On Saturday, Michael Kay made his long-awaited return to the YES Network booth.
Just like the Yankees with their growing pile of injuries, YES kept chugging along in his absence. Ryan Ruocco flourished in an extended look. John Flaherty and Ken Singleton stepped in, while Bob Costas even pinch hit. When one of the constants of the booth was out, fans saw and heard the depth.
Yet Kay was welcomed back and Saturday and Sunday went off without a hitch, outside of Paul O’Neill’s trademark playful ribbing of Kay. He’s going to have to split time between the booth and his radio show for the time being before resuming both duties. Again, as with the Yankees’ many injured players, Kay isn’t quite back to everyday playing time, though we know the booth can work with a further absence.
Perhaps that’s why Kay appeared to have some understandable melancholy in his return. Here is his interview with Jack Curry for the Yankees Pregame show as Kay discussed the challenges of his past six weeks since vocal chord surgery.
Around the 1:13 mark, he expressed the relatable feeling of seeing life go on without you, seeing people doing your job and the hit that takes to your self-worth.
“You sit there and there are other people doing your job … It’s almost like the Yankees’ next man up,” Kay told Curry. “But it makes you feel, not to get too philosophical, you think about when people die, the party goes on. Cemeteries are filled with indispensable people.
“So you sit there at home and go, “You know what? This can be done without me.’ So you get a little sad and you wonder if you’re going to be able to come back, and until Tuesday, when I got the all clear, I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen.”
Those quotes spoke to me as you can’t help but empathize as Kay expresses the terrifying reality of our own mortality. We all die and, at least for a little while, the earth will keep moving. Our jobs are done by other people, or aren’t done at all, and everything keeps going. That’s how it has been and will be.
Kay wasn’t on the verge of death, mind you, just the uncertainty of his job. However, his job has been his life as he grew up wanting to be exactly what he’s become, the announcer for the New York Yankees. This isn’t an ordinary 9-to-5 for him.
So it’s good to see Kay back. The broadcast didn’t miss a beat without him — again, Ruocco and co. were great when filling in — but Saturday’s broadcast was a return to normalcy in a way. Hopefully, any existential melancholy can be out of Kay’s mind with each game and successive “See ya!”