Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Broadcaster's Christmas

A few weeks ago, a broadcaster dropped me a tweet from the Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville.  His question was simple.  "How do I get started?"

I recently posted some effective steps for new broadcasters to break into the industry.  Click here to view the full post.

As a follow up, here is just a quick point about sacrifice.  The sacrifice you'll need to make to break into the broadcasting business.  For many, it includes working for free.  And working holidays, and birthdays, and inconvenient times when your friends are out partying like normal 20-somethings.  If you want to work on air, or in media, you must choose to build your career rather than enhancing your social life.  Not all the time, but often enough.

In 1994 I received a phone call on Christmas morning.  A friend at NBC TV in Manhattan needed a warm body to help log tape in the NBC Sports studios that night from 5pm to midnight.  I quickly cancelled my Christmas plans and hopped a train down to NYC to work my first of what turned out to be years of shifts at NBC - followed later by ABC Sports as well.

That was the Christmas sacrifice I made that day.  To be in the broadcasting business, you may have to make your own similar choices as well.

For those in the industry, how did you sacrifice as a youngster to further your career?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Release of new book - Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues

It's a thrill to be joining Bill Rogan and the Artificial Turf radio program this Sunday, December 23, at 10:51 Eastern, on KNUS Radio, Denver.  You'll be able to listen live HERE.

The new book Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues should be available just in time for Christmas orders from Amazon.  Click here for info!  It is a great last minute gift.

Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues is a unique minor league baseball book that documents dozens of unbelievable baseball moments from around the country.

Baseball fans have always wanted to know what really goes on behind the scenes. They've always wished to travel with the team and witness the circus-like atmosphere that often describes minor league baseball. Fans have needed a place to turn to read about so many of these untold tales.

Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues shares the most gut-splitting and jaw-dropping stories from minor league baseball, as told by over 20 professional broadcasters from around the nation! Hear about superstar names - such as Michael Jordan, Tommy Lasorda, Josh Hamilton and David Ortiz - as well as countless others who have been part of some of the most amazing baseball moments, both on and off the field!

Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues gives readers a firsthand account of some of the most eye-popping minor league baseball moments, from the broadcasters who were there firsthand. Truly a collector's item for baseball fans of all ages!

More more info on how to download the book to your iPhone or computer, please click here!

I'm looking forward to appearing on the Turf Sunday night!  I hope you'll join us.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Breen The Best Ever?

Is Mike Breen the best basketball play by play guy ever?

He excelled on radio and now does the same on TV.

From his start with Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY to Imus in the Morning, to the Knicks, and the last decade on the national scene - he has been a media mainstay.

Breen's knowledge is second-to-none.  Great sense of humor.  Knows his role and doesn't overshadow the game.  Calm and collected, until the situation dictates a jump in enthusiasm.

Who is better?  Or who was?  Glickman?  Albert?  Most?  Nance?

Could we be watching the best NBA broadcaster ever?

Check out the brand new behind the scenes minor league baseball book,
Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues.  Click here for info!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Boom Goes The Dynamite Revisited

After some fame, here is a recap on Boom Goes The Dynamite....

Boom Goes The Dynamite!

When I was teaching Sports Broadcasting at Marist College, I always played this hilarious clip.  We discussed that this is not the way to do it........enjoy!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Taking Care Of Business

"We were playing in front of 10,000 people.  It was the 8th inning; I remember it like it was today.  Everybody was on the field except the second baseman.  Everybody was just waiting for the second baseman to come out to the field. 

So about five minutes later the second baseman came out, and he was ready.  He was sprinting to second base, and he’s got toilet paper hanging from his back!  In front of 10,000 people!"

For many more unbelievable minor league baseball stories, check out Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues.  Click here!

Loooooooong Minor League Bus Rides

On a hot, summer night, in the middle of nowhere.....

As many of the players slept, the bus came to a stop on the side of desolate I-20.  They were without food, beverages or air conditioning, and quite a ways from the next rest stop.  As night turned into day, the sun beat down.   As the hours began to pass, some players climbed through the crawl hole onto the top of the bus, which – even in the blazing sun – was cooler than the stuffiness inside.  Some tried to catch some sleep on top of the bus.

What happened next??

Find out in Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues.  Click here for more information! 

How To Get Started In Sports Broadcasting

“Where do I start?”

That is the question I get most often from aspiring sportscasters, especially those in high school or college. I spent hours answering that question each week while teaching at Marist College and the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. These days I get emails and tweets asking me how to begin a sportscasting career.

Truth is, there are many ways to get a start in broadcasting. First, understand that this is a tough industry, filled with excitement and pitfalls. I’ve always given students the unvarnished truth.

This is not a complete list of how-to’s for beginning a career, but merely a quick group of bullet points. We could devote hours to each one. Hopefully these act as a quick jumping-off point to get you headed in the right way.

1. Practice – Commit to daily improvement. Broadcast games. Increase your knowledge. Become a better broadcaster every day.

2. Do It For Free – Often you must work for free to gain experience and prove your value in the media marketplace. Use these opportunities to the fullest, as they will provide your launching pad to greater, paying opportunities!

3. Find a mentor, or ten – Most established sportscasting professionals are willing to help. Use them! Ask questions!

4. Leverage your contacts – Whether from your college, high school or community, make the most of your contact network. Let them know who you are and what your goals are.

5. Read – Perhaps the most important step of all. Read everything, to sharpen your philosophies, likes and dislikes. Read the history of what you want to be involved in. Know the games, traditions and rules.

6. Use technology as one tool in your bag – The internet is great, but not everything. I can post wonderful information on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc., but eventually it comes down to being a real person.

7. Remain hungry – Sportscasting will challenge your will. Decide what your goals are and constantly strive to reach them. Your achievements will trend toward your goals over time.

