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SPORTS MEDIA / DIANE PUCIN

Rex Hudler is having a tough time

He lost his job with the Angels. Then Rory Markas died. Then Hudler's mother died. And he is still looking to get back in the game.

January 29, 2010|By Diane Pucin

Three weeks ago, Rex Hudler's mother, Annie Mueller Aroni, passed away at the age of 69 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

But emotions have no sense of time.

It was his mother, he said, who negotiated his first major league contract -- with Gehrig's old team, the New York Yankees, no less. And now, 32 years later, Hudler is in danger of not being involved with a baseball team for the first time in his professional life.

It has been a hard few months for the 49-year-old Hudler, the best bubbly baseball analyst around, if you like your analysts unabashedly bubbly.

In November, after 11 seasons, he was let go from the job he loved: talking about the Angels for FS West and KLAA radio 830. More devastating, though, was the effect that had on his mother.

"When I told her I lost my Angels job," he said, "she went downhill so fast. For the past couple of years she would sit all summer. She couldn't do anything, she couldn't walk or talk, but she could watch the Angels and she thought so much of her son doing those games."

Three days before Hudler's mother died, Rory Markas, one of Hudler's Angels broadcast buddies who handled the play-by-play, passed away. In talking about that first week of the new year, Hudler's voice gets unsteady -- but only for a minute and above all else he said he'd like to speak to his fans.

"Everyone has personal tragedies in life," Hudler said. "God never promised me smooth waters. He only promised me navigation."

The Angels and FS West had decided not to renew the contracts for Hudler and announcer Steve Physioc and instead, beginning this season, would have Markas do the television play-by-play with Mark Gubicza as his analyst while Terry Smith would do radio play-by-play with Jose Mota as the analyst.

Hudler said he had spoken to MLB Network and the Baltimore Orioles about a job. "Only one job in baseball has been open and that was Baltimore," he said. "I was considered for it and that was great. I didn't get it, but that's how it goes.'

As to whether he or any representative has spoken to the Angels or Fox since Markas died, Hudler said, "I just want to say that I hope to be back in baseball for my 32nd straight season and I'm still hopeful. It's nearly February, but I'm still hopeful."

Angels spokesman Tim Mead said Thursday that the team and Fox were still in discussions about how to proceed with the broadcast team. The team's first full spring training workout is Feb. 23 and the first spring game is March 4.

Hudler wasn't to everyone's taste, but in baseball, when there are so many analysts and play-by-play men involved with nearly every team, Hudler's exuberance seemed appropriate.

The problem is Hudler isn't a play-by-play announcer. Neither is Gubicza. Maybe Mota could handle those duties, but if Fox and the Angels want to find a place for Hudler, juggling would have to happen.

And here are a couple of things Hudler said he got from his mother: optimism and an open mouth.

"My mom taught us to never be negative and to always say what was on our minds," he said. "So I'm not negative. I love baseball. I want to be in the game again. It's not even February. There's still time."

Tennis Down Under

What's to like about ESPN2's Australian Open coverage so far?

First, Mary Joe Fernandez is concise and prescient in her commentary. She seems to know ahead of time what shot a player will hit.

An on-air debate between Mary Carillo and Pam Shriver over the degree of severity involving penalties to Serena Williams in response to her outburst to a lineswoman at the U.S. Open? Great television.

Having Andy Roddick in the booth when John Isner, the American who upset Roddick at last year's Open, upset Gael Monfils? Genius.

Dick Enberg's enthusiasm has been just right.

And of course, getting a Williams-Justine Henin final -- that almost makes the commentators irrelevant because there is bound to be on-court drama with these two players.

What's not to like?

One thing: Tom Rinaldi's overwrought video essays, which made it seem Roger Federer's career was at a crossroads because he lost the U.S. Open last year (yeah right, Federer only won the French and Wimbledon and finished the year ranked No. 1).

And Rinaldi made Henin's retirement seem heroic.

Other than that, there will be some serious withdrawal after the women's final (12:30 a.m. Saturday) and men's final (12:30 a.m. Sunday).

File under overkill

Super Bowl week is starting. First up is the Pro Bowl on Sunday -- yes, before the big game. There isn't enough time or space (even on the unlimited Internet) to discuss all the Super Bowl stuff that will be on television next week.

And remember the good old days when high school athletes put on the cap of State U and that served as an "announcement" of where said athlete would go to college?

On Wednesday the CBS College Sports Network is having, as it says, "wall-to-wall" multimedia coverage (in conjunction with maxpreps.com) of high school football signing day. Seantrel Henderson, the nation's "No. 1-ranked prep recruit," is to make an "exclusive, live college announcement on CBS College Sports Network."

Former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer, along with recruiting expert Tom Lemming, will be in studio. Maybe Fulmer will have some Lane Kiffin stories to tell. Otherwise, we'll just watch 18-year-olds be made into something they are not yet -- very important.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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