Jose Mota collected eight hits in the major leagues, none of them for extra bases. Cooperstown called the other day.
Not for one of his bats, to be sure. The Hall of Fame wanted the scorecard he used last weekend.
He had just hit a grand slam, as a broadcaster. He had called the Angels game on radio, in English. That made him the first announcer in major league history to do play by play on a team’s English radio broadcasts and Spanish radio broadcasts, and color on the English television broadcasts and Spanish television broadcasts.
Not all at the same time, of course. It only seems that way.
He has been the Angels’ bilingual voice for 16 years, and he hasn’t lost a step. Good thing, because he couldn’t make it from one assignment to another otherwise.
In the minutes before home games, you can find him beneath the large, cartoonish red caps in front of Angel Stadium, on the set of the FS West pregame show, analyzing the Angels in English. When the clock strikes seven, the show ends, and Mota has five minutes to race inside the stadium and up four flights of stairs to a television broadcast booth, so he can analyze the Angels in Spanish.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Angels star Albert Pujols said. “Sometimes, when I’m talking in Spanish, I need to really rethink. I do interviews most of the time in English. I have to really process the whole thing. I can’t imagine him. He probably doesn’t have that much time to say something.
“For him to be able to do that, to have the knowledge and the wisdom, and the way he does it, it’s an unbelievable job.”
Mota, 52, is one of eight children of the Dodgers’ legendary pinch-hitter and longtime coach, Manny Mota. He grew up on Vin Scully, as we all did, but he got the chance to sit in the back of Scully’s booth.
He was a kid in grade school and, every now and then, Scully would give Mota a headset and let him count down the seconds remaining in a commercial break.
“He was a wonderful kid, and very polite,” Scully said. “We were happy to have him in the booth while his dad was playing. He has grown up to be a wonderful broadcaster and a delightful friend.”
Calling games was not his calling, at least not at first. He was the second baseman for Cal State Fullerton in 1984, when the Titans won the College World Series. He was the 33rd overall pick of the 1985 draft, three picks ahead of a hard-throwing but wild pitcher named Randy Johnson.
But he was traded three times before he made his major league debut, at 26. He lasted three weeks, toiled another four years in the minor leagues, then got four more days in the majors. In his last game, playing second base behind another current Angels broadcaster, Mark Gubicza, he tore his groin.
That was the end of his major league career, at 30. He had 38 at-bats, and no home runs.
“I got close to the warning track, off Bob Tewksbury,” Mota said.
Mota used the four years between major league appearances to get started on the rest of his life. He went back to Fullerton in the offseason, completing his communications degree and interning at two television stations.
“The best thing that ever happened to me was not to get established in the big leagues,” he said. “I would not trade what I am doing now for a big league career. Would not. I’ve run into a handful of multimillionaire players that have said, ‘You have something I wish I had,’ and that’s a college degree.”
Mota has taken his share of criticism from Angels fans, appreciative of his passion but bemused by the occasional mangling of an English phrase. He said he has gotten voice coaching.
“Your pitch, your voice, your composition is different from one language to another,” he said.
“I’ve always said I will never be a finished product. I’m still rounding first base.”
Said Tim Salmon, the former Angels outfielder and one of Mota’s partners on FS West: “It’s hard enough for me, an English speaker, to be quick on my feet and to be able to respond to the things people are talking about. For him to be able to do that in different languages is pretty impressive.”
One of his brothers, Andy, has a pretty good job in baseball. He is an agent, and his clients include Yasiel Puig. He is the behind-the-scenes brother, not the one on the air for the Angels during the season and on World Baseball Classic and various postseason broadcasts in the United States and Latin America.
“It’s cool,” Andy Mota said. “People recognize my last name and say, ‘Are you related to the announcer guy?’ It’s pretty funny.”
Jose Mota is sincere when he says his job does not define him. He was less excited to talk about himself the other day than he was about Pujols, who had just set the major league record for home runs by a player born outside the U.S.
Mota, a friend and big brother to many Latin American players, said he had gotten messages from Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa. Please make sure, they told Mota, that Pujols knows how proud we are of him.
And he was less excited to talk about Pujols than he was about his parents. Half a century ago, Manny and Margarita Mota started what has become a venerable community foundation in the Dominican Republic.
Before he arrived at Angel Stadium that day, before he could pass along the congratulatory greetings to Pujols or call a game, he said he had been blessed to send the money needed for the foundation to feed 50 senior citizens in the Dominican.
“My day was made,” he said.
It is entirely fitting that he completed his broadcasting grand slam on a day the Angels needed a voice to fill in. Victor Rojas was off last weekend, so Terry Smith moved from radio to television, and Mota moved from Spanish television to English radio.
That’s right. Manny Mota’s kid set his own major league record by, well, pinch-hitting.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin