Battaino becomes third broadcaster in Solar Bears history

(Orlando Solar Bears News Release) Joey Battaino has been named director of communications & broadcasting for the Orlando Solar Bears. He becomes the third broadcaster in franchise history.

“We would like to welcome Joey to the Orlando Solar Bears,” says team president Chris Heller. “He brings several years of experience and game calling to the position and we can’t wait to get started.”

Battaino moves to Orlando after six seasons in the OHL with the Saginaw Spirit. Prior to that he spent time with the NAHL’s Odessa Jackalopes, the Michigan Warriors, and the IHL’s Flint Generals.

In addition to calling Solar Bears games, Battaino will be responsible for overseeing the club’s media relations and communications.

“I am honored to join the Orlando Solar Bears organization,” said Battaino. “I’d like to thank Team President Chris Heller and the RDV Sports Group for the opportunity to be the voice of the Solar Bears. I can’t wait to get down to Orlando and meet our staff, players, coaches, and fans.”

Wyart returning to LA to join Fox Sports Radio

Kevin Wyart left Los Angeles in 2017 so that one day he could return. He aspired to work in sports radio but his home market isn’t one where entry-level broadcasters cut their chops. That’s why five years ago, Wyart moved to Winston-Salem, NC to gain experience as a studio host for Learfield. Now, he is returning to LA as a sports anchor for Fox Sports Radio.

“It is a network radio job located in my home market of Los Angeles,” Wyart enthuses.

Setting himself apart

The FSR opportunity came to Wyart in an STAA Job Leads+ email. He applied immediately, then took the critical step of following-up his application. “It was no coincidence that within a week of calling the contact person for Fox Sports Radio — listed in the sports radio directory in the STAA Member Community — that I received an email asking for an interview.

“Another thing I was able to do to stand out was use my board-op and producing experience to offer help in filling in as needed to help in running their programming.”

Help from STAA

Wyart has been an STAA member since 2014. “The job leads and emails with career advice are worth it alone,” he states. “Add on the Member Community with all the various tools and resources, along with the contact info for major employers, and it’s a no-brainer.”

One career challenge Wyart has overcome is the lack of on-air opportunities in his home market. “I had a great job with Learfield but was afraid I would never be able to find an opportunity to work in sports radio back home in Los Angeles,” he recalls. “The biggest thing I’ve learned so far is that if you put in the hard work and show initiative, people will notice, and it will lead to future opportunities. It may not always feel like it, but people take notice.

“I just grinded away doing the best I can, and the hiring folks at Fox Sports Radio were impressed by my work.”

Beedon takes unusual path to Motor City Rockers

Roger Beedon was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1986. He played collegiately at Ohio State, then professionally for the Port Huron Border Cats of the CoHL/UHL. Roger’s son Brady, though, preferred football, basketball and baseball. “It may have also helped that my mom liked the warm gyms and the lower price tag on other sports too,” Brady jokes.

The senior Beedon’s hockey influence wasn’t completely lost on his son, though. Brady is one of the two new play-by-play voices for the Motor City Rockers.

Beedon credits his father for letting him forge his own path. “All the credit in the world to my dad. He never tried to force hockey on me and supported whatever sport I was trying at the time. Despite the fact that I never played hockey, I always would go to games with my dad, basically from birth (pictured).”

The Rockers opportunity arose in quite a roundabout way. They planned on being an expansion team for the 2020-21 FPHL season. Beedon interviewed for the broadcasting position and was told the job was his. The team, though, never got off the ground that season. Fast forward to this year, where Beedon picks up the story.

“I am just a fan at a Port Huron Prowlers game — another team in the FPHL — and I am introduced to the ownership group looking to revive the Rockers brand and take over. I spoke to them about the possibility of being a part of their broadcast team. I also formally applied when the posting came to me in an STAA Jobs Leads+ email.”

After what Beedon calls “a pretty informal process,” he ended up as a part of the broadcast team alongside Ben Szilagy.

Beedon joined STAA after graduating from Wayne State in 2020. “I found STAA through sheer luck of Googling and searching for job openings right out of college. STAA was the only place that seemed to have legit, relevant job leads,” he recalls. “It has also helped me polish my craft through the group critiques that are offered.”

