Minor League Sports

From Santo and Hughes, to Uecker and Mauer, Minnesota Twins voice Cory Provus has experienced a lot

Cedar Rapids Kernels chief executive officer Doug Nelson (right) shakes hands with 2018 manager Toby Gardenhire (center) as new manager  Brian Dinkelman (left) sits down during the 23rd annual Hot Stove Banquet at Eastbank Venue & Lounge in southeast Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Kernels chief executive officer Doug Nelson (right) shakes hands with 2018 manager Toby Gardenhire (center) as new manager Brian Dinkelman (left) sits down during the 23rd annual Hot Stove Banquet at Eastbank Venue & Lounge in southeast Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — If anything, Cory Provus always can say he got to call Joe Mauer’s final game in the major leagues.

The Minnesota Twins radio play-by-play man was the emcee for the team’s Winter Caravan appearance Wednesday night as part of the Cedar Rapids Kernels’ annual Hot Stove Banquet at Eastbank.

Provus has been broadcsting Twins games, many of which can be heard on local station KGYM, since 2012. None were more difficult than the team’s season finale.

Mauer, the hometown hero, was greeted unexpectedly pregame on the field by his young twin daughters. He doubled in what would be his final MLB at-bat in the eighth inning, then donned the catcher’s gear for one pitch intentionally taken by a Chicago White Sox hitter to begin the top of the ninth, before being taken out of the game to a standing ovation from the Target Field crowd.

Concussion issues forced him to first base in the later years of his special career. Mauer officially announced his retirement a month or so later.

“Emotional,” Provus said. “I don’t mind sharing this. We found out around the first or second inning that he was going to catch a pitch. We didn’t know when, didn’t know how it was all going to play out. We just knew that, OK, he was going to come in and catch at some point. Even knowing that when we did, did not take away from the moment. It was such an emotional moment. As I said on the air, our job as a radio broadcaster is to put into words what we see. That was really hard to do without losing it.”

Provus said he considers Mauer a friend.

“Joe and (wife) Maddie and their three kids, they have a (newborn) son, Charlie, their two (twin) daughters are the same age as my son,” he said. “My wife and Maddie have become very close, and I’ve gotten to know the Mauer family and am involved in their charity ... We have just become really close.

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“I didn’t see Joe Mauer win the batting titles and the MVP, wasn’t with the team then. But I got to know Joe Mauer, the man. As good as the numbers were, the man is even better. I am lucky to call him a friend.”

Provus, 40, is a suburban Chicago native who grew up wanting be behind the microphone. His cousin, Brad Sham, has been the radio voice of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys for 40 years.

He called games for minor league Auburn of the Rookie-level New York-Penn League as a student at Syracuse University. After graduating, he did some producing and calls of some college football and basketball games.

One season as the lead voice of Alabama-Birmingham was followed by him being pregame/postgame host for his beloved Cubs on WGN radio. Then it was a stint with the Milwaukee Brewers, before landing his gig with the Twins.

“To have that Cubs job at the age of 28 was a dream come true,” he said. “I was traveling all over the country with some really good teams, learning from Pat Hughes, getting a chance to know Ron Santo and becoming so close with him. Having meals with them, making fun of each other and becoming really close. I married my wife largely because of him. It was two really great years.

“I went from one icon in Santo to another in Bob Uecker. Just had an amazing experience with him. People say to me ‘Boy, you always seem to laugh at yourself on the air. Don’t take yourself real seriously.’ That’s because I learned from two guys who were champions of that. Uecker and Santo were that. They were just guys who were constantly able to poke fun of themselves. That is, in many ways, why I am the way I am now.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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