Recently, I had the pleasure to sit down with Angels broadcaster Trent Rush to discuss his path to become a big league broadcaster, his education background, and a preview of the 2021 Angels. In addition to calling games for the Angels, Rush works on KLAA, the Angels flagship radio station, as the host of the Angels post game wrap up show, where he goes over game highlights and takes calls from Halo fans. In addition, Rush is the Angels correspondent for MLB Network, and can often be seen on shows like High Heat with Chris Russo. Outside of baseball, Rush also is the play by play commentator for UC Irvine men’s basketball.
Could you walk me through your time at Chapman University and tell me how you got involved on campus with broadcasting?
Even a little bit before Chapman, I had been doing broadcasting stuff even from the time I was in high school. I went to Orange Lutheran, which, as far as high school football is concerned, is in a power league with St. John Bosco and Mater Dei. Football was a high priority on campus and I wanted to get into broadcasting. One day, one of the coaches got an old camera, we ran down to Best Buy, got a microphone and started shoving it in peoples faces and doing stuff on YouTube, which was new at the time.
By the time I got to Chapman, I had already been calling games a little, nothing professionally, I was doing everything for free. We did a newscast, Chapman news, which was great and that opportunity opened a lot of doors for me. We did all the football, men’s and women’s basketball games, baseball games, we did the weekly sports show too. We talked about Chapman football like it was USC football, that was our approach in how we wanted to cover it and overall better for having done that.
Did you take any internships either in your later high school days or while you were at Chapman?
For me, I went to a small station, an ABC affiliate out in Palm Desert. That was an opportunity for me because the sports department was 2 people. So I came in as an intern for that department and we did a Friday night high school football show and we killed it. We would stop and go film a quarter of each game and put it on an 11 o’clock newscast. That was the show people in the valley wanted to watch, but also because we were so short staffed, I ended up doing some stuff on camera. Yes, it was a small market, but that’s an experience for me that I’ve taken forever.
Could you tell me how you got your start at Angels radio after college?
The KLAA is one that I got about the same time [as the UCI men’s basketball job]. My professor at Chapman calls me and says do you know anybody who would be interested in doing morning updates [for KLAA]. I said yes I would love to do it. From that, I’ve been able to grow and have different opportunities and different things through the organization and to the point where I’ve gotten to call some play by play for the big league club.
What is a typical day in the life for a 7PM home start for the Angels?
In the past (pre COVID), I’m getting to the ballpark around 2-3 PM. It even starts before that, in the morning on MLB TV I watch game recaps and highlights. Then I’m kinda thinking about what questions I wanna ask, my brain never really stops thinking.
Get in 3 o’clock, go down to the clubhouse, typically about 3:30, check in with the players, usually the scrum with the manager is about 4. After we flip those stories around and prepare them for the pregame show, talk to the guys in the booth about the pre game stories, maybe do a couple radio interviews sometimes for opposing teams and get the guys ready for the broadcast.
Then the game ends, do a postgame interview if the Angels win, hustle back up, I gotta race to the radio studio and at that point I’m doing my postgame show which is just a blast. If the game ends about 10, my show ends around 11:30 and then at that point I’ll put together a morning update that they’ll run, so I usually end up leaving between 12:30-1. It ends up being a long day, but that’s just my life during baseball season and I absolutely love it.
Tell me a little bit about being the Angels MLB correspondent, I’ve seen you on there numerous times, how did that gig come about?
MLB Network was looking for someone to talk some Angels and the right person had my phone number and asked me if I could do it and of course, I said yes. That’s been going on 3 years now, it’s been a great experience and has helped me connect with a lot of different people across MLB.
What is your favorite moment that you’ve covered as a broadcaster?
This will probably never be beat, the combined no hitter from Taylor Cole and Felix Pena on Tyler Skaggs night when we honored Tyler. I get goosebumps still thinking about it because it was just so beyond improbable, it seemed impossible that it happened and the way it played out.