I got started in this business in 1993 by selling programs at the ballpark and becoming friendly with team’s radiocaster. I also did bleary-eyed 5:00 am newscasts every day before college classes, for free.

Click here to see many more tips to get started in Sports Broadcasting!

For all aspiring sportscasters....CLICK HERE for a critique of your demo tape/air check, and get a FREE BOOK!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Baseball Practical Joker

From Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues.......

Baseball is famous for its practical jokers and one of the best we’ve had in Salt Lake was one particular relief pitcher. Unfortunately for this pitcher, one his best pranks was an expensive one for him. The team was in Vancouver and he waited for a couple of his teammates to leave their room. After the coast was clear, he somehow was able to get into it and proceeded to.........

Hear the rest of the story in Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues

For more information, click here!

Josh Hamilton's Southern Delicacy

Josh Hamilton joined the Hudson Valley Renegades in 1999 as an 18-year-old after being drafted number one overall by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.  He spent the next two weeks helping the Renegades collect their first New York Penn League title.

During that time, I found the young Hamilton, and his family, to be really good people.  I spent some time with them both on and off the air and, like everyone else, hoped to soon see Josh Hamilton roam a Big League outfield.
A lot has happened to the newest star of the Anaheim Angels since then.
While writing my latest minor league baseball book, I felt compelled to include at least one story of the Josh Hamilton I knew in 1999.  I hope you enjoy the story, and more than 80 like it in the book.

From Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues......

....Before Josh Hamilton’s first game that day, team clubhouse manager Matt Veronesi shared his “Tidbit of the Day”, a daily feature of the radio broadcast which filled fans in on obscure team facts they otherwise wouldn’t have known. He reported that Hamilton had a right, as per his contract, to take any uniform number he wanted. His favorite number was 22, but another player already had that number. Hamilton said no big deal and took number 30. Classy move by the 18-year-old.

The team was in a tight situation a couple weeks later, needing a win on the final day of the season to clinch a spot in the playoffs. That afternoon, Hamilton sat in a comfortable clubhouse recliner and chomped on his favorite........

Read the whole story in Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues
Click HERE for more info!

Jaw-Dropping Baseball Stories

Hoops with Air Jordan.  A broadcaster who picked up his wife while on the air.  Josh Hamilton's favorite pre-game meal.  Tommy Lasorda holding court.  Snakes, worms and much, much more!

22 professional baseball broadcasters have shared the most jaw-dropping and eye-popping stories from their minor league careers.  For fans who want to know what minor league baseball is really like, Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues will be the perfect gift. 

For more info on this new book, and to order from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, click here!

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Shocking Post-Game Trade

Most radio broadcasts in minor league baseball follow much the same format as any radio broadcast you’ll hear for your local major league team. A typical night on the air will consist of a pregame show, actual game broadcast, and postgame show. The postgame usually consists of a scoring recap, interview and perhaps a look ahead to tomorrow’s game. One really unique thing about minor league baseball is that teams often pipe the radio feed into the home clubhouse, where they can hear the entire broadcast, especially the post-game show.

Late one season while broadcasting for a pretty mediocre club, my broadcast partner and I masterminded a fun idea. The players on the club often commented that they listened to our postgame show on a boom box in the clubhouse while showering up after the game. Not that we could ever pull it off, but we envisioned how great it would be to somehow create a “fake” postgame show. As the season progressed and the team fell further out of the playoff hunt, we passed the time by honing our idea. We didn’t want to just do it…we wanted to do it right and make it a most memorable postgame extravaganza. Late in the season, we decided to try to put our plan into motion.

Read to the book to see how the fake postgame show took shape.....
For more info on the book - Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues - click HERE!

Oncoming Train in the Minor Leagues

WHACK! The team was startled awake as the bus came to an abrupt halt. It was almost 3 a.m., and the Hudson Valley Renegades baseball club was driving somewhere in New York State after a late-night contest in central New York. “What the heck was that?” I thought. “What is going on?”

Trying to open their eyes in a sleepy daze, players’ heads began to pop up. To the right I saw a bright, solitary light. As the light grew larger, I could place the loud, familiar rumble. Then we heard even louder honks from a deep horn. Our team bus was on a train crossing, and the WHACK had been the train crossing arm coming down right on the bus, approximately over the third aisle of seats.

“What the heck are you doing!” yelled a player from the back. “Back the bus up!” The driver, seeming oblivious to the panicked cries from the passengers, didn’t make a move. By now, we were all awake and most were probably wondering, “Is this it?” The train came hurtling toward us, and the screams from throughout the bus got louder.

What happened next?
The book will be available HERE on December 22nd!  Click for info.

Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues - Coming In 12 Days

I am often asked what minor league baseball life is like. Is it exciting to ride on the team bus? Do you get to go into the dugout? What are the players like? Most often, my answer is that minor league baseball is a traveling freak show circus. It is an absolute trip because you never know what you’ll see. It is also as far from the glitz and glamour of the big leagues as you can imagine, at least the majority of the time. Each day seems to bring a new story or memory that you never could have imagined, with each one more unusual than the last. Over my years in minor league baseball, I’ve been fortunate enough to witness many of these zany and comical things firsthand. I’ve traveled to many ballparks, met countless interesting people, and built up a wealth of wacky minor league memories. Still, I’m just one broadcaster. I’ve only experienced a small sliver of the tales that could be told.

As I began thinking about some of the most unusual things I’ve seen in minor league baseball, I also wondered what other broadcasters have seen. The minors are home to so many talented broadcasters, many of whom will never go on to call games in sold-out, major league ballparks. These are the guys with stories to tell. Some have been calling games for 10, 20 or 30 years. They’ve spent hours on the bus, hung out in dugouts, eaten lousy ballpark food and called inning after inning all across the country. They have some unbelievable stories to tell, and this book will share some of their tales.

