Some people never pursue what they really want to do with their lives. Dewayne Staats gets to live his dream daily during the baseball season. It’s what makes him percolate.
Staats, 63 and a graduate of East Alton-Wood River High School and SIUE, broadcasts Major League games. He has served as the lead television announcer for the Tampa Bay Rays for the last 17 years and he relishes every inning of it.
“I enjoy what I’m doing because it’s exactly what I wanted to do when I was a kid,” Staats said.
He quipped, “I really love the game – and avoid working.”
Don’t let him kid you. Staats has worked in MLB for 40 years and navigated his way through a fascinating career that began as a youngster in East Alton. It’s all in his new book, “Position to Win,” available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble outlets.
“The reaction has been good to it,” said co-author Dave Scheiber, a friend and former writer for the St. Petersburg Times. “Dewayne has always been good at creating opportunities for himself.”
Boyhood friend Frank Akers, the mayor of Wood River, said Staats began crafting his broadcasting skills at an early age and maintained his focus on improving. That constant eye on the prize has enabled Staats to work for the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees and ESPN before joining the Rays in 1998, their inaugural season. He also toiled at KPLR-TV, Channel 11, in St. Louis.
“The odds against a poor kid from East Alton becoming a top-flight major league play-by-play announcer were astronomical,” Akers said. “Dewayne reached his goal by making connections with baseball people, broadcasters and other media people who wanted to help him.
Akers added, “This makes his career seem easy, but it wasn’t. Dewayne was neither a professional ballplayer, nor did he have relatives in broadcasting, the most common path to sportscasting stardom.”
Yet Staats had perseverance and impeccable timing. Former Astros’ announcer Gene Elston was instrumental in getting him started at Oklahoma City, then Houston’s Triple A-farm team. By the time Staats was 24, he was calling Astros’ games.
Along the way of Staats’ memorable career, he got to work with Harry Caray and rub shoulders with Jack Buck and George Steinbrenner, among others.
By all accounts, it’s a most wonderful life.
Caray took a liking to Staats when they worked together with the Cubs from 1985-89.
“He’s a hell of a broadcaster and a dear friend,” Caray said of Staats.
That’s a hearty endorsement.
Staats learned plenty working with and watching the legends of the sports broadcasting business. It’s all in the book.
“Gene Elston was a mentor to me and he showed me how to prepare and be thorough,” Staats said. “He had a great work ethic.”
Caray and Buck generally are regarded as the best broadcasting team in St. Louis Cardinals’ history, and Staats knows why.
“Jack was the best and a guy who retained an aura around him,” Staats said. “He had a great sense of humor. I don’t know if there is one talent collectively better than Jack Buck.”
And Harry Caray?
“He was Mr. Personality,” Staats said. “That’s what you learned sitting next to Harry. He had an unmatched zest for the game and he brought it to the ball park every day. He was fun and he was the king.”
The king and company come alive in “Position to Win.” Why that title?
“When I look back on my own life and the lives of others, there’s a reason why we did things to put ourselves into a position to win. It means different things to different people,” said Staats, a member of the SIUE Athletics Hall of Fame. He’s a 1975 grad and was enshrined in 2012.
“I use that term a lot.”
He cherishes wife, Carla, plus daughters, Stephanie and Alexandra, and their three grandchildren. His first wife, Dee, died of cancer in 2005.
“Dee was a great person and Carla is equally as great,” he said.
So Staats has adapted to adversity in addition to gingerly handling fame. And he has never forgotten to return home when there’s time to pause, reflect and re-energize himself.
“I try to get back there (East Alton) as much as I can,” Staats said. “It’s where it all began for me and I have family and friends there. I remember playing baseball as a youngster at Van Preter Park.”
He pointed out, “I don’t know if it gets any better than this. I have been blessed beyond my wildest expectations and that’s reflected in my book.”