Tenure In The Outfield

Baseball is known for its colorful characters and hilarious moments.  Where fact meets fiction, sometimes it’s hard to tell.

Take, for example, one of baseball's best players of all-time.

The story goes that one day, while riding on the team bus to the ballpark, this baseball immortal overheard a teammate discussing longevity in the game and retirement with a young rookie.

Ask he inched closer, the rookie asked him, 

“Hey, you’ve got tenure, right?”

“Ten years?” The star shot back quickly. “I've got twenty years in the big leagues!”

Care to guess who that was?

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Why We Miss Ernie Harwell

Ernie Harwell was a gem of a man.  An accomplished poet, inventor, musician, devoted family man, Christian, mentor…..and yes, a pretty good baseball broadcaster as well.  4 years after he passed away, we miss him today as much as ever.

I covered a lot of ballgames in the mid-90’s, as a 20-year-old college broadcaster at WFUV Radio at New York’s Fordham University.  I’d take the D Train from Fordham Road down to Yankee Stadium, catch a pre-game meal, take in batting practice on the field, watch the game and then collect interviews for use on air.  For a college-aged sports fan, there was nothing better.

During one of my first assignments, I sat in the Press Lounge, preparing to eat my breakfast before the Yankees’ 1:00 game a few hours later.  As I jabbed my fork into my scrambled eggs, a hand tapped my table and a gentle voice asked,
“Would it be okay if I sit and eat with you?”  It was Ernie Harwell.

I contained my shock and excitement long enough to invite him to sit and join me.
Over the next half hour he shared a lot – tales, advice, insight and perspective on the sports broadcasting industry.   Much like the great Marty Glickman, he seemed intent on learning my story and sharing his willingness to help.  We had a great breakfast and he even passed me his phone number, in case I needed a tape critiqued in the future.  Did I?  You bet I did.

Later that season, while broadcasting in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays farm system, I sent Ernie a tape and asked for his thoughts.  Soon thereafter we spoke at length on the phone, and he laid out some concrete, real-world ways I could improve.  He ended the call by saying, “Rick, just keep on keeping on!”

Today I counsel young sportscasters, and one main theme I constantly try to drill into their head is to take every opportunity to learn from a successful mentor.  Ask for insight and most of the time they will provide it to you.

In a day where much of our sportscasting culture is wrapped up around ego-boosting soundbytes, catch-phrases and clich├ęs, its refreshing to think back to a man who was never too big to give back.  

We all miss Ernie Harwell much more than we realize.

How Badly Do You Want Your Broadcasting Dream?

"You will never reach your goal in Sports Broadcasting."

You've probably heard that phrase about a dozen times, at least if you've been pursuing a career in the industry for a least five minutes.

I recently received an email from a despondent broadcast professional who was wondering when he'd get his big break.  My advice to him was that he would get his big break, provided he was willing to struggle, sacrifice and push through until that day arrived.

Some get the big break sooner than later.  Some broadcasters simply get to a point where the dream doesn't justify the sacrifice.  A great majority of broadcasters tailor their "dream" to create their own breaks and make it fit into their new career framework.

Broadcasters understand exactly what I mean.  For most sportscasters, the days are usually long and hard before one reaches higher levels of success.

For this reason, you need to determine the true "WHY" behind your career aspirations.  Once you do, you need some kind of roadmap to keep you on target to reach your full potential.

These are two books that have been extremely influential and helpful for countless professionals across all industries.  Whether you are struggling through the minor leagues or on top of the world, I'm sure they will help you too.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

The Traveler's Gift: Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success

The Most Difficult Sport To Broadcast

“Baseball is the most difficult sport to broadcast.  I can't believe how tough it is to call a baseball game!”

I hear that all the time....and I couldn't disagree more.

I usually counter by saying, “Yes, but only if you don’t prepare.”

My belief is that, with rigorous and thorough preparation, baseball is the easiest and most enjoyable game to broadcast.  Specifically on radio, calling a baseball game is roughly 10 percent action and 90 percent fill.  No preparation, no fill.  No fill and you are done.

For this reason I’ve always felt I am in complete control over how my baseball broadcast evolves.  Sure I cannot control the action, but I can prepare myself to make the most of the subsequent downtime.

On the other end of the spectrum, hockey, basketball and football present a broadcaster with a much higher percentage of action, compared to down time.  Not that I would advise just showing up and mailing it in, but with hockey or basketball you may, on occasion, be able to wing it.  Baseball offers no such luxury.

I’ve always ranked the four major sports, in order of radio broadcasting difficulty, as hockey, basketball, football and baseball.  They each require unique broadcasting competencies and skills.  No two sports are the same.

How would you rank the most difficult sports to broadcast?


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Don't Be An Amateur Broadcaster

Amateur broadcasters think people tune in to hear them on the air.
Professional broadcasters know fans tune in for the game.

Amateur broadcasters think talent is the most important ingredient to their success.
Professional broadcasters know talent is nothing without passion and hard work.

Amateur broadcasters think sports broadcasting leads to a glamorous life.
Professional sportscasters know that there is no guarantee of a glamorous life.

Amateur sports broadcasters expect to hit the big time shortly after graduating college.
Professional sportscasters are prepared to work for little or no money during, or even after, college.
Amateur sportscasters think they know it all.
Professional sports broadcasters know they will never know it all.

Amateur broadcasters think the big-timers won’t help them.
Professional broadcasters help others because they were once helped.

Amateur sportscasters show up to work hard on the air.
Professional sportscasters work hard and then show up to broadcast.

Amateur sports broadcasters clock in and out with complacency. 
Professional sports broadcasters are always reading, learning and improving.

 Which are you? 

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