What follows in this book is a collection of some of the most bizarre, unusual and funny baseball stories as told by some of the great guys in the game. Each of these 21 broadcasters volunteered their time and talent to share, in their voice and style, some of the unbelievable things they’ve seen in minor league baseball. They eagerly joined this project in the hope that you, the reader, will have the most accurate picture of the unpredictable minor league world. These are some truly great professionals from around the country. If one of these guys is calling game in your town, consider yourself lucky. They each had a great deal to bring to this project and without them this book would not exist. I owe them all a great deal of thanks – for their time, generosity, effort and some of the most amazing stories I’ve ever heard!

Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues -Available here on December 22

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Did Bob Costas Step In It?

With his anti-gun commentary during Sunday Night Football, did Bob Costas create an unnecessary firestorm for himself?

My opinion stems not from anything to do with the 2nd Amendment. These thoughts are purely grounded in broadcast philosophy - rooted in the teachings of Marty Glickman, who was a close friend and mentor to Bob Costas.

I believe, as did Marty, that viewers tune in to watch a game. They don’t tune in to hear a broadcaster, or for something other than that specific sporting event. While talk-show hosts deal with a completely different set of dynamics, a play by play broadcaster’s job is to describe and complement the game. The same holds true, although admittedly with a bit more flexibility, for a halftime studio host.

Mentioning a major NFL story is one thing. Devoting a larger portion of the broadcast to it is quite another. Even during a Sunday Night Football telecast, fans are tuned in for the game, rather than the roundup of weekly NFL news.

If a viewer/consumer is tuned to the game, that is what he deserves. Especially today, in an age where you can access any content on demand, the specific niche should cater to the specific viewer. Agree or disagree with Costas’ ideological point (and I do have an opinion), this is neither the time nor place to dwell on matters not related to this game. Viewers can find this discussion elsewhere, in hundreds of places. Fans watch sports for the sole purpose of escaping real life its weightier issues.

Valuable broadcast air time should be spent focusing on that event. Don’t spend time discussing associated sporting or worldly events. Not the game across town, and not the news. That is not why the viewer tuned in. In spending so much time on a league topic, Bob Costas inserted himself into the story and created an unnecessary distraction for football fans and viewers.

What would you do if you were in his shoes?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Mystery Of Baseball's Winter Meetings!

With this week’s Baseball Winter Meetings getting started in Nashville, it reminds me of the meetings I attended in New Orleans in the mid-90’s. For me, and thousands of others, the meetings were an opportunity to get in front of minor league clubs and lobby to become their radio voice.

An aspiring broadcaster asked me this morning, “How do I get my start?” Although not a guarantee, the Winter Meetings may be the ticket. It is one way to prove your desire, make a statement and build relationships.

Along with all the Big League wheeling and dealing, a lot of minor league moving and shaking happens at the meetings. A few of my memories of that exciting week:

- I flew into town sitting next to an owner of multiple minor league teams….including the Norwich Navigators, for whom I called games five years later.

- Sipping a Hurricane at a Bourbon Street bonfire, I chatted with an executive from the AAA Buffalo Bisons. His big pearl to me that night – never send a resume on white paper. “I get hundreds of resumes,” he said. “I need a way to weed out half of them right away. The white ones get chucked.” I always heeded his advice, and we kept in touch for years.

- One morning at the hotel, a flash conga line formed. One woman stood up from her table and started dancing around the restaurant dining room. Table by table, she garnered more followers, until a line of 20 or more was bopping around as if it were the Fourth of July… 7 a.m. (No, my briefcase and I did not join. I was there for business, not pleasure)

- I took part in quite a few interviews with clubs, ranging from the Modesto, CA Athletics and the Williamsport, PA Crosscutters. I recall crowded ballrooms, small interview spaces and little sleep. I eventually turned down the Crosscutters gig to remain with the Hudson Valley Renegades.

While the Big Leagues and big starts garner most of the Winter Meeting attention, it can be a great chance for an aspiring sportscaster to make some connections and jump-start a career! Or you can slug Hurricanes, start bonfires and dance around all day. It’s a win either way.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ballplayer Envy

It’s that time of year again. No, I’m not talking about turkey and Christmas trees. Each off-season, you can count on hearing the cries from baseball fans far and wide, crying foul over another huge, multi-million dollar baseball contract. We all do it at times. In some ways its part of being a fan.

With a couple more big signings this week, I ask - why demonize the players for earning every dime they can get? Wouldn’t you?

Fifteen years ago, while broadcasting in professional baseball, I sat with a ballplayer and his parents, after he received a signing bonus worth over $10 million.

“The point of a huge bonus,” she said, “is that now he can simply concentrate on baseball. The money will take care of all the necessary pitfalls of everyday life, and he can keep himself focused 100 percent on being the best ballplayer he can be.”

Beyond that, however, it is simply a matter of supply and demand. There are a limited number of premier athletes with skills that consumers are willing to pay big bucks to see. Period. Regardless of the sport, these are the top fraction of a percent of all who play the game. And we, as fans, have always been willing to pay.

This baseball off-season, I just wish we’d hear less of the envious negatives when talking about a player’s big new free-agent deal.

Am I wrong to admire a great talent for earning every penny he is worth in the marketplace?

Ever Wonder What Minor League Baseball Is Really Like?

Ever wonder what minor league baseball is really like?  As a broadcaster, I saw a lot of amazing things.  Some of them I can still hardly believe.  I've shared some of the stories.  Others have remained untold, until now.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks.....

