If you didn’t grow up in St. Louis, like Aaron Goldsmith did, it might be hard to fully understand the allure of broadcasting Cardinals games for someone who has pursued that profession.
“There’s a romance to that you can’t dispute,” Goldsmith said. “That was a gravitational pull, like almost none other that this game has.”
And yet, on Saturday Goldsmith made the exceedingly difficult — yet in some ways, easy — phone call to pull his name out of consideration for one of the most coveted jobs in baseball.
The idea of being a voice of his hometown team had been something Goldsmith felt he needed to pursue. If not, he said, he would always wonder if he should have put in his name.
But in the end, the thought of leaving Seattle, and walking away from his 10-year job calling Mariners games, was something Goldsmith simply couldn’t bear. And so, despite being the likely front-runner for the position — since filled by a legendary broadcasting name with strong St. Louis roots of his own, Chip Caray — Goldsmith opted to stay right where he was.
“I have all that I need here,” said Goldsmith, who then reflected on his wife, Heather, and three children (ages 8, 6 and 3) and slightly amended the thought. “We have all we need here. We still have so much in front of us that we don’t even know. And so much life to live here. And so many things to experience, both with the Mariners and otherwise, that it didn’t feel right to move.
“It didn’t feel like home. This feels like home. I didn’t want to mess with happy. And we’re very happy. It’s really a very complex thing. But it’s also incredibly simple at the same time.”
Throwing aside all the business aspects of contracts, visibility and status, this is the story of a man and his love affair with a city, and with a team. The Cardinals job certainly would have brought Goldsmith more money and more prestige in the industry. But Goldsmith said that after much soul-searching, he realized those were the wrong reasons to leave a place he loved.
“I knew that I could not take a job, Cardinals or otherwise, based on money or ego,” he said. “When I thought about talking to my kids about this years down the road when they’re old enough to understand life a little bit, if they were to ask me, ‘Dad, why did we move from Seattle to St. Louis?’ I would have to tell them, ‘So that Dad could be more famous and make more money.’ And we all know that those are both terrible reasons.”
Now 39, Goldsmith barely knew anything about Seattle or the Mariners when he was hired in 2013 at the tender age of 29 — “plucked out of obscurity” as the Class AAA Pawtucket announcer, in his words, to become “undeniably the least polished broadcaster in Major League Baseball when I got this job.”
Flash forward a decade, and Goldsmith has built deep ties to the city. He has a family that has grown up here and formed intricate roots. He’s hitched to a rising team with a burgeoning superstar. He’s formed lifetime friendships in the Mariners booth, particularly with producer Gary Hill — “the closest thing that I’ve ever had to a brother.”
All that proved more powerful than the call of the Cardinals, powerful as it was — although Goldsmith said with a laugh, “If I were to go back to the college version of me and say, ‘You have the opportunity to interview with the St. Louis Cardinals and be their lead television broadcaster, but you will walk away from it,’ I would shake myself. Wouldn’t be able to fathom that opportunity, let alone making that decision.”
The opportunity came up quite unexpectedly when longtime Cardinals and Bally Sports Midwest play-by-play man Dan McLaughlin resigned his position Dec. 15. McLaughlin had been arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in suburban St. Louis on Dec. 4 — his third such offense.
One of the Cardinals’ first calls was to Goldsmith, who has such an affinity for the St. Louis team that he has two chairs in his home from old Busch Stadium that he bought before it was demolished.
Goldsmith’s contract with the Mariners had expired after the season, but he had successfully (and amicably) negotiated a new deal — yet it hadn’t been signed. The new deal called for him to give up his national broadcasting duties with FOX — a symbol, he said, of his desire to commit fully to the Mariners. It had been excruciating for him to be in his hotel room at 1:30 a.m. in Atlanta, where he was calling a national Braves-Mets game on FOX, watching Cal Raleigh’s playoff-clinching homer on his iPad.
“I just felt like this was the time that I could pivot and more single-focused, and just really simplify my life and become even more invested in the Mariners,” he said. “I think I’m a better Mariners broadcaster than any other kind of broadcaster.”
But Goldsmith felt he owed it to himself to check out the Cardinals job, which he did with the blessing of the Mariners. He flew out to meet with various Bally’s and Cardinals executives, and over the weekend was reported in the St. Louis media to be the front-runner.
With one last interview to go Monday, however, Goldsmith had the aforementioned epiphany, and made the decision to pull out. While Mariners fans on Twitter obsessed over Goldsmith’s future, with an outpouring of support that moved him, he realized that you don’t mess with happy.
Goldsmith thought back to a conversation he had with former UW football coach Chris Petersen at a FOX college football seminar. He had asked Petersen why he didn’t leave Boise State earlier despite so many overtures along the way. Petersen told him he was waiting for the one that was perfect.
“I was so inspired by that, because we all know his résumé and how easily he could have left and how soon he could have left,” Goldsmith said. “He could have cashed in with essentially a get-rich-quick scheme. But he didn’t, because he knew that none of those other offers, whatever they might have, weren’t perfect, and he wasn’t white-hot about it.
“And when I thought about this situation, a Cardinals job is arguably the ultimate job in baseball. Especially if you’re from St. Louis. But it wasn’t the right fit. It wasn’t from my heart. It wasn’t perfect. I wasn’t white-hot about it. And that’s because we care so much about where we are. And truthfully, who I work for, the Mariners. And I wasn’t going to take it if it wasn’t perfect. And it didn’t feel perfect.”
And so on Monday, Goldsmith signed his Mariners contract.