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Astros broadcaster Todd Kalas finds his own voice in baseball

Todd Kalas, son of Phillies legend and baseball Hall of Famer Harry Kalas, was born in Houston and lives there, doing play-by-play for the Astros.

Astros play-by-play voice on television Todd Kalas during the Astros media availability last month.
Astros play-by-play voice on television Todd Kalas during the Astros media availability last month.Read moreYong Kim / Staff Photographer

HOUSTON — An Astros fan sitting down for brunch did a double take Saturday afternoon, then reached out his hand, hoping for a fist bump.

“Todd Kalas. Legend,” the man said.

Kalas, 56, gets that a lot here. He’s beloved by Astros fans the way his dad, the late legend Harry Kalas, was in Philadelphia, for decades.

Houston and Philadelphia, about 1,500 miles apart as the crow flies, intersect like highways through Kalas’ life, with a long detour to Tampa Bay as well. He was born in Houston in 1965, the year his father started announcing for the Astros, but spent most of his youth in the Philadelphia area after his father was hired to broadcast Phillies games in 1971.

A Conestoga High School graduate, Kalas followed his father’s smooth baritone into baseball after graduating from Syracuse University. He started with the Tampa Bay Rays in 1998. In 2017, Kalas debuted as the television play-by-play man for the Astros.

Kalas grew up running through the bowels of Veterans Stadium, shagging fly balls on the dreaded turf, and looking up, in awe, at icons like Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton.

“It was like my playground, like a summer camp,” he said at the brunch spot near Minute Maid Park.

Despite the memories, his rooting interests are not complicated during the World Series.

“I’m a native Houstonian,” he said. “You’re with a team from usually February until mid-October, so it’s not possible to not make connections with the team and the players. The Phillies are my National League team. They’ll always be a part of me because the organization has been so good to my family. But the bottom line is I work for the Astros and I live and breathe Astros baseball most of the year.“

Yes, he fist-bumped the Astros fan.

“Go, Astros,” the man said.

Still, after the Phillies’ magical Game 3 pounding of the Astros, Kalas tweeted out a video of him singing “High Hopes” along with his dad on the screen at Citizens Bank Park. Kalas said the song was one of the few his father knew the words to, besides “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” The video garnered 7,500 likes and surely a few tears.

“It kind of hurts my heart you’re not a Phillies fan,” Twitter user @Ryne7 responded, “but I’m glad you got to sing with your dad last night.”

During the postseason, network television takes over the playoff broadcast, which allows Kalas to truly become a fan for a few more weeks. In Philadelphia, he was sitting in the stands, cheering for the Astros. While back in the Philadelphia area, he visited his old friends and the statue made in his father’s likeness on the left-field concourse, and took his wife, Michele, to see his father’s iconic grave at Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Kalas shares his father’s deep, velvety voice, and that’s equal parts genetics and time in the booth beside him as a child.

“I mean, I was always with him,” Kalas said. “Dad’s style was very laid-back. He had a certain cadence. He wasn’t afraid of dead air,” he said. “His broadcasts were a little different than most.”

Father and son called an inning on Phillies radio before Game 1 of the 2008 World Series, when Todd was working for the Rays.

Harry Kalas died April 13, 2009, after collapsing in the press box at Washington Nationals Stadium. Several days later, Todd and his brothers, Brad and Kane, threw out the first pitch at Citizens Bank Park.

Like his father, Todd Kalas says he’s in broadcasting for the long haul, and may still do some play-by-play for some college basketball and football back in Tampa.

“Tampa also feels like home to me,” he said.

Kalas planned to get to the stadium Saturday around 4 p.m. and check in with pregame interviews. Mostly he wanted to feel the vibes.

“I think it’s going to be jammed tonight,” he said. “It’s going to be electric, one of the best playoff environments around, particularly with the roof closed. You’ll see people standing most of the night.”

Those fans, he added, probably wouldn’t stand quite as long as Phillies fans do at Citizens Bank Park. If Astros did lose to the Phillies, Kalas said, it wouldn’t sting quite as bad. That’s how he felt in 2008, when the Rays lost.

“Oh, I’ll be ticked off,” he said. “I’d be happy for my friends and the people I knew in the organization, and the city and the fans, but no doubt, I’ll be ticked off if we don’t take this.”

Kalas knows if the improbable Phillies take the Series, a few people, probably more, will play his father singing “High Hopes,” and that’s not so bad.

This article has been updated to correct the distance between Philadelphia and Houston. The two cities are about 1,500 miles apart.