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Only Your Mother

While watching Al Michaels call a football game this week, I recalled some wisdom I learned almost 20 years ago from broadcasting legend Marty Glickman. At Fordham, Marty would talk sportscasting for hours. Listening to our tapes and letting us have it – no sugar-coating, just the good and bad. I consider his sage sportscasting advice often, and this week I’ve reflected on one of his most unambiguous points. Al Michaels jogged my mind.

Al Michaels is a terrific play by play announcer in my opinion. Smooth, abundantly prepared and quick on his feet. Michaels has been a mainstay on the national football scene for decades, calling some of the biggest games in NFL history. I am always pleased when I tune in to a game and find Michaels behind the microphone.

The point is – and Marty Glickman’s point – is that nobody tunes in to hear a broadcaster. We all tune in for the game, not the broadcaster, regardless of how wonderful we think they are. Solid broadcasters certainly add to the action, while lousy ones can detract from it. However, we tune in for the game itself. In fact the way Marty put it, “The only person who tunes in to hear the broadcaster is his mother!”

As play by play broadcasters, this should constantly put our ultimate duties – to inform, enlighten and entertain - in perspective. We should be facilitating the fans’ enjoyment of the game, not trying to become a major part of it. I understand I may have some disagreement around Bristol, Connecticut or some other media outlets that push “attitude” above all else. Sorry, but I agree with Marty Glickman.

And so I leave you with this question. Is there any time you tune in to a game to hear the broadcaster?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fun Fall Sports Reading

A quick update in anticipation of the new book "Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues". 
The new book includes amazing, funny and bizarre minor league baseball stories from the broadcasters who called the action!  EBook and paperback coming late 2012!
More Info Here

Two books I also recommended this summer........

“Sports Talk, The Personality Behind The Personalities” - Brody, Rogan & Rhodes

Quick, compelling profiles of some of the biggest names in sports talk. Colin Cowherd, Scott Ferrall, Joe Benigno, and many more national names you’ll know. The authors were given up-close, backstage access to really get to know these guys. I learned a great deal about what makes them tick, where they came from and how they operate. Fun, revealing reading. No holds barred, so be prepared for the raw truth about this industry.

“Root For The Home Team, Minor League Baseball’s Most Off-The-Wall Team Names and the Stories Behind Them” – Tim Hagerty

Some great stories about minor league team names and the strange, humorous and interesting stories behind them. Very well researched by a veteran baseball announcer. Great gift for kids and fans of all ages.

No, I don’t get paid for promoting these two books. I’ve just read them and also given them as gifts. Fun reading for sports fans of all ages.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Headed back to the Post-Season!

After 13 years, another ring may be on the horizon for the Hudson Valley Renegades.  The Tampa Bay Rays short season A affiliate is headed to the New York Penn League playoffs, holding home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  The goal - the team's second championship in franchise history. 

It feels like just yesterday - that magical 1999 season, when Josh Hamilton, Jorge Cantu, Matt Diaz, Edwin Rodriguez and the rest of the talented club brought the NYPL title to the Hudson Valley for the first time since the team's 1994 inception.  This was a huge culmination for an organization I still consider to be among the tops in all of minor league baseball.

I vividly recall the lengthy celebration following the final win over the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in the 1999 Championship Series.  It  began on the pitchers mound, moved to the clubhouse, and ended back on the field again hours later.  That team fought through a season of adversity and overcame each and every challenge.  Such a good bunch of guys and, from what I hear, similar in that respect to this year's Renegades club.

I never got one hit or fielded one grounder for that team, but I've treasured that 1999 Hudson Valley Renegades NYPL Championship ring ever since.  All I did was call the action, bring my listeners into the stands with me.  I hope manager Jared Sandberg and the 2012 Renegades experience the same Championship feeling in just a matter of days.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Piling On Josh Hamilton

Wow, talk about piling on! His manager, that’s one thing. The team president, ok. But the barrage of media unloading on Josh Hamilton lately is something. It actually angers me.

Let’s keep things in context. Josh Hamilton is among the top five players in all of baseball with 28 home runs, and he’s tied for first with 83 RBIs. Yet he is drawing the wrath of many in the media and, apparently, many Rangers fans as well. Booing him at home? Come on.

I understand he’s seemed out of sorts lately, seemingly swinging listlessly without a thought. Please remember - he always looks that way! His approach to the game is so natural and carefree that it looks effortless, whether he connects or whiffs. Reminds me a lot of Ken Griffey Jr.

We’ve been hearing the recent rumbling of all the things that could be leading to Hamilton’s July swoon. Has he relapsed? Is he having trouble at home? Giving up tobacco? My answer is, who cares! It’s a slump, everyone has one! Is the guy allowed to have his mind wander a little in six months?

No doubt many are lining up to see Hamilton fail. That’s the way our culture is, especially in the TV age. A guy with that many tattoos must be trouble. He must be up to no good. They think it’s only a matter of time. I’m also convinced that many in the media bristle with his firm and outward reliance on God. Many of them hate that more than anything.

The point is that Josh Hamilton has gone things in life that make baseball seem nearly meaningless. I haven’t spoken to him since 1999, and I have no idea what tomorrow holds for any athlete. I do, however, admire his perspective, keeping baseball in its rightful place.

“I play games for a living,” he said today, noting that he hears the boos but won’t lose sleep over it.

Josh Hamilton says soon we will all have a better idea of what he is currently battling. The media and fans need to pipe down. He’s in a summer slump and will be fine in the fall, when it counts. After all, ever think that whatever he’s fighting through might just be bigger than a game?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Hall of Fame Memories - Free Doodles!

The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York is a special place. A magical place. If you’ve never been, put it on your list. I guarantee you’ll have memories that will last a lifetime.

As Hall of Fame Weekend is underway, featuring the induction of Barry Larkin and Ron Santo, I’ve been recalling some of the great memories of Cooperstown.

