From viral sensation to wholesome passion, Miguel Esparza hitting the right notes with Cubs Spanish radio broadcasts
Miguel Esparza looked at his phone and had an idea.
The Cubs’ Spanish radio broadcaster had just gotten a new Android phone and had a feature that allowed him to take photos or shoot video from both his front-facing camera and the traditional camera on the back of the phone.
“Why not?” he thought to himself as he turned the two of them on and flipped it to video mode.
After all, it was the bottom of the 9th of the Cubs’ July 26 game against the Reds with the score tied at 5 and the Cubs had the bases loaded. Javy Báez was called to pinch hit against Amir Garrett and there was an opportunity for a Cubs win and his call to be captured. Then, Báez had his famous one-pitch walk-off against Garrett and Esparza posted the video to his Twitter account.
The video which featured him calling Báez’ name as he waved his arms in excitement and pounded his fists with joy, garnered over 13,000 views on Twitter.
“I was like that was kinda cool, they’re liking it,” Esparza said.
So, he did it again later in the season on August 23 when Rafael Ortega hit a walk-off home run. That video garnered over 43,000 views.
But there was one video that trumped them all. On September 8, Jason Heyward hit a walk-off home run that gave the Cubs a 4-1 win over the Reds. That video had over 77,000 views with many on Twitter praising Esparza for his call — regardless of whether they understood what he was saying.
“It’s great, I love it,” Esparza said. “It’s cool that they embrace what we do and how we do it.”
All of those videos have one thing in common: they showcase the passion that Esparza brings to his job. In each of them, he’s showing the joy that any Cubs fan would have — whether they’re in a radio booth in the Wrigley Field bleachers or at home in front of their television.
“I’m a Cubs fan,” Esparza said.
He tries to capture that in each game that he calls. On tough plays or tough moments, he is suffering with the team, on the highs of the season, he’s rejoicing like any other fan. That’s because the Chicago native, who grew up near Humboldt Park, grew up listening to Ron Santo on the radio calls.
Esparza would hear Ron Santo grunting in tough moments. Then he’d hear his voice cracking in excitement during big moments.
“It’s not to compare myself with Ron Santo … [but] I kinda bring that on as well, because I’m a Cubs fan also,” Esparza said. “So, I love the team and regardless of how they’re doing it’s my team. That’s just how I see it.”
Esparza’s path to the Cubs’ Spanish booth was rather unique. Growing up, his passion was singing. To pursue that, he thought his best shot was to get into the radio business. He started as a promotions intern, then worked his way to a board operator before he entered the nitty-gritty of producing and on-air hosting. Eventually, that led to calling various teams in Chicago, including the Bears, Bulls and becoming the first Spanish broadcaster of the Blackhawks.
“For me, a Latino, I never went to the United Center to watch a hockey game,” Esparza said. “I never did until the day that I went to broadcast a game.”
But he was eager to push his boundaries. That’s what was instilled to him by his parents, Maria and José Esparza. His father is from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and his mother from San Sebastian, Puerto Rico. They instilled in him that go-getter mentality.
“I’ve always said this: you get an opportunity, you grab it and you run with it regardless of what it is and you do the best to be able to be the best at what you’re doing,” Esparza said. “And it does come from them.”
They also implanted a generous heart. Esparza routinely gives back to St. Jude with his time and effort and participates in radiothons to raise money for the children’s research hospital.
“You think about cancer, and you think about it affecting an adult, but when it affects a child, it just breaks your heart,” Esparza said. “It’s very close to my heart. I really love being able to contribute in any possible way that I can.”
That’s who Esparza is: a music- and sports-loving person with a caring heart, who loves his Cubs and relishes the opportunity to be able to be on the call for the team he grew up rooting for.
“I remember the first time my dad brought me here: it was like I walked up, and I saw the field and I was just like, ‘Wow,’” Esparza said. “Then I see that every single day. I always take a picture [and] I take advantage of that because it’s a beautiful view that not everyone gets to see, so I try to share it out and make sure I make the most of it.”