Onion returning to roots with Kane County Cougars

(February 16, 2018) Friday night “Kids Run the Bases” promotions were neighborhood traditions for Connor Onion growing up near Geneva, IL. The first minor league baseball game he attended was the 2000 Midwest League All-Star game in Geneva, featuring Albert Pujols and Adam Dunn. Now, the same ballpark Onion frequented as a kid has become his office. Onion is the new Broadcasting/Media Relations Assistant for the Kane County Cougars.

“Ultimately, having a knowledge of the organization helped during the application process,” Onion smiles.

Onion spent most of last season as the No. 2 with Quad Cities. He left in mid-August to prepare for a new job as the volleyball and women’s basketball voice at Southern Illinois University. His busy schedule nearly convinced Onion not to apply for Kane County. “I didn’t think I would be able to balance my work at SIU with a full season of Minor League Baseball. Eventually I decided the worst thing Kane County could tell me was no,’ so I applied.

“Fortunately – with help from both [Cougars Broadcaster and fellow STAA member] Joe Brand and Mike Reis [his boss at SIU] – the schedules align to where I’ll be able to be the Cougars #2 this summer and continue calling games at SIU.”

Being a frequent childhood visitor to baseball in Geneva isn’t Onion’s only tie to the Cougars. “In college, when I decided to get into broadcasting, I listened to Joe Brand and Wayne Randazzo when I was home for the summer. A chance to work with Joe sealed the deal for me. He’s extremely talented on the air and someone I’ve enjoyed being around off the air. He’ll challenge me to become a better broadcaster.”

Onion is a 2017 graduate of Ball State University. He’s been an STAA member since 2016.

“STAA’s job leads have had the biggest impact on my career to this point. There are blind spots within the job market that can be hard to keep up with, but STAA seems to always be on top of the latest job openings. Without STAA, I probably would not have been aware of the openings in Quad Cities and Kane County.”

(Visit Connor’s website).

Advice and assistance from friends lands Ratick in Quad Cities

(February 14, 2018) When Logan Ratick was considering an opportunity to join the broadcast team of the Quad Cities River Bandits, he contacted his friend Kit Scheetz. Scheetz pitched for QC in 2017 and helped them win the Midwest League championship. “Kit told me how great the organization was, from the front office to the fans and Modern Woodmen Park. I was instantly intrigued,” says Ratick.

Intrigued enough that Ratick applied and is the River Bandits new Broadcasting and Media Relations Assistant. He’ll work alongside lead broadcaster and fellow STAA member Jason Kempf.

A 2017 Syracuse graduate and STAA All-American, Ratick spent last summer broadcasting for the short season Idaho Falls Chukars. He had the option of returning to Idaho Falls next season but Ratick and Chukars GM Kevin Greene agreed that Ratick should make the jump to full-season baseball if he found the right opportunity.

“I am no longer a No. 1 and will probably call less innings this summer, I believe that it is important to show progression,” says Ratick. “Like baseball players, broadcasters typically want to move up through the minors in order to get closer to the ultimate goal: Major League Baseball. I also wanted to start broadcasting baseball games right after basketball season ends instead of having to wait until June.

“As someone who wants to broadcast baseball for my entire career, it is important to show people that I am capable of handling the grind that is a full season. Jason made it clear to me that he wants to provide me with enough innings and give me constructive feedback so that I can eventually land a No. 1 broadcasting job with a full-season team. I feel as though I am in a better position to get a No.1 job in A or AA now that I have made the transition from short-season to full-season.”

Ratick first contacted the River Bandits in October but didn’t hear back until early January, after they had hired Kempf to be the Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations.

“I reached out to Jason immediately and we spoke over the phone a few days later,” says Ratick.

Building relationships has long been a strength of Ratick’s.

“When I was a senior in college, I reached out to almost every short-season team regarding broadcast positions because I knew that I could not start until after I graduated in May,” he explains. “This time around (starting in October), I reached out to every full-season team that posted a broadcast opening, as well as other teams that I thought might have a vacancy.

“Networking is very important in this industry. Alex Cohen, the new voice of the Iowa Cubs [and another STAA member], has been a mentor and a friend of mine throughout my young Minor League Baseball career. He is someone who I can always go to for advice and he helped me get in touch with a lot of broadcasters, especially in the Midwest League, where he spent the last two seasons with Bowling Green.

“Alex put in the good word for me [with Quad Cities] and I interviewed with a few of the people who he had referred me to, including Jason Kempf. Between contacting almost every full-season team and talking to Alex, I felt confident that I would end up with a full-season job.

