Second time the charm for Wattay at WAOW-TV

Derek Wattay(December 22, 2015) Derek Wattay has considerable sports reporting experience, but has yet to be employed at a TV station. That is about to change. An STAA member, Wattay is joining WAOW-TV in Wausau, WI as a sports multi-media journalist.

Wattay moves to Wisconsin from Baltimore, MD where he has worked since 2013 as a sports reporter and producer for PressBox Media. He is a 2014 graduate of nearby Towson University.

“What sports fan wouldn’t love covering the NFL, MLB and NBA,” asks Wattay with a smile. “It’s just a phenomenal foot-in-the-door for me in a real newsroom. While I’d had plenty of experience reporting and producing TV in Baltimore for PressBox, it wasn’t quite the traditional newsroom experience that I needed to grow and advance my career. The opportunity at WAOW is going to be one that really allows me to hone and polish my skills as a talent.”

Wattay initially applied for the WAOW position last spring after learning about it through STAA. He never heard back, so when the job posted again in November, he was reluctant to re-apply. “I had significantly tweaked my resume and gotten some way better material for my demo, so eventually I figured, why not? Per STAA’s formula, I followed up two or three days later. About a week or so after that, I received a call from WAOW’s outgoing news director.”

A native of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Wattay admits to some trepidation about leaving his home state. “I had always said I’d be willing to move anywhere, as moving around is pretty much a requisite in this business, but it’s always hypothetical until an opportunity presents itself and suddenly it’s a real possibility.

“There were some other difficult circumstances that ultimately lead to my accepting the gig, but sometimes it’s those difficulties in life that provide you with just the perspective you need to push past your uncertainties and do what needs to be done.”

Wattay has been an STAA member since April.

“I can’t thank STAA enough for all the career aid it’s given me. [Jon Chelesnik] has been so accessible and full of wisdom. All the online content really helped me with all my materials — it was invaluable guidance.

“I can’t wait to lend my skills and experience to WAOW, nor can I wait to learn all WAOW will have to teach me.”

(Visit Derek’s STAA Talent Page).

Change of heart leads Hubbard to Kansas

Dan Hubbard(December 14, 2015) The second time was the charm. After initially declining a sportscasting job offer in Kansas, California native Dan Hubbard had a change of heart. An STAA member, Hubbard is the new Operations Manager and Sports Director at KIUL /KYUL / KGGS / and KGBL in Garden City, KS.

“Not only does it provide me with a vehicle to get back into radio on a full time basis, but it allows me to do play-by-play and hold a management position,” says Hubbard. “Since this is not my first rodeo in the business, I was able to be a bit more selective and not jump at every entry-level position that opened up. “

The job opening was emailed to STAA members in June. Hubbard was eventually offered the job but trepidation about moving led him to turn it to down. However, station management wouldn’t take no for an answer. “The GM was convinced that I was the right person for the job and vowed to keep in touch after I passed on the job. We spoke several more times over the next few months and I finally decided I needed to come out to Kansas to meet with him face-to-face and take in the overall situation. On my visit he again offered me position and five weeks later I was living in Kansas.”

Hubbard has been in radio since 2001, when he started out as an Assistant Program Director and on-air personality in Lancaster, CA. Since then, he has held a variety of radio and TV positions in minor league baseball and hockey and in high school athletics. All of his experience, though, has been in California. Moving to Kansas represents an enormous change.

“Consider this,” says Hubbard. “Garden City is a town of about 40,000 people. That is smaller than most NFL or MLB stadiums on an average game day.

“I grew up in Southern California, and except for a couple years of my life, have been there the whole time. This is the furthest east I have lived. I will admit going to a small town is, and has been, a big change for me. However, it has been a good change. I was ready for a different lifestyle than what California had to offer.”

Hubbard joined STAA in February. He says networking has been one of the biggest benefits. “Networking outside of your immediate area can be difficult,” he says. “STAA allowed me a way to make those contacts and helped find those job leads in new areas. Also, the advice given in the STAA Member Makeovers was a big help. I was able to see some things that I needed to correct in my profile. I can honestly say that I would never have heard of or landed this opportunity without the help of STAA.

