The man in the stands: Todd Kalas is the smiling face of the Tampa Bay Rays

Todd Kalas, the smiling face of the Tampa Bay Rays.

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"It's like, 'Okay, let me get out of that stuffy room for a minute and go down on the field and let Todd give some good information out there..."

And Kalas' "extra-guy" role also poses a unique challenge: He has to talk to players post-game who may not always want the attention. Anderson, with more than a decade in the majors and his fair share of ugly press, says Rays players, as closed off as they might tend to be, trust Kalas to report the news rather than make it up for himself.

"I do know that players respect him and feel that they are going to get a fair shake if they're interviewed by Todd."

Mike Griffin, a producer for Sun Sports/Fox Sports Florida, contrasts Kalas with the type of sideline reporters who talk about minutiae like the birthday of a player's mother. Kalas provides substance instead of fluff.

"He's a baseball guy first, so he brings you that baseball knowledge," Griffin says. "To be able to play off of Brian Anderson or Kevin Kennedy or DeWayne... he can play off of what they're saying or add to the conversation without just being an extra piece. He's never an extra piece."

And face it — the fans love him.

Sentiments about what a great guy he is echo throughout Tropicana Field and cyberspace, including a "Tampa Bay loves Todd Kalas" Facebook group.

"Todd has a tremendous sense of humor, self-effacing, and great with the fans," says longtime fan Glenn Klein. "I think he does a terrific job."

Projecting a sense of ease before the camera is key, says Kalas. "You have to be able to communicate like you're just hanging out with a person watching the game." But he's also good in person. "I met Todd while I was with my family in the Checkers Bullpen Café," says Rays fan Abby Moon. "I think he was trying to take a break and get away from the fans for a minute when I asked him to take a picture with me, but he was more than willing to pose and smile."

Staats suggests that Kalas is particularly popular with female audiences. "Any time he's in any kind of a party deck, it's a recurring theme that he's surrounded by 10 to 20 young ladies who are absolutely giddy just to be in his presence," says Staats. "We see that frequently."

Most important, though, is Kalas' palpable enthusiasm for his work, as when he lists his favorite moments on the job (his pre-game interview with Hank Aaron; his post-game interview with Wade Boggs after his 3,000th hit; that momentous ALCS Game Seven in 2008), or his favorite Ray interviewee, Jonny Gomes: "In the history of the team, the best guy on camera, just because he was so off-the-wall." He's also not afraid to express his concerns about attendance and the future of the Trop.

He describes the crowds currently attending games as "nice," but not what should be expected for an American League Championship team, and that at some point the team will end up playing closer to the bridges or maybe even in Tampa to get closer to the center of the population base. While he says the ideal site does not necessarily have to be in Hillsborough County, it is clear he feels that a new ballpark needs to be more accessible to its residents. Kalas loves Tropicana Field and thinks the facility is very underrated, but says it's not in the right location.

"On one side to the east, you have water. To the south you have water. To the north you have Pinellas County, but then you have a lot more people across the other side of the bridge, in Hillsborough... You may lose a few people from Sarasota-Bradenton [if the site changes], but I think the positives by far outweigh the negatives."

Whether or not the Rays move, a question remains for Kalas. With his play-by-play aspirations, how long will it be before he gets snatched up by some other town?

To recap for any heads of broadcasting who may be interested in hiring a talented and professional play-by-play man to call Major League Baseball games, Todd Kalas is not interested.

OK, he never said that.

But his fans in Tampa Bay (including this one) hope he's not.

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