Like his dad, Beedon was a standout athlete — a former fullback at Wayne State University in Detroit. While Beedon is new to Rockers hockey, he isn’t new to sportscasting. He’s the analyst on Wayne State football broadcasts and a fill-in for volleyball and women’s basketball. He also broadcasts St Clair County Community College volleyball, men’s & women’s basketball and high school football, basketball, baseball, and softball.

“I like to have a diverse skill set,” Beedon explains. “I don’t want to pigeon hole myself into just one or two sports, so the opportunity to resume doing professional hockey, and one close to home, was one I wanted to jump on.

“I hope this is not the last job opportunity I find through STAA.”

Draude leaving Iowa comfort zone for Wenatchee Wild

Austin Draude has lived his entire life in Iowa. That includes calling games for North Iowa Bulls hockey for the past nine seasons. But Draude believes that growth comes with change. That is why he’s leaving the Bulls and the comfort of The Hawkeye State to join the Wenatchee Wild.

“I love Iowa. Love the Midwest,” Draude explains. “Lots of great hockey opportunities here and most of my family is within a few hours of me, which has allowed me to be pretty selective as to which opportunities I go after.” However, the Wild organization’s sustained excellence made it through Draude’s selectivity filter.

“The Wild are a first-rate organization in one of the best junior hockey leagues on the continent, but it’s also a chance to see some new areas of the country and the sport.

“The general manager, Bliss Littler, is the winningest junior hockey coach in American history. I’ve known of him since he was coaching in Topeka almost a quarter-century ago, and then when he moved on to two USHL jobs in Nebraska. His teams played against Des Moines, where I grew up. He runs his organization with an intention on doing things right. I greatly respect that.”

The Wenatchee position opened when their beloved and longtime broadcaster Arch Ecker recently passed away. While the organization and it’s fans mourned, they also knew they needed to hire Ecker’s replacement. They contacted STAA.

“The job was posted in an STAA’s Job Leads+ email last Friday. I ended up applying for it Monday. My interview was Wednesday; they offered the position the same day, Draude recalls.

A recommendation from his friend Sean Zears boosted Draude’s candidacy. Zears had been filling-in for the Wild since Ecker’s passing and is closely connected to the Wenatchee organization. “Shortly after Sean sent a note to Bliss recommending me, I got an email back to schedule an interview. I know for certain that note carried some weight,” Draude states.

Draude was strategic in deciding the time of day at which to submit his application. “I applied mid-morning on Monday. Knowing that Washington state is two hours behind Iowa, I figured when [Bliss] first checked his inbox that morning, I could time it to be close to the top.”

Draude adds with a smile, “Not sure if it helped but it made sense to me.”

As for the pending move from the Corn Belt to the Pacific Northwest, Draude admits to some trepidation. “To be honest I’m kind of terrified,” he grins. “I’ve never been to Washington state. However, I also know that a lot of things are capable of happening in your comfort zone, and growth usually is not one of them.”

Draude joined STAA in 2014. He has attended an STAA sportscasting seminar in North Carolina and a play-by-play retreat in San Diego. “The job leads are a big part of why I’ve remained part of STAA all that time,” he says. “But it’s also being able to get feedback from [STAA Owner Jon Chelesnik] on the job search or the industry itself. And it’s the networking with other STAA members that comes with the membership. Some of my closest contacts and closest friends in broadcasting are STAA members.”

One thing Draude will need in his new job is a passport. The Wild are the only U.S.-based team in the British Columbia Hockey League. Fortunately, he already has one. “I actually got it when I started full-time with the Bulls, for just such an emergency. That time is apparently here,” he grins.

Joey Dwyer to call Mayhem hockey

Joey Dwyer loved broadcasting SPHL hockey last season for the Quad Cities Storm. He is from QC and enjoyed the organization. The job, though, was part-time. Therefore, when Dwyer saw in an STAA Job Leads+ email that SPHL foe Macon had a full-time opening, he leapt into action. Now, Dwyer is the new Broadcaster/Account Executive for the Mayhem.

“Once I applied, Quad City Storm President Brian Rothenberger put in a good word for me in Macon and I got an interview,” Dwyer recalls. The rest, as they say, is history.

“Being from the Quad Cities and a life-long hockey fan, I loved my time with the Storm,” Dwyer states. “Their broadcasting position was through a company, QCSportsNet, that was contracted to do the games so I was operating on a part-time basis. The QCSportsNet guys are awesome and treated me so well, but after I graduated from Illinois State, I was looking for a full-time position. With my SPHL experience, I felt comfortable finding my footing in the league.”