(Visit Logan’s LinkedIn page).

Persistence leads Johnson to daily sports talk show in Missouri

“Rob(February 6, 2018) In sales, it is said that “no” is a definite maybe. Rob Johnson is a sports talk host and an accomplished salesman. When a station told him in 2014 that their lineup didn’t have a place for his sports talk show, he kept in touch. Now, nearly four years later, Johnson is in the starting lineup at KMIS in Portageville, MO.

Johnson’s new gig comes with considerable freedom. “They’ve given me freedom to control my show entirely. I set the agenda for content, sponsorship, promotion and everything else,” he says.

Johnson has been talking sports since 2010 when he founded his MakinThePlay website and podcast. He hosted the show in sports bars and restaurants in Southeast Missouri before taking it to radio for three years. In 2016, the show went national with a weekly slot on SB Nation Radio. He first approached KMIS in 2014.

“At that time, KMIS was only interested in national shows, Johnson says. “Nevertheless, I touched base with them periodically, even when I was on other stations. I thought, at some point, their focus might change or they may be interested in being an affiliate for my local show that originated elsewhere.”

Ironically, KMIS carried Johnson’s show when it aired Saturdays on SB Nation. “This enabled KMIS decision makers to listen to me regularly,” he says. “Last year, the focus of KMIS did change, and they approached me about doing my local show on their station.”

One challenge Johnson faced in landing a daily show is the mindset of station managers and owners. “A priority isn’t placed on quality of content, the understanding of sports talk or the proper approach to advertising,” he says.

To overcome the challenge, Johnson maintained his listener and sponsor relationships, even when he wasn’t on the air. “By remaining relevant in the marketplace through social media and personal interaction, I kept me, my show and my brand, (the latter two being MakinThePlay) as the go-to place for sports in Southeast Missouri.”

The thing that keeps Johnson motivated when others would throw in the towel is what he calls his addiction to sports talk radio. “My passion to provide engaging, entertaining and informative sports talk is unparalleled, as are my abilities to design marketing strategies and sell my show. I started this journey late in life, so I know what I want and how to achieve it based on skills I built in my early years.”

(Visit Rob’s STAA Talent Page).

KMOX experience paves Sabados’ path to Triple-A baseball

(February 1, 2018) Matt Sabados kept two jobs during his senior year at Lindenwood University near St. Louis. One of them was running the board at KMOX for Blues hockey and Cardinals baseball. His schedule was busy but the payoff is worth it. An STAA member, Sabados is the new studio host for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies – AAA).

In addition to hosting the IronPigs postgame show, contributing to the pregame show and conducting player interviews, Sabados will run the board for all Lehigh Valley games.

“Definitely the experience I got on the board [at KMOX] helped me out on the technical side of things,” says Sabados. “It was time consuming, considering it was one of two jobs I held during my senior year of college, along with my football and basketball broadcasts, but clearly it paid off.”

Following his 2017 graduation from Lindenwood, Sabados moved to the University of North Carolina at Pembroke where he was Voice of the Braves. His heart was in baseball, though.

“I’ve been hoping to break into minor league baseball since I graduated college last May,” he says. “Obviously that’s fairly difficult since rookie ball and short-A are the only options coming right out of college, so I was pretty lucky to get a job back in college athletics after the summer.”

Sabados has been an STAA member for one year.

“I’ve always been a prompt person who likes to be one of the first in the door and the last out,” he says. “STAA makes it so easy to be one of the first ones in the door. With such great contacts and networking available, it’s easy to connect with the folks looking to make hires.”

Barrera finds great opportunity and pay in new summer collegiate league

(January 30, 2017) Daniel Barrera has landed a summer collegiate baseball play-by-play job that in many ways is better than lower-level affiliated league opportunities. Relatively great pay. Free housing. Lots of reps and a season that is short enough for him to take leave from his full-time, non-broadcasting job. Barrera has been hired as the voice of the Casper Horseheads, one of three franchises in the new Expedition summer collegiate baseball league.

The other Expedition League teams are in Aberdeen SD and Gering, NE.

Besides broadcasting all Horseheads games, Barrera’s duties include hosting pre and post game shows and some media relations and sales duties. He learned of the Casper opportunity after an Expedition League executive contacted STAA for help finding broadcasters. STAA emailed the opportunities to its members. Barrera applied for all three. When he hadn’t heard back within two weeks, he searched the Internet for a phone number for Chuck Heeman, the person in charge of hiring. They spoke. One month later, Barrera interviewed and was offered the Casper job.

