DEL MAR — Craig Elsten’s voice is just one in the crowd at the Del Mar Arena, but there’s a little extra power behind his when he goes behind the microphone for his third season as play-by-play announcer for the San Diego Sockers.
“What got me interested in the (radio) field was play-by-play,” Elsten said. “It was growing up in Long Beach and listening to Chick Hearn, listening to Vin Scully, listening to Bob Miller on the radio, hearing how they called the game, the excitement of it (and) seeing how that happened.
Elsten loved sports but said he knew he was never going to be good enough to compete at that kind of level. “And I like language,” he added.
During a Sockers broadcast against the Anaheim Bolts, Elsten described the Bolts’ failing defense as falling flat like an “overcooked soufflé.”
Elsten got his start in radio in college; he went to UCSD where he did play-by-play for basketball, baseball and other sports.
In 1994, Elsten took an internship, answering telephones at the radio station, the Mighty 690.
“That was first time that I met people like Coach John Kentera (and) Joe Tutino, who I’m currently co-working with the Sockers,” Elsten said. Kentera is the host of his own radio sports talk show on XX 1090 AM and is also the Sockers general manager.
Overtime, Elsten was hired on, where he began to “work the boards” for some of the on-air programs, continuing to learn the facets of broadcasting and accepting more responsibilities.
“The first on-air thing I did was with (Kentera) on his high school scoreboard show. I went out and did game reports; I wound up doing a sports update on the show. That was the first job I really cracked a radio mic.”
What Elsten was able to learn from his influences growing up, he’s been able to bring into his Sockers broadcasts. From Hearn, Elsten learned how to keep listeners up on the action, something that is essential in the fast and frenetic pace of arena soccer.
From Scully, he learned how to insert pertinent information in between the action of games and from Miller he learned how to enunciate the action and highlight a play as it unfolded.
It’s something that Elsten said he thinks about all the time during the games he broadcasts, because, he added, that’s how the greats did it; you aspire to that.
Doing the play-by-play for the Sockers is similar to calling a hockey game, Elsten said. It has its same challenges, including translating the end-to-end action happening from one end of the pitch to the other in a very short time.
“I love calling the sport. It’s so exciting, it’s so fast-paced. So many things happen that are subtle, and that’s the real challenge for me is to try and pass that on. To translate the chaos that is seemingly occurring on the field into what the intent was of the player.”
It’s a performance, broadcasting games, Elsten explained.
“I did a lot of music growing up, too. It’s not playing the trumpet, but it’s using your voice as an instrument.”
All games air on 619sports.net with 10 games, including the PASL championships airing on ESPN Radio 1700 AM.