guys thought it was cool. My peers are guys who have done in some cases baseball, and some of the guys in our league do Major League Baseball, and even those guys thought it was cool. On some level it seems to me even those of us who work in different sports, somehow there's something about baseball that captures all of us. ... I was really surprised at how many guys came up to me unsolicited and said, 'I hear you're doing baseball, that's pretty cool.' And even at this level, where obviously we're not going to be facing the same accommodations (as in the NBA) and things like that, they saw nothing crazy about it all. In fact, some of them said 'I wish I could be doing that.' Everybody was at least curious and most of the guys were really quite supportive. I thought I would be the only one who thought it was cool."
On why he is doing this:
"That's why I got into broadcasting, I wanted to do baseball on radio. I think, just talking to young kids in my profession now - I'm in my late 40s - I think I'm the last generation that got into broadcasting, if you're a play-by-play guy, to do baseball on radio. Now guys want to be TV anchors, or they just want to do television. I've done some, but that's not why I got in, and I never really had any interest in it and I don't particularly enjoy it. But radio baseball, from the time I was a kid listening to games at night, punching around the dial, seeing if I could get games from Chicago or Detroit or wherever, I just thought, 'Those guys have such cool jobs.' I'm not complaining about the job I have, that would be foolish. My career just didn't go in that direction. I've always wanted to do it, so finally I thought I could, if the Pacers would let me and my wife would go along with it, I could do a short-season league. That's where the idea came from, and the Pacers were supportive and so was Janette, and so I started sniffing around to see what I could find out and this is where I wound up."
On adjusting from the 'high life' in the NBA, to a bus league like the Pioneer League:
"On the one hand, I wasn't born in the NBA, I haven't been staying in five-star hotels and had ridiculous amounts of per diem since I was born ... I've been in bus leagues and I've slept on buses but it was a long time ago when I was younger. So, yeah, I'm curious. I don't think I'm going to have any problem staying in hotels that aren't the Four Seasons or the Ritz, but these long bus rides might be a challenge. But to me, it's all part of the process, I wanted to experience the whole thing and doing baseball every day, part of that is going through the lifestyle that everyone else experiences. In an ideal world, yeah, I'd rather stay in a Ritz, who wouldn't? But this is what it is. At least they're not making us camp out."
On how he'll adjust to doing baseball:
"I think from a professional standpoint, I'm always looking for challenges and I don't consider this simple, that I'm just going to wander in here and master this. I'm not saying the other sports are easy, but I feel baseball's the most difficult. It takes the most skill, it's the most challenging. With basketball, it's constant action. (Basketball's) not easy, I'm not saying that, but you don't have pacing, you don't have dead time, you don't have to be able to weave in stories and observations and anecdotes. ... From a professional standpoint, I'm not looking go anywhere (in baseball) other than here. I'm not looking to change career midcourse, but I think it's a real challenge, and I don't think it's easy to do and I'm curious, to tell you the truth, to see if I can even do it."