“The fact that the position is paid is what really attracted me to the job in the first place,” says Barrera. “Because I already have a full-time job with benefits, I told myself that I would only resign from my office job for an affiliated job.

“At this point in my life there is a lot to think about in terms or what type of position to take (school loans and debt, health insurance, car payments, etc.). I felt leaving the security of my office job for a shot at calling baseball would only be worthwhile if I was hired with an affiliated team because there would be a connection to a major league club, possibly more stability, and the likelihood that I could turn my part-time position into full-time down the road or be in a market big enough to find other opportunities to keep me afloat financially.

“This mindset changed when I saw the listing that I got hired for. $1500 a month in any of the markets offered would likely keep me at my current standard of living (in the very expensive San Francisco Bay area).”

Also enticing to Barrera is the Expedition League’s travel schedule.

“Looking at the league footprint I realized that I could travel to places I’ve never been before and really hadn’t planned on visiting. It was very exciting to imagine the possibilities.”

Barrera believes that following up his application was key to landing the Casper job. “I was persistent, found phone numbers, called, sent follow-up emails, and essentially made the employer take notice.”

Barrera is a 2017 graduate of San Jose State University where he broadcast various Spartan sports on the campus radio station. He joined STAA last spring.

“Putting in the work to succeed is on me,” he says. “However, what I’ve found so far in sports broadcasting is that there are many things you can’t control. STAA helps you navigate what is out of your control and fills in the little things one might overlook that can have a difference and make you luckier than others in an industry that requires hard work, talent, and perhaps most importantly, luck and good timing.”

Thanks to hard work, talent and timing, Barrera will spend this summer calling baseball in Mike Lang Stadium, a 2,600 seat venue with first-class press facilities that is the former home of the Colorado Rockies’ Class-A short season team.

“It didn’t seem like I would be able to find a better opportunity anywhere else, including affiliated baseball,” Barrera grins.

(Visit Daniel’s website).

Kahn new voice of West Virginia Power baseball

(January 26, 2018) Two years ago, David Kahn accepted a job in minor league baseball that did not include play-by-play. For an aspiring broadcaster, it was an interesting choice that has paid off. An STAA member, Kahn is the new Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations for the West Virginia Power (Pirates Class-A).

In 2016, Kahn was weighing an unpaid play-by-play opportunity with a rookie league team against a media relations internship with the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs (now Baby Cakes) in the city where he was already living. He chose the latter.

“The biggest factor in that decision was that I knew [Zephyrs broadcaster] Tim Grubbs very well,” says Kahn. “Despite not having any guaranteed play-by-play opportunities, I trusted Tim would have my best interests at hand during my internship.”

Though diligent work, Kahn parlayed the non-broadcasting internship into much more.

“Not only did I receive an incredible learning experience while in New Orleans, but my hard work in media relations and multimedia impressed their General Manager, Cookie Rojas. He and Tim both agreed that I should be rewarded with some play-by-play chances,” says Kahn.

One day in late July, about an hour before batting practice, Grubbs told Kahn he was going on the air for the first time. He would receive one inning. “That was the start of my baseball broadcasting career, and it simply escalated from there,” Kahn smiles.

Kahn parlayed his New Orleans experience into a Broadcasting/Media Relations Assistant position last season with the Winston-Salem Dash. When news broke that longtime Dash broadcaster Adam Marco was leaving for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Kahn tapped into his well-nurtured network of minor league baseball contacts.

“I reached out to a connection of mine that knew Adam well to find out more about the Power’s hiring process,” Kahn explains. “Adam and I got in touch and were able to talk at the Winter Meetings about the Power opening. I had applied for Adam’s #2 position the year before, so he was familiar with who I was on and off the air.”

After discussing the job with Marco, Kahn’s interest in the position grew. “I was able to speak to two Power staff members who were at the Meetings for an initial interview, which, coupled with a recommendation from Adam, led to a final round interview. 24 hours after that, I was hired.”

Relationship building has long been a priority for Kahn.

“I was able to garner recommendations from several influential people in the industry that certainly helped when it came down to the final decision [for West Virginia]. A major focus of mine during my first few years in this business was to get to know as many people as I could, whether they were fellow broadcasters in the league I was working in or just friends of friends. I continue to do that to this day, and because I’ve been able to build so many real and true relationships, my network was a great resource as I took the next big step in my career path.

(Visit David’s website).

