Ben Wagner has watched hundreds of players get the call to the major leagues over his 11 seasons as the play-by-play voice of the Buffalo Bisons.
Now he's the one getting the call.
Wagner was named the new radio voice of the parent Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday.
“It is a dream come true, and a lot of years in the making,” said Wagner.
Wagner, 37, will be replacing a Toronto legend in 72-year-old Jerry Howarth. An iconic voice with the Blue Jays since 1981, Howarth suddenly retired in February after citing health concerns. Wagner, who called a pair of games for the Jays last September, was summoned to Florida in late February to work a few spring training games and was kept on board nearly a month.
Wagner will be part of a new radio booth with the Blue Jays as analyst Joe Siddall has moved into a television role with Sportsnet. Several former Toronto players rotated through the booth during spring training. Mike Wilner, who hosts the Jays' post-game call-in show, will stay on and also do a few innings of play by play. Dan Shulman, the former ESPN Sunday Night Baseball announcer who works select television games and hosts a podcast for Rogers Radio, will also be in the radio booth for selected games.
“To follow in the footsteps of legends like Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth, and to work alongside Mike Wilner and Dan Shulman, I am honored to have the opportunity to provide the soundtrack of summer to Canadian baseball fans," Wagner said.
“Ben Wagner has a unique and descriptive way of calling a ball game,” said Dave Cadeau, National Format Director of Sports, Rogers Radio. “He’s an extremely talented broadcaster and I’m looking forward to hearing him across the Sportsnet Radio Network for the next generation. Dan Shulman is simply one of the greatest play-by-play voices in the world, and to have him returning to where his career first started is a thrill for all of us.”
Wagner is the third straight Bisons announcer to move on after calling 11 years at Triple-A, and the first two are both in the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame. Pete Weber was behind the microphone from 1985-1995 until joining the Buffalo Sabres and has now been the voice of the NHL's Nashville Predators since 1998. Jim Rosenhaus called Buffalo games from 1996-2006 before joining the Cleveland Indians' broadcast team to make way for Wagner.
Wagner came to the Bisons in 2007 after three seasons as the voice of the Lakewood (N.J.) Blue Claws of the South Atlantic League. The Indiana native attended Indiana State University. He has called high school and college sports for Spectrum Sports during his stint in Buffalo, and also became the radio voice of Canisius College basketball.
The Blue Jays open their season Thursday in Rogers Centre against the New York Yankees.
The Bisons, meanwhile, had to move fast – their season opens April 6 in Rochester – and they did in announcing Wagner's replacement.
South Buffalo native Pat Malacaro was named the Bisons' new play-by-play man about 20 minutes following the announcement of Wagner's departure. Malacaro has worked in multiple roles on WGR Radio for a few years and has been a backup play-by-play man for the Herd on both radio and television.
"Today is an amazing and incredible day," Malacaro tweeted. "I am looking forward to continuing the tradition that @PeteWeberSports, @IndiansRadio (Rosenhaus) and @benwag247 (Wagner) have set, and look forward to opening day on April 6th."
Today is an amazing and incredible day! I am looking forward to continuing on the tradition that @PeteWeberSports, @IndiansRadio, and @benwag247 have set, and look forward to opening day on April 6th. https://t.co/a8G22AkGOo
— Pat Malacaro (@PatWGR) March 27, 2018