Dwyer is the second STAA member to broadcast for Macon. Alex vonKeudell spent two seasons there after being hired in 2018. Dwyer joined STAA this year. “The combination of advice and job opportunities really made it a no-brainer for me!”

Dwyer has been broadcasting since his freshman year at Illinois State University in 2017. He started at campus radio station WZND. “I touched on every facet of radio. I served as the production director and assistant sports director as well as being a DJ and hosting a weekly sports talk show.”

Hockey’s speed makes it Dwyer’s favorite sport to broadcast. “The pace of hockey along with my existing knowledge of the game makes it fun and a somewhat seamless call for me. Also from what I’ve found in minor league hockey, you seldom come across someone with [bad] intent. Everyone is there to help one another succeed. It’s such a cool environment to be a part of.”

Lynch chooses perseverance over quitting, lands with Hat Tricks

A play-by-play broadcasting career almost didn’t happen for Chris Lynch. “I nearly gave up on the sports pursuit when the pandemic hit. I’m so grateful I didn’t do that and stuck to it.”

Chalk up another win for perseverance. Lynch is the new Play-by-Play/Media Relations person Danbury Hat Tricks of the FPHL, NAHL and NA3HL.

It’s Lynch’s first full-time job in sports broadcasting. “It gives me the chance to capitalize on years as a college hockey writer and prior junior hockey freelance experience,” he states. Lynch is also the third consecutive STAA member to broadcast for Danbury. He follows Casey Bryant in 2019 and Josh Starr last year.

Various experience

Lynch is a graduate of Boston University and the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. His freelance sports media experience ranges from reporting and writing to play-by-play. That includes calling hockey for Tufts University and the Junior Women’s Hockey League. Learning to manage the various pieces of his freelance schedule has been key for Lynch.

“It’s been so important for me to stay disciplined in my scheduling so I know when I’m available to work and can fill my schedule correctly,” he shares. “As a freelancer, your time is your most important currency. You must always keep stock of your availability and fill your time commitments.

Lynch is taking those time management skills to the Hat Tricks. “As a full-time staffer, you have to maximize the time in office to get everything done.”

Confident approach

One thing Lynch believes helped him land the Danbury opportunity was his approach to the job interview. “I walked into the building with confidence that I would land the job,” he recalls. “I’ve gone into other interviews with a more ‘happy to be here’ attitude and did not get those jobs. This one, I walked in with an, ‘I want to be here’ attitude and it landed.”

Lynch has been an STAA member since 2020. He learned of the Hat Tricks opening in an STAA Job Leads+ email. “The [emails] have given me so much more insight to the movement of people from job to job and place to place so I know what’s happening in the sports world.”

When Lynch looks back upon the dark days of the pandemic and his thoughts of leaving play-by-play, he does so with pride.

“I’m happy I didn’t leave.”

Graf and his camera going to KNDU in Washington

David Graf aspired for a radio sports broadcasting career until he picked up a TV camera. “It’s still weird seeing myself on camera, but I love being behind the camera. Shooting sports videos and sharing highlight-worthy plays on television and social media is an unbelievable feeling,” he says.

Graf will be doing much of that as he joins KNDU in Kennewick, WA as a sports anchor/reporter. It’s the perfect position for a sports fan who is joined at the hip with his camera.

Achieving a goal

KNDU/KNDO is owned by Cowles Media. It’s a company for which Graf has long wanted to work. “I developed a relationship with the recruiter there and made it a point to check in regularly with him. When I saw there was this opening, I immediately reached out to him and asked if he thought I would be a good fit. He told me I’d be an excellent fit in the Tri Cities. I quickly sent my materials to the News Director [Stephanie Ashley]. I received an interview and took things from there.

Graf moves to the Pacific Northwest after nearly two years at KCWY/KGWN in Casper, WY. He is a 2019 graduate of the University of Wyoming.

Graf joined STAA this year upon the recommendation of Iowa Cubs Broadcaster Alex Cohen, an STAA member since 2011. “The first time I heard about STAA was when I interviewed Alex for a podcast series,” Graf recalls. “He mentioned all of the benefits that he’d received from STAA. I checked out the website more when I was searching for my new job, and I figured the worst that could happen by being a member was that I got a new job out of it.”