Kempf leaves No. 2 job in Dayton for top job with Quad Cities

(January 24, 2018) The biggest thing Jason Kempf has tried to do throughout his sportscasting career is meet as many people as possible. Now, Kempf is taking his people skills to Quad Cities where he is the new Director of Broadcasting/Media Relations for the River Bandits.

“I first found about a potential opening with the River Bandits because of STAA’s job alert e-mail in October,” says Kempf. “I had always heard great things about the organization and the Quad Cities as a whole so my interest was immediately peaked.”

Kempf moves to Quad Cities after two summers as the No. 2 with the Dayton Dragons.

“The experience I gained and the connections I made during [my time in Dayton] were crucial,” says Kempf. The Dragons front office helped me initially get on the River Bandits’ radar. Then, with more help from Dragons Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations Tom Nichols, the process moved quickly.”

Kempf believes that networking is the most important thing a person can do to build a sportscasting career. “Whenever I have the chance to interact with another broadcaster, I ask questions and genuinely take an interest in getting to know them better. Any relationships you can build with front office members, fans, ushers, media members, food service staff, etc. could be beneficial down the road in ways you never expected.”

Earning a No. 1 job in affiliated baseball is especially impressive for Kempf because he started his career in independent ball. The transition is not unheard of, but it is sometimes complicated by resentment that some affiliated executives have for indy league teams they feel encroach upon Major and Minor League “territory.” Kempf’s independent league experience first came with the Saint Paul Saints, then with the Wichiga Wingnuts.

“While in Wichita, I was hopeful that being a broadcast/media relations professional in a large market would be enough experience to translate into a similar job in the affiliated ranks someday. I still think there was a chance it could have happened if the right circumstances arose. However, I believed that I needed to get experience with the formatting of an MiLB website and working with a parent club in order to give myself the best chance to reach my goals.”

Kempf adds that wouldn’t trade the experiences and lessons learned in Wichita for anything.

It was just one month after joining STAA that Kempf landed the Wichita job. “STAA provides a great environment for learning how to put together a demo and what to include,” he says. “In addition, there are countless tidbits on what to do and what not to do while searching for the next opportunity in broadcasting. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the assistance of STAA.”

(Visit Jason’s STAA Talent Page).

Polite, persistent relationship building leads Hess to Dayton Dragons

(January 19, 2018) Josh Hess’ new job as the Broadcasting and Media Relations Assistant with the Dayton Dragons was almost two years in the making. The story features several relationship-building strategies that sportscasting job seekers everywhere would be smart to employ.

Josh is a 2017 graduate of Syracuse and an STAA member. He spent last season with the Batavia Muckdogs.

Here is his story in his words . . .

Back in 2016 when I was calling games for the Falmouth Commodores on the Cape, I sent out emails with tapes every day to college and Minor League broadcasters. While many of these tapes went unanswered, I did get a critique from Tom Nichols, the number one in Dayton. At the time, he mentioned Dayton may have an opening, but since it was a full-season gig and I still had one more year at Syracuse, I knew I wouldn’t be considered.

Fast forward to October 2017. I was still sending out multiple emails every day looking for critique from experienced broadcasters and any openings they may have. Even though Dayton never went public [with their opening], I knew some other Syracuse grads had been the number two there and Tom gave me great feedback when I was on the Cape. So, I reached out before the position was officially open.

While pursuing the position, I made sure to stay in touch with Tom as much as possible. One thing my dad has told me for years is to keep track of when you first meet/contact someone and what the topic of conversation was. I first contacted Dayton in late October and continued to follow up regularly until it came time to schedule an interview.

Even after the interview, I stayed in touch. When Tom emailed me asking how my overall search was going, I was honest with him, telling him I have been talking with other teams to see what positions are available. Everyone in this industry knows two things about a job search: how competitive it is to find a job and you can’t put all of your eggs in one basket. So, even though Tom knew I was talking with other teams, I continued to show interest in the position as much as I could.

Dayton is a tremendous opportunity to have right after college. It’s hard to find a Minor League Baseball team with a better front office reputation than the Dragons. Plus, they hold the record for most consecutive sellouts in American professional sports at over 1,200 games. The team is great with the community, and the fans show their appreciation every night. I couldn’t think of a better environment to be calling games this season than a sold-out Fifth Third Field every night! When time comes for me to find a number one position, the front office and broadcasting experience in Dayton will set me up phenomenally.

