"I'm Cuban," Pi-Gonzalez said. "I speak Spanish. I laughed, but I was just happy to get the job and get some work."
These days, work -- and travel -- are all Pi-Gonzalez has time to do. As the Spanish radio broadcaster for the San Francisco Giants and the Seattle Mariners, he has no other choice. He has been working double-time for the past three seasons -- literally.
"I'm doing both jobs out of necessity and to survive," said Pi-Gonzalez, 60. "I'd rather be with one team, but I feel really fortunate to be able to do what I am doing and I want to keep doing baseball. I have not been as lucky as other guys to hook up with one team and stay there forever."
Pi-Gonzalez, who lives in San Francisco's Bay Area, calls approximately 50 Giants games, primarily during the weekends, and almost all of the Mariners' home games as part of Roger Nelson's KXOY radio group. Pi-Gonzalez admits the traveling can be tiresome and it is hard to establish rhythm in and out of the broadcast booth, but his loyalty to the Bay Area and the excitement of being part of Hispanic marketing initiatives in Seattle drive him.
"He's done nothing but make us feel that he was absolutely the right person for the job," said Randy Adamack, the Mariners' vice president of communications. "He's obviously a busy guy and everything seems to work out. He's done enough games here, he got to know our team and players and our situation."
Pi-Gonzalez still makes television appearances for Telemundo when he can. Tito Fuentes takes over broadcasting duties in San Francisco when Pi-Gonzalez is unavailable.
"The flight is only an hour and a half, but I have two laptops and I have to keep up with both teams and all of the opponents," he said. "It's like having two wives. I'm used to it. It's still fun, but it's a challenge. I look forward to the opportunity to do it the normal way. That would be great."
Born in Cuba, Pi-Gonzalez grew up playing baseball and listening to the broadcasts of countryman Felo Ramirez, a Hall of Fame broadcaster who now calls games for the Florida Marlins. Pi-Gonzalez said he loves Ramirez so much, he would often sit on his family's porch emulating his idol by talking into an upside-down broomstick and pretending he was at a game.
Several years later, Ramirez and Pi-Gonzalez would broadcast the 1998 National League Championship Series -- an event Pi-Gonzalez still calls a dream come true.
"He was like a God to the people," Pi-Gonzalez said. "He is what Vin Scully is to the Dodgers or what Jaime Jarrin is to Dodgers. To me, he is like family. When I see him, I see somebody who I am glad is in the United States."
Upon his arrival in Miami in 1961, Pi-Gonzalez studied journalism and later moved to New York to take a job as a sports columnist in one of the area's Spanish publications. In 1969, he moved to the West Coast, and by 1970 he was working as a radio reporter covering the A's. In the mid-70s, he wrote Finley a letter asking to broadcast games and later received permission to do a few games -- tape-delayed -- in "Mexican."
By 1979, he was broadcasting a few games a week in Spanish and would go on to spend some 17 years working with the A's before going across the bay for a job with the Giants in 1994. Pi-Gonzalez has also broadcast Golden State Warriors basketball games in Spanish, boxing matches and two Caribbean World Series.
He was also a deejay earlier in his career and fondly recalls interviewing actor Desi Arnaz and singer Celia Cruz.
"I'm proud of what I have been able to accomplish, but I always had passion for baseball," he said. "It's a living, and it pays the bills. It's something I really enjoy."
The fun could just be beginning for Pi-Gonzalez. Both the Giants and Mariners have launched initiatives to reach Hispanic fans, and the clubs view the Spanish broadcast as a valuable vehicle.
"Obviously, the Giants have a rich heritage with Hispanic players on teams going back to the 1960s, and we have really focused our effort on reaching out into the Hispanic community in San Francisco the last couple of years," said Shana Daum, the Giants' director of public affairs and community relations.
"We added a Spanish broadcast and this year we've been creating an environment that will attract new fans and make them feel better at our games."
The Mariners have held a "Salute to Latin American Beisbol Night" for the past three seasons and have been pleased with its progress. Pi-Gonzalez threw out the ceremonial first pitch in the 2005 version of the event.
"The size of the Hispanic market here is not among the top 10, so it is still a challenge to get advertising support to make it a viable program," Adamack said. "We need to make it make business sense and might need for it to be supported before it breaks even financially. But we recognize its value, and it's part of the process in reaching out and communicating in Eastern and Central Washington."
As for Pi-Gonzalez, his dual role is less than ideal but says the positive aspects outweigh the negative. He does not plan on leaving his job in baseball anytime soon.
"I'm happy with what I'm doing," he said. "I can be a part of the growth in two markets. How many people can say that?"
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less