Job market changes

Fortunately for Graf, his tongue-in-cheek “worst thing that could happen” unfolded. He got the KNDU job, but not before making critical changes in his job market approach. “The resume and cover letter critiques from [STAA] radically changed my job search,” he states. “The tips and pointers showed immediate results. There wasn’t a job that I applied for after making those tweaks that I didn’t at least receive an interview for.”

He adds, “The one thing that was especially helpful in my job search was being flexible. I was flexible with my reel, resume, cover letter, etc. You have to be willing to change and adapt what you’re sending out into the world to try and grab people’s attention.”

Now Graf is moving to Washington State, a place where he’s long wanted to live. “I have many close friends and family that live only a few hours away from me as opposed to being pretty isolated as I’ve been living in Wyoming for the last couple of years. I’m also excited to cover high school and college sports and Minor League Baseball.”

Accompanying Graf to those events will, of course, be his camera. “When I first picked up a camera to shoot video, I didn’t have much of a clue. But now, it feels strange to be at a sporting event without one.”

Karp’s creative genius captures attention of FOX61 Hartford

When the Alabama Crimson Tide reached college football’s 2022 National Championship Game, FOX54 in Huntsville, AL sent much of its staff to cover the game. That left Sports Anchor/Reporter Jonah Karp alone in studio for a week. He decided to have some fun. He converted the studio into a Crimson Tide timeline and recorded an interactive year in review. “I didn’t stop talking or moving for three straight minutes,” Karp grins. “That piece is something I’ll be happy to show people 30 years from now.”

That creativity grabbed the attention of FOX61 in Hartford, CT. Now, Karp is joining their staff as a sports anchor/reporter.

Creative approach

“I’m confident my creativity helped me get to this point,” Karp states. “In my previous role, I was always looking for a chance to be creative, and ideally, unique. I would ask myself, ‘what can I do to best capture someone’s attention and imagination?'”

Karp captured attention one Monday last August. The local minor league baseball team was off and little was happening regionally. His creative juices started flowing. “Determined to make something-out-of-nothing, I choreographed a bit of me talking to myself. I drove out to Toyota Field that morning and shot a standup where I tossed to player-sound I had shot the day before. When I returned to the studio, I rehearsed the song-and-dance twice (unsuccessfully) and figured out the timing. The red light came on and I spoke to myself on camera…LIVE! That was a rush!”

Karp’s efforts were recognized beyond Huntsville. In April, the Alabama Broadcasters Association named him the “Best Sports Personality” in the state.

“The point is this: I’m in this position because I continuously push myself creatively, and had a tremendous support system who provided that platform.

“FOX54 is composed of supremely talented, hardworking and genuinely good individuals. As a collective, they are a powerhouse. They pushed me to expand my creative horizons.”

Moving up

Still, Karp wanted to work in a larger market and live closer to his family in New York. He pounced on the FOX61 opportunity when he saw it in an STAA Job Leads email.

“From a professional standpoint, I would be jumping to a top-35 market and anchoring more times per week. Plus, I would be within driving distance to the professional teams I grew up watching on television. An opportunity to cover all of Connecticut while being a stone’s throw away from New York and Boston? It was an easy decision for me to make.

“From a personal standpoint, I would be within weekend-driving distance to much of my family and hometown friends.”

Now those family and friends will get to enjoy Karp’s on-air creativity — like what he did the day after Christmas last year. “I had to host a 30-minute sports show on the same day I was the only news anchor, sports anchor AND news reporter. I spent all week producing a show tailored to the holiday season, complete with some ‘magic.’ It was so rewarding to see the finished product.

“Not every attempt worked the way I had envisioned. But I was never ashamed to try something outside the box and I never regretted trying. The reel I sent to FOX61 was jam-packed with creative and unique content.

“It was always a goal of mine to get closer to home. FOX61 gave me that opportunity.”

Digby’s gamble to leave his job pays off

Matt Digby gambled on himself in the hope that he could live closer to his parents in Ohio. He won. Digby is joining 24/7 Now WRGT in Dayton, OH as a Sports MMJ.

“I first heard of the opening through STAA at the end of June. When the station first reached out to me, I was actually visiting family in Europe. However, I am thankful that we were able to have an in-person interview after I returned to the US, he says.”