Hess has been an STAA member since October 2017. He says, “STAA does a really great job to motivate anyone searching for a broadcast job. The broadcasting world is a small, tightly knit community and baseball even more so. When feeling upset or frustrated during the job search, STAA is there to help you keep improving, and not just for finding a job. There are plenty of little things like tweaking a resume or cover letter or making a website that STAA reminded me to do during the weeks I didn’t hear from any teams. STAA helps lay the foundation and remind you that there is always more to be done to make yourself a better broadcaster.

Murnin overcomes age concerns, lands with Hagerstown

“Shawn(January 17, 2018) Shawn Murnin is unconventional. He’s also the new Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations for the Hagerstown Suns (Nationals Class –A). What makes him atypical is his age and that he skipped the minor league baseball job fair even though he attended December’s Baseball Winter Meetings.

Murnin’s first job in the minors was as a broadcasting and media relations assistant with Scranton-Wilkes Barre in 2011. He then left baseball for three years to work as a sports TV producer and high school play-by-play broadcaster. When he decided in 2015 that he wanted to return to baseball, he was 26 years old and feared his age might work against him.

“When you’re 26 and working in a [career] where your peers are 19-22, you kind of feel old,” he smiles.

Upon reflection, Murnin says the age challenge was in his head. “It’s all about finding the right fit,” he says. “Every organization has specific criteria they’re looking for, so make your best sales pitch and showcase what you do best in the context of that position. If you’re the right fit, your age won’t matter.”

Murnin did get back into baseball in 2015, doing broadcasting and media for the Mankato Moondogs of the Northwoods League. After two seasons, it was onto the Peoria Chiefs where he spent last summer as the assistant to lead broadcaster Nathan Baliva. “The team and Nathan pushed me to be my best every day last season whether it was in the pregame show, interviews, my on-air work, and especially the media relations aspect of the job. I’ve become a big believer in being in the right place at the right time; there was no better place for me to spend the 2017 season.”

When it came time to look for a No. 1 job in affiliated ball this off-season, Murnin returned to the Winter Meetings in Orlando. Unlike past visits, though, Murnin chose this time to skip the annual job fair.

“Last year I received a few interviews and hit the job boards hard, but the best interview I had was actually set up by accident weeks beforehand,” Murnin recalls. “I made a conscious decision before the meetings this year to reach out to people and set up meetings. On top of that, I made sure to re-connect with people who I knew and by doing that made some new friends.”

Murnin’s interviews this year went much better than past experiences. “I was able to actually learn more about people and grow those relationships because I wasn’t in and out of the job room all week.”

Murnin has been an STAA member since 2015. “STAA helped me overcome my own doubts early on in my career and got me organized to get that first job in Mankato. The most helpful things now are the job leads, which are almost up-to-the-minute, and the career advice that comes directly to my inbox.”

Besides having a new job, another area where Murnin’s life is different is his perspective on age. “Over the last couple of years I haven’t been terribly concerned. I’m 29 years old, that’s still pretty darn young!

(Visit Shawn’s STAA Talent Page).

Broskowski lands on feet after losing baseball job

“Michael(January 12, 2018) When the Burlington Bees decided to eliminate radio after last season, Michael Broskowski feared his minor league baseball play-by-play career might be over.

Fear not.

An STAA member since 2011, Broskowski has landed on his feet with the Orem Owlz. The Owlz are the rookie affiliate of the Los Angeles Angles. Ironically, Burlington is also an LA farm team.

In addition to broadcasting, Broskowski will assist the Owlz with social media and media relations. He found the opportunity in an exclusive STAA job leads email in November. “I knew a lot about Orem from having worked for Burlington, the Angels Low-A team, the last four seasons.”

Learning that Burlington was eliminating radio took Broskowski by surprise. “Working somewhere full-time for four years then having your job eliminated was an awful feeling,” he says. “It was tough for a while thinking that maybe my minor league broadcasting career was over.

“It was the first time I ever lost a job, and even though it was nothing I did that caused me to lose the job it doesn’t make it hurt any less. It was very overwhelming to be in the job market again while being unemployed.”

An important thing Broskowski did in pursuing the Orem job was to enlist the help of friends. “I reached out to people I knew. One of the best things about working in professional baseball going on five years now is the connections you make and there are some really great people in this business.”

Broskowski says job leads are one of the two biggest advantages to his STAA membership. “The job leads are huge because they come out right away and the emails with different career advice really help you get a feel for certain things as a broadcaster.

“I’m really excited to be in Orem and work a great front office and fantastic organization in a league I have heard nothing but amazing things about.”

(Visit Michael’s STAA Talent Page).