Alumnus Mario Impemba grew up watching the Detroit Tigers and dreaming of a job in major league baseball. His interest in broadcasting sparked when he listened to Ernie Harwell, Paul Carey, George Kell and Al Kaline. Now Impemba is the one Detroit Tigers fans listen to as he inspires the next generation of major league broadcasters.
For 20 years, Impemba has been broadcasting major league baseball as the play-by-play TV voice of the Detroit Tigers on Fox Sports Detroit and before that as the radio voice of the Anaheim Angels.
"I had two goals when I left MSU," said Impemba, a Detroit native who graduated from MSU in 1985 with a degree in Telecommunication. "The first was to reach the major leagues as a broadcaster and the second was to do it in Detroit if I ever had the opportunity. I will always be grateful to the Angels for giving me my first major league job. I enjoyed my seven years in Southern California (1995-2001) and learned a lot, but to have a chance to return to my home was a dream come true."
This year marks Impemba's 13th season with the Tigers. In that time, he has
covered everything from the 119-loss season in 2003 to two trips to the World Series in 2006 and 2012.
"The fact that Comerica Park is my office every summer evening is probably the best part of the job," he said.
Some of the most memorable moments Impemba has covered include the two Justin Verlander no-hitters, the home run by Magglio Ordonez in 2006 that sent the Tigers to the World Series, watching Miguel Cabrera win the Triple Crown, and announcing the game when Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games played.
Having the opportunity to work with his professional role model Detroit Tigers broadcasting legend Ernie Harwell, is one of the biggest highlights of Impemba's career.
"Working with Ernie was surreal in many ways," Impemba said. "I grew up listening to Tigers baseball and was glued to his every word as a kid. To have a chance to share the mic with him was a tremendous learning opportunity. He was a great mentor and always had time for me."
Impemba was voted 2011 Michigan Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. His work on Tigers games earned him a Michigan Emmy Award in June 2006 in the Sports Play-By-Play category.
This season, he began producing one-minute features about the Tigers, called Mario's Minute, which air on more than 30 radio stations around the state.
He also just released his first book, "If These Walls Could Talk: Detroit Tigers," in April. The book provides a behind-the-scenes look at the personalities and events that have shaped the Detroit Tigers since 2002, when Impemba first arrived in the Tigers broadcast booth. Included in the book are stories from the Detroit Tigers dugout, locker room and press box.
During the off-season, Impemba is the radio and TV voice of the Oakland University men's basketball team. He also has provided play-by-play on Fox Sports Detroit of the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) football and basketball championship games as well as CCHA (Central Collegiate Hockey Association) hockey.
Prior to covering major league baseball, Impemba called games for the Tucson Toros of the Pacific Coast League (1991-94), was the voice of the Quad City Angels Single A team in Davenport, Iowa (1989-1990), and announced games for the Peoria Chiefs Single A team in Peoria, Ill. (1987-1988).
While a student at Michigan State, Impemba served as sports director at the campus radio station WLFT and provided play-by-play for Spartans baseball, basketball and hockey.
"My time at MSU was four of the best years of my life," Impemba said. "The opportunities to call play-by-play for Spartan baseball, basketball and hockey was invaluable to me. Along with a great education, my time at MSU left me totally prepared for my first job."
Impemba, who has served as a mentor in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences Mentor Program, emphasizes to students the importance of gaining experience along with earning your degree.
"Get your degree, but practical experience is vital," he said. "Get involved in as many opportunities to practice your craft as possible, whether it is writing or broadcasting. Experience is the best teacher. It always has been, and it always will be. (Also) don't be afraid to pay your dues. I spent nearly 10 years moving around the country broadcasting in the minor leagues before I got my first big league opportunity. It will help ensure you are ready when you finally get your chance."
Impemba met with CAS alumni, faculty and friends at "CAS at the Ballpark" on Sept. 13 at Comerica Park and spoke to them about what it's like having a ballpark for an office. To see photos from this event, check out the CAS Flickr account.