Going home

Digby is a Buckeye State native and an alumnus of Ohio University. He spent the past seven years at WOAY TV in Oak Hill, VA but wanted so much to return to his home state that he resigned from WOAY without having another job. “It was definitely a big risk,” he recalls. I was fortunate that I was having interviews with multiple stations in various locations at the time.

“I wasn’t limiting myself to jobs in Ohio, but it definitely doesn’t hurt that Dayton is a quick drive away from my parents.”

Relationship building

Though he’s moving on, Digby cherishes his time at WOAY. “I am very thankful to my colleagues in West Virginia for all their help over the years. My goal is to keep in touch with them in the future, even if it’s something very quick as saying hello. Relationships do matter, and I’m glad I’ve been able to grow in building new relationships with fellow sportscasters.”

Relationship-building opportunities is a main reason Digby has been an STAA member since 2013. “STAA remains a great tool to connect with fellow sportscasters,” he states. “Whether it’s the chance for in-person meetings or Zoom seminars, I’m able to establish new relationships and also learn new tips that have helped me both with my previous positions and also applying for new jobs.”

Digby said in a 2015 story about joining WOAY, “If you are truly committed to getting a job in this business, you will get a job. It may take longer than you’d like, but it’s worth the wait.” Today he adds, “I stand by that statement, and am very excited for this next chapter!

“Once I began talking with Dayton and weighed various factors, it became very clear that this was the best fit for me.”

The gamble paid off.

DeBiase eager to create memorable moments in Wyoming

Moments that stand in time. That is where Colton DeBiase’s passion for play-by-play is rooted. “I love hearing the roar of the crowd with the play-by-play announcer responsible for making sure that particular moment stands in time and will play in the ears of fans for decades,” he states.

DeBiase will be creating such moments for sports fans in Gillette, WY. He is following fellow STAA Member Chris Brintle as sports director at Basin Radio Network. Brintle left last month for a TV play-by-play opportunity.

A fun coincidence

DeBiase learned of the opening in an STAA Job Leads email. He applied immediately. “It was a hilarious coincidence when I was first contacted for the position,” DeBiase recalls. “I was at a session with my voice coach when a Wyoming caller ID came across my phone. I felt it was the station, knowing I had applied for the job a few days prior. I answered the phone and it was them. After having a lengthy conversation about the position afterwards with my voice coach, I knew it would be the perfect fit for me. I accepted the job the next day!”

Working for Basin Radio Network means plenty of play-by-play reps for DeBiase. “I will be calling an estimated 120-130 games a year between football, basketball, and baseball. I am very excited to get started improving my craft every day and getting better with each game.”

Always improving

DeBiase was a junior at Point Park University in Pittsburgh when he joined STAA last year. “It has been the best decision I have made so far. I learned so much through STAA about improving my play-by-play skills, preparing for interviews, and using the spot charts and stat sheets STAA provides.”

One area where DeBiase has improved is voice control. “I take great pride in being enthusiastic when I am on the air doing play-by-play. However, when I began doing play-by-play for Point Park basketball games, I was screaming a little too loud when a big play was happening. Through STAA, I learned the importance of still sounding enthusiastic but controlling my voice where I am not screaming.”

Go where the jobs are

Moving from metropolitan Pittsburgh to the open plains of Gillette will be a major change for DeBiase. He appreciates, though, that he has to go where the jobs are. It will be the most significant adjustment of my life,” he states. “However, I could not be more excited about living on my own for the first time and exploring Wyoming. I look forward to exploring Keyhole State Park near Gillette and taking my paddle board on their beautiful lake.

“I knew early on I would have to do whatever it took to reach my goals as a play-by-play broadcaster. Being able to pick the brains of many broadcasters during my time in college, I learned really quickly that I could not be afraid to move if a job came. I am going to miss my family and friends very much. However, I know I will make them proud every time I put that headset on.”

DeBiase also aims to make his new employers proud. “I am so thankful for [Operations Manager] Vic Wright and his staff for believing in me and their commitment to making me a better broadcaster daily.”

And of course, DeBiase wants to create moments that stand in time.

“I love this industry with all my heart. I am honored and humbled knowing I will be driving to Wyoming and knowing I can make my mark by adding more moments to stand in time for the fans that will tune into our broadcasts!”