The first time I visited the mystical town in central New York was during a frigid March in the early 1990’s, when my father and I camped out on the front steps of the Hall of Fame to get tickets for that year’s Hall of Fame game. Tickets were hard to come by, and we were second in line right in front of the main doors to the Hall. We had sleeping bags, folding chairs, coats and blankets to brave the temperatures in the teens. We took turns sitting in the heated car parked up the street, and I also recall an extremely drunken local named Doodles. He came wandering down near the line of fans and was soon arrested for public intoxication. A while later, in the middle of the brutally cold night, a few of his drunken friends came by and began chanting, “Free Doodles! Free Doodles!” This was my first memory of Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

The next morning, after purchasing our tickets, we took a casual stroll through the Hall of Fame. On this March day, the Hall was virtually empty and it seemed like a private tour.

I have returned to Cooperstown a handful of times since that day, first as a fan and then as a broadcaster. While in high school, I corralled a couple friends and drove up during Reggie Jackson’s induction weekend. I walked the back alleys, gathering (and paying for) autographs from some of the game’s greats – Enos Slaughter, Warren Spahn, etc. I didn’t have much cash, but I spent it all on autographs, trinkets and baseball knickknacks.

In 1994, I joined the Hudson Valley Renegades for the team’s day trip to Cooperstown while playing a night game in nearby Oneonta.

“Are you coming with us to the Hall of Fame?” team manager Doug Sisson asked me that morning.

“If I can.” I replied. I was an 18 year old, unpaid broadcaster helping out the team’s full-time voice.

“Of course you can,” he said defiantly. “You’re part of this team!”

That day I stood in the Hall watching Reid Ryan, who was observing a throng of fans who were marveling at a display honoring his father, Nolan. Stephen Larkin, Barry’s younger brother, was also touring the Hall with us that day. As was current Miami Marlins General Manager Michael Hill, then a player.

A few years later, I returned to the Hall of Fame with another Renegades team, and had a chance to see yet another set of displays. I had a picture taken with Greg Harris, in front of a glass case holding his glove. In 1995 he had become the only pitcher in baseball history to throw with both arms in the same inning. The glove displayed at the Hall of Fame could fit either hand.

1999 was the most recent time I’ve visited the Hall of Fame, this time as the Renegades broadcaster. During my pregame interview before the Renegades contest at Doubleday Field, I asked hitting coach Jose Ortiz if he had ever been in the Hall of Fame.

“Well, I guess I’m in there somehow,” he said. “After being around the game so long, I’m sure I have some connection.”

“No,” I responded. “I meant have you ever actually been inside and walked around.” Yes, he had.

After the Renegades won that game, I sat across the street with one of the team’s pitchers, reminiscing about Cooperstown and the remarkable Hall of Fame. The place has been the source of so many terrific memories for so many baseball fans. As you watch this year’s induction ceremonies, I hope you are making plans to visit Cooperstown as well. As a matter of fact, I think I need to do it again sometime soon.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bus Ride Fiasco

It's amazing that minor league ball teams aren't involved in more accidents.  I recall a couple years ago, a relatively minor accident where a team bus hit a truck and guardrail during an overnight trip. Some of the tweets from the players brought back some crazy minor league memories......

I was once on a bus with a team as we departed for a long, daytime trip. Not even a mile from the park, we watch a tractor trailer collide with another vehicle right in front of us. The driver was knocked unconscious.

I also recall the middle-of-the-night wakeup when our bus just missed being slammed by a passing train at a railroad crossing. Or the time the axles on the left side of the bus busted and we cruised into town with the bus tilted to the left. We looked like a circus act coming to town. The bus was tilted about a foot, and the driver later told me we could have tipped over quite easily.

I’ve heard of players finding snakes next to their bus, and seen players sleep inside the small, overhead compartments. I’ve seen fistfights onboard, as well as bleary-eyed, beer-filled celebrations. One time my broadcast colleague had to sit up front, talking to the driver, so he wouldn't fall asleep.

Stay in this game long enough and you’ll see just about anything on that bus. How glamorous it is.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Great Summer Sports Reading

A brief post about two books I’ve read recently and just have to share:

“Sports Talk, The Personality Behind The Personalities” - Brody, Rogan & Rhodes

Quick, compelling profiles of some of the biggest names in sports talk. Colin Cowherd, Scott Ferrall, Joe Benigno, and many more national names you’ll know. The authors were given up-close, backstage access to really get to know these guys. I learned a great deal about what makes them tick, where they came from and how they operate. Fun, revealing reading. No holds barred, so be prepared for the raw truth about this industry.

“Root For The Home Team, Minor League Baseball’s Most Off-The-Wall Team Names and the Stories Behind Them” – Tim Hagerty

Some great stories about minor league team names and the strange, humorous and interesting stories behind them. Very well researched by a veteran baseball announcer. Great gift for kids and fans of all ages.

No, I don’t get paid for promoting these two books. I’ve just read them and also given them as gifts. Easy summer reading for sports fans.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Broadcasters Crashing To The Floor

We stayed in a hotel last week. When I went to grab the iron out of the closet, the entire bracket came crashing down off the wall. It appeared to have been put up hastily, and without the parts necessary to keep it secure. Soon after, I began seeing other things around the suite that we just not up to par. Now I was looking, and I was finding a lot I didn’t like. One mistake had keyed me in and led me to look for – and find – others.

As a broadcaster, we must keep this scenario in mind. Our most valued quality is our broadcast integrity. Fooling listeners with incorrect facts or guesses can only lead to one thing – a loss of trust in you, the broadcaster. If you are caught in incorrect statements, listeners immediately begin to question everything you say. If you are wrong or misleading once, who’s to say you won’t do it again and again.