I was talking with [Angels catcher] Dustin Garneau, we were doing a walk off interview after the game. I had seen out of the corner of my eye some of the players started walking back to the mound and Dustin’s back was too all that. In the middle of his answer I said, “Dustin, I’m sorry, I’m gonna have to stop you, I think you need to be with your team right now.” I don’t know if that’s the best radio, it probably wasn’t, but it just felt like the right human thing to do at that moment.
Let’s jump into a little bit of Angels coverage, but who do you think the Angels X-Factor is this season?
The obvious one is Shohei Ohtani, and I’ve been saying that but the spring he is having has taken me from an X-factor to pencil him in as being a star for you. That fact that he strikes out [Jose] Abreu and throws 100 MPH, and the next day he’s hitting a ball off the reigning Cy Young winner Shane Bieber 464 feet. How go Shohei, how go the Angels in 2021. If Shohei ends up being great both on the mound or at the plate, or even just great at one of those areas, the Angels have an opportunity to be really special.
With the AL West taking a step back, do you think the Angels can compete for a division title with the pitching that they have?
Yeah, and Ohtani has to be a huge part of that and has to be the ace. If Ohtani looks during the season like he looks during spring training, then you’re adding an ace to this rotation so then you’re not that concerned about it. Then you raise the ceiling and the floor, because by bringing in [Jose] Quintana and [Alex] Cobb who have had good springs, so I’m optimistic about the pitching. No one is saying this is gonna be the best staff in all of baseball, but if the staff can be average, the Angels will have a real shot because the lineup can be top 3. The rest of the division came down a little bit, so yes, I do think the Angels have a chance to win the West. I don’t know if either the Angels, Astros or Athletics will win 90 games, but they’ll at least win 80 games.
How much does adding a proven closer like Raisel Iglesias help this club?
That’s huge. 14 blown saves in 60 games last year, the league average was 8. It’s not just Iglesias, yes, you lock down the ninth inning, but you also bring in Alex Claudio, who’s a change of pace guy who can bring you a lot at the back end of that bullpen. Mike Mayers figured out some things last year, he developed in a big way. Ty Buttrey can now be a 6th or a 7th inning guy, everyone kinda moves down a peg, then you look at the Angels bullpen and think there’s a lot of depth here.
The Angels brought in veteran shortstop Jose Iglesias this offseason and he has flashed some glovework in Spring training, what do you think of that trade?
Well, I think the one thing that Angels fans were concerned about losing Andrelton Simmons was that there would be a drop off at shortstop, I’m not sure that there is going to be. Andrelton Simmons, to me, is the best defensive shortstop in baseball, but Iglesias is like top 3. I think he’s definitely a step up at the plate, so I think the Angels got an upgrade at shortstop. He brings you a lot more at the plate, I’m not [saying] Iglesias is gonna be the .373 hitter he was in the 60 game season last year, but he’s a .278 lifetime hitter, so if he hits .280 this year, I think that’s an upgrade and that really helps this lineup even more.
Jared Walsh had a breakout September winning rookie of the month, do you think his numbers are sustainable over a full season?
I do, go look at his AAA numbers in 2018 and 2019, he had great years. It’s one thing if you have a hot month, but the AAA numbers back up the growth and development. I also think it’s a little early right now to just thrust Walsh into saying he’s our first basemen. I think it’s a little early for that, I think you have to let him earn that over this year. I think he will get that opportunity and will prove that he is the first baseman of the future.
What are you looking forward to the most about the 2021 season?
I don’t want to sound cheesy, but I’m looking forward to fans getting to go to games again. Last season, I don’t wanna say it was a joke of a season, but the regular season wasn’t right last year. The 60 games was not enough to determine who was the best [in the regular season]. I’m not taking anything away from the Dodgers because I thought the playoffs were legit.
The fans are what make the game. When I’d be up in the booth, looking between the lines it all seemed legit, it all seemed real. When I had to go walk to the concourse level and go to our studios in the 8th or 9th innings, and look around and it was empty, that was eerie.
Be sure to follow Trent on Twitter @TrentRushSports