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José Mota breaks ground as an Angels’ new color broadcaster

Jose Mota interviews Angels slugger Albert Pujols as Pujols gets a Gatorade shower.
Jose Mota interviews Angels slugger Albert Pujols and they both get a Gatorade shower.
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

The fact came to José Mota’s attention near the end of last season.

For all of the Latino stars across Major League Baseball, there were no former players born in Latin America working full time in one of the league’s 30 English-language television broadcast booths.

This year, that will change.

Mota was announced as the Angels’ new television color commentator Thursday, being elevated from his previous role on the team’s pre- and postgame show into a new three-man booth alongside longtime analyst Mark Gubicza and newly hired Matt Vasgersian and Daron Sutton, who will split play-by-play duties.

It will make Mota, a 55-year-old native of the Dominican Republic who spent parts of two seasons playing in Major League Baseball and has worked in various roles on TV and radio for the Angels since 2002, a trailblazer in the world of baseball broadcasting.

“I’ve heard from so many players that are absolutely thrilled for me,” Mota said by phone Thursday night. “Not just Angels players, but players from all of Latin America saying, ‘Man, thank you for representing us.’ And that means a lot to me. It really does.”

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Mota said the idea of adding a second analyst to Angels broadcasts originated during the team’s search for a new play-by-play voice this winter, following the departure of Victor Rojas (who was one of only two American-born Latino broadcasters to be the lead play-by-play voice of an MLB club last year) in January.

Angels broadcaster Victor Rojas said he left the organization on good terms after not landing the GM job. He’ll be president and GM of the Frisco Roughriders.

When presented with the idea, Mota was immediately interested.

“I’ve had multiple roles throughout the years, different outlets,” Mota said. “Being part of the in-game broadcasts obviously is something that you strive for.”

Mota has long been involved in the Southern California baseball community. The son of former Dodgers All-Star Manny Mota, he spent much of his childhood hanging around Dodger Stadium. He and other players’ children — including Sutton, the son of former Dodgers pitcher and Hall of Famer Don Sutton — even had their own stalls in the clubhouse.

As a player, Mota was an All-American and College World Series champion at Cal State Fullerton before becoming a second-round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox in 1985. He spent the next 12 years playing pro ball and reached MLB in 1991 with the Padres (for 17 games) and again in 1995 with the Kansas City Royals (for two games, where he briefly became a teammate of Gubicza).

He moved into broadcasting after that, working as a bilingual commentator for MLB Radio and Fox Sports. In 2002, he joined the Angels’ Spanish radio broadcasts. Since then, he has contributed to the team’s TV and radio broadcasts in both Spanish and English, as well as pre- and postgame shows on Fox Sports West (soon to be rebranded as Bally Sports West). This spring, he’s been the play-by-play commentator alongside Gubicza for select telecasts, too.

“I’ve had a taste of the booth in both roles [as analyst and play-by-play],” Mota said. “And in the back of your mind you’re like, ‘When the opportunity comes, I’ll know I’m ready.’”

Over the years, Mota realized the value his unique background could add to coverage of the team. Early in his Angels tenure, he grew close with such players as Vladimir Guerrero, Bartolo Colón and Kendrys Morales. He made it his mission to share their stories and experiences with the team’s fanbase. When Guerrero was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018, the former slugger asked Mota to be the interpreter for his speech.

“Where the game is and the prominent Latin American players and the role that they play, bringing those stories directly from them as a bilingual person means a lot to me,” Mota said. “It’s just a fair representation of what the product looks like on the field. And to make sure their stories are told in a correct manner.”

Bringing that background into a three-man booth, Mota hopes, will only add to the depth of the telecasts’ coverage and analysis.

“There’s going to be plenty of baseball conversation, the stories will flow,” Mota said. “Engagement with the fans … is important to us. Teaching the game. Presenting the players as what they are.”

Things haven’t gone quite according to plan for Matt Thaiss in his baseball career, but the Angels catcher is optimistic about the season ahead.

The new broadcast team will begin working together in earnest over the next several weeks as they prepare for opening day. While Vasgersian, who will initially call games remotely while he balances his other jobs with ESPN and MLB Network, and Sutton are expected to split the schedule fairly evenly, Mota and Gubicza will be side-by-side for almost every game.

“With limited access by fans, this thing becomes even more important,” Mota said. “We bring that closeness to the fans that are not able to be at the stadium and make them feel like this is their home, we are your team. That’s the way I see it.”

In other words, it’s the job for which Mota has been preparing for years.

“I would not trade anything about the way things have gone,” Mota said. “I’m absolutely blessed.”


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