Sportscasters cannot know everything there is to know about a particular event, team or player. Mike Breen gave me great advice back in 1994, “If you don’t know, don’t be afraid to admit it. Don’t ever fake it.” Once a broadcaster is caught faking it, it takes an awful long time to regain the listener’s trust, if it can be done at all.

The next time you don’t have the answer on air, just say so. Or just go find the answer. Either way, don’t become the iron that crashes to the floor.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Are Sportscasters Really Independent?

As we celebrate America’s Independence Day, here is a question to chew on with your burgers and dogs. Are Sportscasters are really independent? In other words, can they speak their mind as a journalist without repercussion? The no-fluff answer - yes and no.

Sportscasting gigs are as varied as can be. In some positions, the broadcaster is given free reign. In others, he is closely monitored and controlled. I’ve worked on both ends of the spectrum and students would often ask me about what they should expect.

I called games for one minor league team for six seasons, and not once did any member of the front office ever confront me for something I said on the air. (Players, employees and fans sure did, but never did a person of real power try to cramp my style.)

I also broadcast for a Yankees AA affiliate, and the General Manager pulled me aside and tried to curtail my on-air speech the very first week of the season. I had told the listeners it was 37 degrees and painted the word picture of the intrepid fans bundled up for warmth in the brutal conditions. The G.M. felt my honesty would keep fans away from the park in April. He told me to cut it out. I argued that my listeners were much smarter than that and weren’t going to stay home based on something I said about what they can feel out their front door. I wasn’t a cheerleader, I was a journalist.

When I did play by play for Army basketball and hockey at West Point, I heard all the talk about how controlling and tightly-wound the Army brass was toward its public relations and broadcasting. However, they never curtailed me a bit, and I always appreciated the freedom to do my job.

The point is, both situations exist. And to a degree it has to do with what medium or position you are working in. A talk-show host may have different constraints than a play-by-play man. I've know broadcasters that just let it fly every day and never hear a word of criticism, while others are nitpicked on every comment.

Ultimately, station management will be the key. You may have to work for some real pains in this industry, but eventually you can find the match that best suits your personality.

I wish you and our country a happy Fourth of July.  I also ask - Are YOU an independent sportscaster?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Absolutely Amazing!

I cringe every time I hear a broadcaster speak in absolute terms. Because one thing is for sure – things can absolutely change.

What do I mean?

How often do you hear a sportscaster say something like:

“That was the most amazing catch I’ve ever seen!”

“This is the best team ever!”

“They will never come back from this deficit.”

“That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen.”

When using words and phrases that are so absolute in nature, you leave yourself no wiggle room. You need some room to adapt and adjust. The “most amazing catch you’ve ever seen.” Perhaps 20 years ago you saw one even more magnificent, even if you can’t recall it off the top of your head. Use caution when speaking in these absolute terms. At times they may be appropriate. More often than not, they aren’t.

As a broadcaster, language has meaning. Take care when using words such as most, best, worst, never, etc. In the dynamic world of sportscasting, things change. Often. Always.

That much is absolutely true.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thumbs Up or Down for Moneyball

Every night I turn on the TV and it’s on. I walk into the room and my wife is watching it, again. And most times I stop and watch some, if not all, of Moneyball.

I’m not a fan of sports movies in general. After broadcasting thousands of events, I think too often these movies fail to capture the “real-life” story of their game. Most times the drama on the screen doesn’t match the way things really are on the field. Most sports movies are made for the public in general, rather than for actual sports fans. Watered down and dumbed down.

I think Moneyball is different. In my opinion, it is a terrific movie and a wonderful baseball movie. Sure, there is a good degree of poetic license. One of the main characters, Peter Brand, never existed. And the 2002 A’s biggest stars – Hudson, Mulder, Zito, Tejada and Chavez – are hardly mentioned. True, they were the main reason this team won 103 games. Some well-respected baseball colleagues of mine consider the movie a bomb. This still surprises me. As a baseball movie, I still consider it a home run.  It was fun and it made me laugh!

I’m not a huge Brad Pitt fan. However, this is the best I’ve ever seen him perform in a film. In this movie I felt as though he was a lifetime baseball man. As for Jonah Hill, he is one of the best. Watch him in any movie and you’re on the ground laughing. Superbad is one of my all-time favorites and, again, very true-to-life. Hill's timing and delivery is second-to-none.  I’ll tweet this post to him to get his thoughts.

From a broadcaster’s point of view, I feel the day to day aspect of this movie was extremely authentic. From scenes in the clubhouse, the team offices and with the scouts. From my time in the game, this really is the way it happens. Baseball people really can be as petty or arrogant as many of these characters are. This movie truly captured big league baseball, in my opinion. I am glad some facts didn’t get in the way of this great story.

What do you think? Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down for Moneyball? Be sure to vote in our poll.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Broadcasting Because Of Dad

This Father's Day I'm reminded of a question I've gotten quite often from broadcast students.

"Do some broadcasters get their job just because of who their Dad is?"

The answer is very simple - yes.

There are plenty of examples of big time broadcasters who hold the position solely because their Dad was/is a big time broadcaster, executive or power player of some sort. It's true, get used to it. And the truth is that some of them are just not good enough to get there on their own. I've always felt that out of...let's say 150 minor league baseball broadcasters, there are at least a couple dozen that are skilled enough and should be in the big leagues.

The cynical trap many fall into, however, is to think broadcasting is any different than any other area of life. Do some business professionals rise to their rank only because of their genealogy? Of course. Are some entertainers riding high because of big daddy's pockets? Certainly. It also happens to managers, accountants, attorneys and janitors too. That's life.

