Published April 18. 2014 4:00AM
It is 90 minutes before first pitch and all's quiet, mostly, in the Yankees' radio booth. John Sterling scribbles the lineups. Suzyn Waldman is elsewhere, busy with pregame interviews in the clubhouse. Above Sterling sits producer/engineer Jack "Candy" Maldonado - that's Sterling's nickname for him - awash in considerable gadgetry, preparing for the game.
"Hey Jack!" Sterling says, breaking the silence. "What are they going to do about the ice in right field?"
And Rick Rausch, from his perch above Maldonado, giggles.
This was Wednesday, before Yankees-Cubs in football weather at the Stadium. Rick Rausch, UConn graduate, is the go-to guy on Yankees radio, doing little of this and some of that, helping Sterling and Waldman do what they do better than anyone else: entertain.
The UConn-i-zation of the country rolls on. Men's basketball. Women's basketball. Two major leaguers from the baseball program. And now Rausch. "The Rick Rausch Corporation," as Sterling says. UConn is in the house every night on WFAN and throughout the Yankees Radio Network (driven by Jeep).
"I'm really fortunate," Rausch was saying, an understatement the size of Bartolo Colon.
The two-minute drill on Rausch: A 2004 graduate of UConn who attended Pomperaug High in Southbury. His degree from UConn earned him a job at Columbia University Medical Center as a research scientist doing genetic studies since 2005. He began Yankees radio in 2006.
"I was working at Columbia and was fortunate enough to know somebody at WCBS," Rausch said, alluding to the Yankees' former flagship station. "I found out about an intern type position, where they would have somebody in the booth to help out. It was only supposed to be a temporary thing. I volunteered to do the whole season in 2006. I did every game. John and Suzyn liked me enough to keep me around."
Rausch compiles out of town scores, news of the day, statistical data and accompanies Waldman on the field for postgame interviews, what Sterling calls "Suzyn's Star."
"They're both really good," Rausch said. "They don't need me to do that much."
And so Rausch gets to be entertained mostly. He admitted that his youth often precludes him from understanding some Sterling-isms. Like the night Sterling was apoplectic that home plate umpire Jerry Layne was taking too long to call balls and strikes. Suddenly, he broke into song:
"Everybody's hand in hand ... waitin' for Jerry Layne."
It's a takeoff on an old Sinatra lyric ("everybody's hand in hand, swingin' down the lane.")
And so while Sinatra predates the Rick Rausch Corporation, the Corporation did help translate the new home run call for Carlos Beltran.
"Un correazo by Beltran!" Rausch said. "Translation: a blow with a leather strap or belt ... 'he belted it.'"
So there you have it: Beltran belted it.
Imagine Rausch's days: A truly important job at Columbia. Then truly memorable entertainment a few blocks north.
"I balance both jobs," Rausch said. "During the course of the season, I work 7:30-3:30 at the hospital, walk over the bridge to the ballpark from 168th Street, get here at 4 and don't leave till postgame ends."
Rausch doesn't exactly sing showtunes during rain delays and extra innings, but then, it just means he gets to laugh longer.
"I only really root for two teams," Rausch said. "UConn and the Yankees. I've seen the Yankees win five World Series in my lifetime and the UConn men with four national championships. I'm lucky."
Rausch can recall the shapes and forms vividly from Gampel Pavilion the night in 2004 when the men beat Georgia Tech for the national title. He gets to Hartford for some basketball games now and anytime the Huskies play in the city.
"I love UConn. I'm very proud," Rausch said. "Even the football program under the new coach seems like it's in the right hands."
As are Yankee broadcasts with the "Rick Rausch Corporation." Scientist by day, Sterling/Waldman confrere by night. And UConn guy always.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.