Dan Hasty gets call up of a lifetime to Detroit Tigers booth. He has Ernie Harwell to thank

Detroit Free Press

When Dan Hasty woke up Sunday morning, he expected to spend the day with his eight-month-old daughter, Josie. His wife, Angelina, was treating COVID-19 patients in the emergency room at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in downtown Grand Rapids.

Hasty planned an early morning workout before watching VeggieTales, a Christian television series for children, with his daughter for the remainder of the late morning and early afternoon.

One missed phone call from Detroit Tigers director of broadcasting Stan Fracker altered his schedule and completed a lifelong dream. Fracker left him a voicemail and followed up with an 11 a.m. text message: “Hey, can you call me as soon as possible?”

“My next thought was, ‘Oh, is this the call?’ ” Hasty, 35, told the Free Press on Monday. “I can confidently tell you that it did not take me five minutes to call him back.”

Bally Sports Detroit learned Sunday morning television play-by-play broadcaster Matt Shepard got sick and had to miss the series finale against the Oakland Athletics in California. Longtime radio play-by-play broadcaster Dan Dickerson shifted to television coverage in Shepard’s absence.

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Roughly five hours ahead of first pitch, the Tigers asked Hasty — a 2004 graduate of Sterling Heights Stevenson, a 2008 Central Michigan graduate and the Tigers’ High-A West Michigan Whitecaps play-by-play broadcaster since 2015 — to travel from Grand Rapids to Detroit, where he remotely called his first MLB game on the radio from an empty Comerica Park alongside color analyst Jim Price.

It was the completion of a goal Hasty set in high school.

“I just remember thinking on the way to the ballpark that even though I hadn’t necessarily prepped that day, I had been prepping for what happened yesterday for 20 years,” Hasty said. “I mean, everything I had done was to get to that point, have that moment and leave an impression.”

Harwell helps Hasty

In 2003, Hasty was cut from Stevenson’s varsity baseball team as a junior. His mother, Kathy, penned a letter to the cherished Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who died in 2010, explaining her son’s interest in broadcasting and frustration about not making the varsity squad.

Two weeks later, Hasty found a letter from Harwell in his mailbox.

Dear Daniel,

I heard that someday you might be a great baseball broadcaster. Don’t mind a few setbacks now and then, just keep on keeping on.

“Really, it felt like the end of one chapter and the beginning of another,” Hasty said. “When I mentioned I was thinking about this for 20 years, that’s probably the day it really started.”

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From that point, Hasty has dedicated his career to broadcasting. He believed Harwell had the “greatest job in the world.” He wanted to become just like him. He began to dream about calling baseball games in Detroit.

Hasty thought about those pivotal life moments Sunday at Comerica Park, often between innings of the Tigers’ 3-2 loss to the A’s, concluding a 10-game road trip. He reminded himself numerous times: “This is for all the people who wanted to do the thing that I’m lucky enough to do today.”

It wasn’t easy for Hasty to get here, and that’s why the call-up from his hometown team was more than a participation handout. There were others who could’ve called the game, but the Tigers picked Hasty. They know and trust him.

Hasty’s resume explains. He broadcasted for the Great Lakes Loons, a Los Angeles Dodgers’ affiliate, while attending college. He was the radio voice of the Traverse City Beach Bums, ex-members of the Frontier League, before joining 97.1 WXYT-FM in 2011. He served as the studio host for the Detroit Lions from 2013-15, sports anchor, producer and talk show host.

But Hasty needed to add play-by-play to his resume. He landed in Grand Rapids, home of the Whitecaps. In 2017, he was named  Midwest League Broadcaster of the Year.

“My goal is and continues to be a major-league broadcast role,” Hasty said. “I knew I wasn’t going to get the opportunity I had yesterday without more play-by-play experience. After the game Sunday, it certainly felt like a validation of that experience.”

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Emotions of first game

As Hasty tossed on his headset in an empty Comerica Park, he realized Sunday’s game marked his first baseball broadcast in 594 days, since Sept. 2, 2019. The Whitecaps, along with the entire minors, had their season canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19.

Because of the pandemic, the Tigers’ radio broadcast isn’t traveling to every road series. Like last season, they’re watching some of the away games on monitors. There’s an all-nine view, giving the broadcaster a look at what they would see if they were in the booth. The other monitor resembles what fans watch on television.

Hasty embraced the foreign way of doing his job as a new challenge. Dickerson called him to share some tips. Shepard contacted him, as well.

“That just made it a lot more fun,” Hasty said.

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Hasty’s voice boomed to open the broadcast: “Sunny skies in Oakland, California. Welcome, everybody and good afternoon. It’s at Oakland Coliseum, and it’s Game 4, the final game of a four-game set, as the Tigers try to salvage the final game of the series with the Oakland Athletics.”

When the game ended after two hours and 42 minutes, Hasty marveled at his biggest accomplishment in his young broadcasting career. He is thankful he allowed himself to soak up the experience, one he will surely never forget.

“I really thought it was important to be in the moment,” Hasty said. “Too many people go through life thinking about the next thing they’re going to do and not enough about where they are on that given day. It’s important to focus your energy on the task you have in front of you.

“The Tigers were comfortable enough to give me a call, and that’s not something I take lightly. I understand the huge responsibility. I had been waiting for that forever. I was a little nervous but a lot more excited.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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