Because broadcasters are in the public eye, it seems that so many of them are simply picked because of who their father was. The truth, however, is that it's probably the same percentage as in any other area of life. In addition, for each one who may be undeserving, there's a Joe Buck who has risen to become a legit number one, regardless of his bloodlines. In fact, give him credit for learning from a master, his Dad Jack Buck. He overcame the double-edged sword of having to grow through his father's shadow.

As a broadcaster, don't let yourself become too jaded to see that YOU control YOU. Life isn't always fair, and this industry is no different. You can't worry about other people from other situations. Life is too short. You’ve got a game to do.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

10 Things I Dislike About Baseball In 2012

- Broadcasters who scream and use cute catch-phrases to attract attention and appear on Sportscenter. The ESPN-ization of sports media.

- The infield shift, employed by more and more teams. I understand it, but it just doesn’t ring true to me.

- Sideline reporters who deliver canned material and graphics. We don’t need you for that. We can get it from the others in the booth. Please give us some material that is going to add to our viewing experience.

- Inter-League Play. We’ve had Inter-League play most years since 1903. It’s called the World Series.

- The claw and antlers. The Rangers wanted team unity, but I think they just look ridiculous. Pump your fist. Clap your hands. Seems like something out of a bad video game.

- Highlight shows that focus first and foremost on home runs. Read Keith Hernanzez's book Pure Baseball
 to see how nuanced each game really is.

- Instant replay. I’ve always felt the human element is part of the game’s magic. Even in no-hitters such as Johan Santana’s and near-no-hitters, such as R.A. Dickey’s.

- Broadcasters who refer to the team as “We”. You are there to describe. You don’t change the outcome of even one pitch.

- Umpires who act like they are bigger than the game. Like broadcasters, the only person who watches the game because of an umpire is his mother. (Thanks Marty Glickman for using that line to refer to broadcasters)

- The end of the season. Even with these nitpicks, it is still the greatest game ever invented.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Warner Fusselle

I met Warner Fusselle on August 22, 1994. It was my first season calling minor league baseball for the Hudson Valley Renegades. My broadcast partner, Bill Rogan, and I had to deliver a tape to a “This Week In Baseball” producer in South Hackensack, New Jersey. Fussell was the longtime host of TWIB, and it was quite a thrill to meet a broadcasting icon that day.

I grew up watching “This Week In Baseball.” I looked forward to TWIB’s airing before a Mets weekend game even more than the game itself. (In fact, the show’s theme song was recently my cell phone ring tone for a couple years) As we stood talking to Warner Fusselle in his crowded office in New Jersey, I recall thinking “I can’t wait to tell my Dad I met Warner Fusselle!” He was extremely gracious and cordial, and we had a nice visit. I had met many sports and broadcasting figures that year, but none compared to meeting the voice of “This Week In Baseball,” Warner Fusselle.

Five years later, I was the basketball play by play voice of the Army Cadets at West Point. On December 20th, Army played Seton Hall at the Meadowlands Arena in New Jersey. Before the game, I introduced myself to Warner Fusselle, who was calling games for Seton Hall. He remembered me from our brief meeting years earlier. We did a great pregame interview, chatting about college hoops and broadcasting in general. It was great to hear him tell stories in his familiar southern voice.

Classic baseball broadcasters have had the ability to come into our home and, in turn, bring us to the ballpark. Ernie Harwell, Marty Glickman and Red Barber had this talent. So did Warner Fusselle. Whether it was “This Week In Baseball”, college hoops or the Brooklyn Cyclones, Fusselle had that warm, friendly sound that made you feel like you were watching the game with a friend. Sports fans – and broadcasting fans – undoubtedly had one in Warner Fusselle.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cohen or Kay on TV?

This weekend’s question was - Who is the better TV Play By Play broadcaster, the Mets’ Gary Cohen or the Yankees’ Michael Kay.
In our nationwide, unscientific poll, you chose Cohen over Kay 60% to 40%.

I asked for some input, specifically relating to the following criteria -

How do you factor in:
- Knowledge
- Enthusiasm
- Credentials
- Voice Quality
- Style
- Broadcast Partners

Rather than a full dissertation on the role and duties of a play by play broadcaster, here are my thoughts on these points.

In terms of knowledge, I don’t think you can argue that each of these guys lives and dies with his club. They each grew up watching and rooting for the team for which he now works. Kay knows the Yankees extremely well, and Cohen’s knowledge of Mets history is borderline encyclopedic.

As for enthusiasm, Kay is certainly the more overtly enthusiastic of the two. Especially if you measure simply by voice elevation, volume, etc. In fact, many would argue that this is a negative in his style, going overboard with his Pinstripe enthusiasm and catch phrases.

These two broadcast veterans have paid their dues. After Fordham, Kay worked up the newspaper reporting ranks before hopping over to the radio airwaves. He held a variety of TV positions and eventually moved from radio to the YES Network. I think he is terrific as a daytime talk-show host, which allows him to showcase his deep and passionate knowledge in all areas of sports.
Cohen excelled calling games in the minor leagues, not to mention years broadcasting locally and nationally - college basketball, Olympic hockey, and much more. He’s been a consummate pro, calling a variety of spots for a long time.

I don’t think you can equate Kay’s raspy voice to the clear pipes of Gary Cohen. I’ve never believed, by the way, that this should be one of the top criteria in judging a broadcaster. Simply put, however, Cohen was blessed with a terrific, clear broadcasting voice. Kay’s can become grating at times.

Both of these TV broadcasters did well on radio, with descriptive styles that painted the word picture for the listener. Television is a different medium, where less is often more. I see Kay often doing radio play by play on TV, using too many descriptive words when less will do. Cohen occasionally does the same. After a longtime career in radio, these habits can become ingrained.

