CLEVELAND -- For 11 years, Jim Rosenhaus was one of the voices of summer in Buffalo. The period from 1996-2006 was a golden age of the city's baseball history, with three league championships and eight playoff berths for the Bisons as the Indians' top affiliate, and Rosenhaus was behind the microphone for all of them as the Herd's radio and TV play-by-play man.
But don't ever forget that broadcasters always long for the big-league call as well, whether it's with the parent club or any other spoke in the industry they can ride to. And once you get there, it's no different than a player: You want to be working games in October.
After all those years of bus rides in Class A and the International League, and all the rugged early-morning commercial flights during Buffalo's final two years in the American Association, Rosenhaus is on the top of the baseball world this week. He's now entrenched as one of two radio voices for the Indians on their statewide radio network along with longtime play-by-play man Tom Hamilton.
"You're trying to just stay in the moment because there's so much going on, so much prep stuff, getting your family squared away with tickets, getting ready to go to Chicago," Rosenhaus said in Progressive Field. "There's way more stuff to cover, way more prep. It's the World Series and you know that but the key is to just call the game.
"Don't let all that information get in the way of telling people what is going on. Describe it like you're supposed to. If the game is good and really significant, people will know. You try to call the game like it's any other even though you know it's not."
The story has been told a few times in the ensuing years but bears repeating: Rosenhaus, now 52, left Buffalo following the 2006 season and took a big risk to join the Indians as all the Tribe could offer him for '07 was a role as a pregame host and as the engineer on the broadcasts while Hamilton and long-time big leaguer Mike Hegan were on the call.
Eventually, Rosenhaus got more air time with a weekly show on the organization and web broadcasts of spring training games. He stepped in regularly in 2012 alongside Hamilton as health problems dogged Hegan, who died in 2013. Rosenhaus was re-signed to a multi-year extension to stay on the broadcasts 11 months ago.
Getting to this point with the Indians as opposed to another organization is particularly special for Rosenhaus, who started his broadcasting career in 1991 at Class A Kinston when it was the Indians' Carolina League affiliate and managed by future Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Brian Graham (Rosenhaus was inducted into the Buffalo Hall in 2011).
Current Cleveland third base coach Mike Sarbaugh was Kinston's shortstop that season. Rosenhaus and Sarbaugh shared a moment in the Cleveland clubhouse at Rogers Centre after the Game Five victory in Toronto wrapped up the American League Championship Series and brought the Tribe to the Fall Classic for the first time since 1997.
"That year in Kinston in '91, we won the first half and the second half and the championship so there were three champagne celebrations," Rosenhaus recalled. "Now we're here all this time later in Toronto and Mike was waiting for me for the dousing and he goes, 'I haven't done that in a long time.' That was a really cool moment. You're thinking, 'Wow, it was 25 years ago we were doing that in Kinston and here we are going to the World Series.'"
Rosenhaus joined the Tribe in' 07 and was a part of the ride that took Cleveland a game shy of the World Series before it lost to Boston in Game Seven of the ALCS. Some lean years followed but the Indians were invigorated by the hiring of Terry Francona in 2013 and reached the AL Wild Card Game before losing to Tampa Bay.
"Tito definitely injected life into it and you always feel like you have a chance with him," Rosenhaus said. "Then they signed Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco to long-term deals. A little bit before that, you had Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes signing and you're thinking how they're keeping guys.
"When we got Andrew Miller this year and I was talking to Mike Napoli, he was fired up about it. He said, 'It's great for me. I don't really care if they trade prospects. I want to win today.' He said, 'I told (team president) Chris Antonetti that I appreciated him doing that for guys who may not be here in the future.' Maybe he will be here, who knows? But I thought that was interesting that guys sensed where we were going."
Hamilton is the Rick Jeanneret persona of the Indians broadcasts, the big voice whose big calls are replayed and often imitated around town. Rosenhaus is a perfect complement to Hamilton and said he's often spoken to his partner about the Indians' previous Series trips during the 1990s when the lineup was filled with big hitters and borderline Hall of Famers.
"I asked him if it feels like it did back then and he said it's different but still great," Rosenhaus said. "He said, 'It's just been so long that you appreciate it may never happen again. You have to treasure it while it's happening.' He was pretty excited. He's seen enough good baseball back in the '90s to know what's good and he likes what's going on here. We all do."
Rosenhaus will always have connections to Buffalo. In additions to his Bisons work, he called University at Buffalo basketball games for 11 winters. His wife, Carole, is a West Seneca native whom he met when she worked in the Bisons' front office.
They have two sons, Nathan (13) and Cole (5). Nathan is a family name but who is Cole named after? Coles bar, the Elmwood Avenue Institution where Rosenhaus and Carole had their first date three days after the Bisons won the 1997 American Association championship in Iowa to capture their first title since 1961.
Rosenhaus regularly hears from folks back in Buffalo and said Bisons General Manager Mike Buczkowski was quick to call last week after the Indians knocked out the Blue Jays, Buffalo's current parent.
"''Booch' is killing me," Rosenhaus said. "He goes, 'Are you emailing me my tickets or leaving them at will call.' I'm like, "Ah, so this is where we're going here.' They're great, never too far from getting on me about something."
Rosenhaus, a New Jersey native, is particularly looking forward to heading this weekend to Wrigley Field for the first Series games there since 1945.
"I can't even imagine what that's going to be like," he said. "I was watching the other night and they'll shoehorn people into every nook and cranny of that place. It will be something. And I like what we've been able to do here. We've really energized the place. They rush right to the rails when they open the gates now with 5,000 standing room spots. It's created a totally different feel. It's been a great ride."