When it comes to broadcast partners, it is an advantage to work consistently with the same team. In Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez, Gary Cohen has two regular counterparts with which to banter and develop on-air chemistry. Michael Kay has a larger cast of characters, from David Cone and Ken Singleton to Al Leiter, John Flaherty and Paul O’Neill. In my estimation, however, he handles the revolving booth quite well. Both men excel at setting their color partners up to succeed and share their vast experiences with the viewer.

In conclusion, both of these broadcasters have attributes that make them well liked and respected by fans and colleagues. Kay is a Yankee fan through and through, and it comes across on the air. To me, however, Gary Cohen is the more classic, Marty Glickman-like TV play by play guy. He very rarely has a verbal flub. He maintains a steady even-handedness, and he hardly ever gets overly riled up. These are some of the reasons why I feel Gary Cohen is the best TV play by play broadcaster calling New York baseball.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Best TV Play By Play Voice In New York

Who is the best TV play by play voice in New York?
Gary Cohen or Michael Kay?
Pretty simple question, right? Does it necessarily come down to your team allegiance?

How do you factor in:
- Knowledge
- Enthusiasm
- Credentials
- Voice Quality
- Style
- Broadcast Partners

Perhaps one is more of a shill than the other. Maybe one has a deeper baseball knowledge. Is either smoother on the air? What are your thoughts?

Please vote and the next post will discuss the results.
You must be on the web version of the blog to vote, not on the mobile phone version. (just click the button to switch, simple)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Proper English On The Hardcourt

Isn’t it great when we hear the English language used properly? Especially in the sports world.

During Game 4 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals this week, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo said the Miami Heat were “complaining and crying to the referees.”

After the game, Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said, “I could really care less…” However he quickly changed the beginning of his statement to, “I couldn’t care less….” Bravo coach! Saying he "could" care less means that he actually does care a little. He quickly corrected to clearly make the point that he does not care about Rondo's comments.

Am I the only one who still applauds when the language is used correctly? Am I the only one so….ahem…uptight about such things? How many broadcasters could pass this high standard? Sadly, not enough of them. (That’s a sentence fragment, by the way. It’s a blog. Get over it.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Little League Slugger

I spent the 2000 season broadcasting for the New York Yankees AA affiliate Norwich Navigators. As often was the case, many of the Yankees brass would take the short trip to Norwich, Connecticut to spend some time with the top prospects. One rainy afternoon, Reggie Jackson showed up.

Even though the game was in jeopardy due to the ongoing drizzle, I strolled down to the Navigators clubhouse to grab Reggie for a pre-game interview. We met, shook hands and exchanged a few moments of small talk. He apologized and told me he was on his way to work with some hitters.
“I’ll catch you later,” Mr. October said to me. No problem. I took my recorder and headed back into the team offices to take care of some of my more mundane pre-game duties. The following story was recounted in the next morning’s newspaper.

After working with some of the hitters in the batting cage, Reggie Jackson was hanging around, waiting to see if they were going to play through the inclement weather. As was the norm with a Yankees affiliate (especially one with Drew Henson), the team often played host to national and, occasionally, international media.

A few media members and coaches were milling around near the underground batting cage. One foreign broadcaster was clearly out of place, apparently having never covered baseball before. He looked at Reggie Jackson and said, “I always liked this game of baseball. I was pretty good in…you call it Little League.” Reggie nodded kindly.

He then glanced up and again tried to make small talk with Jackson. Very matter-of-factly, he asked, “How about you? Did you play? Were you any good in Little League?”
Mr. October looked up at the reporter and responded with amazement, “Little League? I was the whole game!”

About an hour later the game was officially called off due to rain. I never did get the interview, as Jackson was long gone by the time I got back down to the clubhouse. I bet he was pretty darn good in Little League, though.

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Saying Nothing On The Air

Last night during Johan Santana’s remarkable Mets no-hitter, I saw a terrific broadcaster do a terrific job by saying nothing. Hugh? But isn’t a broadcaster supposed to talk? And most DO! They talk, and talk and talk. And more than a few yell and yell and yell. So how can a broadcaster succeed by saying nothing?

The goal of the play by play broadcaster is to bring the listener into the game, so to speak. The great Marty Glickman used to say he wanted the viewer/listener to “feel” as if they were sitting next to him at the game. Let them experience every emotion along with each fan in the stands.
On last night’s final pitch, Mets TV play by play man Gary Cohen exuberantly declared that Santana had completed the first no-hitter in Mets history…..and then he shut up! For 64 seconds he said nothing. (I timed it with my DVR and iPhone) Also silent were Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling, his broadcast partners. Whether it was planned or not, it was masterful broadcasting.

As I watched Santana being mobbed by his teammates, I felt as though I was in the stadium. I didn’t have some obnoxious loudmouth yelling in my ear. It wasn’t about the broadcaster, it was about the moment. Because of the words they didn’t say, it was a wonderful moment for me, the viewer.

When I called the final out of the Hudson Valley Renegades New York Penn League title in 1999, I tried to employ much the same tactic. After an excited description of the game’s final pitch (a strikeout), I let the crowd fill the broadcast air. On radio I didn’t let it go 64 seconds, but surely for 10 or 20 my listeners heard a jubilant crowd and fireworks filling the air. Gary Cohen I’m not, but I’m proud to say I learned a thing or two from Marty Glickman.

How many broadcasters would have let us enjoy that moment by saying nothing?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

ESPN Sunday Night Broadcast Team

Dan Shulman is a real pro. He's terrific - measured, informed and enlightening. But, we still miss Jon Miller. Sunday nights just aren't the same. Any how about Orel Hershiser and Terry Francona? From our hundreds of students over the years, we already know what most of you thought about Joe Morgan. (even though we don't really agree) What are your thoughts on the new Sunday team?