“I started here on November 16th and I’m loving it,” Hubbard grins.

(Visit Dan’s STAA Talent Page).

Labar new voice of UC Bearcats women’s hoops

Lewis Woodard(December 4, 2015) After 18 years in play-by-play, Chris Labar has made it to NCAA Division I. An STAA member, Labar is the new voice of University of Cincinnati women’s basketball.

Labar has very much enjoyed his first two weeks on the job.

“I really like the people at UC,” he says. “I appreciate their trust in me and willingness to allow me to personalize each broadcast. They ask for my input and I haven’t once been told no on any request. From a competitive standpoint, I believe in their program and hope to be part of a pleasant surprise this season.”

Labar’s hiring was the second domino in a process that started in October. It was then that the University of Maryland Eastern Shore asked STAA to recommend a broadcaster for their men’s basketball and a local minor league baseball team. STAA member and UC women’s basketball voice Brendan Gulick accepted that position. STAA then recommended Labar to UC.

“Candidly, I would not have this job if it were not for [STAA],” says Labar. “The job opened up quite suddenly and through [STAA CEO] Jon Chelesnik’s initiation, I was able to get in front of the athletics staff at UC.”

Labar has been doing play-by-play since 1997 when he started brokering radio and TV time for college and high school sports. For the past three winters, Labar has been the voice of women’s basketball at Bellarmine University in Lousiville, KY. He has also handled TV broadcasts for the Indiana state high school basketball tournament and for a local professional indoor football league team.

Accepting the UC position was not an easy decision. Labar already had a role doing interviews on University of Kentucky men’s basketball broadcasts. Eventually, though, he followed his passion. “I’m a play-by-play guy and that’s what I enjoy doing the most.”

Labar has been an STAA member since 2013.

“I had always heard others speak of [Jon Chelesnik’s] attention to detail and client focus. I can’t say enough good things about his time allocation and support during this process. There are countless others on STAA and Jon was always available and resourceful,” says Labar.

“I’m excited to begin this new chapter!”

(Visit Chris’s STAA Talent Page).

Woodard moving from market 147 to network radio

Lewis Woodard(November 11, 2015) Lewis Woodard is moving from market No. 147 to a national network. After two years in Myrtle Beach, SC, Woodard is joining Yahoo Sports Radio. The full-time position will have Woodard hosting various time slots on YSR and filling in on other Gow Media platforms, including ESPN 97.5 FM in Houston.

“It’s a terrific opportunity,” says Woodard, who has been an STAA member since 2012. “Yahoo Sports Radio sees me as an asset that it wants to develop. For the first time in my career I’ll receive in-house coaching for my on-air work.”

The fact that Yahoo Sports Radio is headquartered in Houston also appeals to Woodard. “I’m moving to a city with the Texans, Rockets and Astros,” he says. “Texas A&M isn’t far away, either. As a sports fan and a talk show host, it’s exciting to know what my media credential is about to give me access to. Hosting on a national platform, you also have a much wider selection of topics to dive into on-air. And it’s a step up financially.”

Yahoo Sports Radio has hired more than 10 STAA members over the years. When Program Director Craig Larson told STAA CEO Jon Chelesnik that he had another opening, Chelesnik sent to Larson the link to Woodard’s STAA Talent Page. “Within 48 hours I had a full time contract offer to join a national network located in a top 10 market,” says Woodard.

“Simply put, without STAA this opportunity wouldn’t have existed for me,” Woodard says. “Without an education in communications or radio, I’ve had to self teach and self critique throughout the years to learn and get better. STAA’s resources have been invaluable in that pursuit. Jon has also worked with me in private and group critique settings. There’s no doubt that STAA has made me a better talk show host.”

Gulick scores DI hoops, minor league baseball jobs

Brendan Gulick(November 4, 2015) Many sports broadcasters would love to call NCAA Division I college basketball in the winter and minor league baseball in the summer. Brendan Gulick gets to do both in the same city. An STAA member, Gulick is the new voice for University of Maryland-Eastern Shore basketball and Delmarva Shorebirds baseball, the Class A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.

Both UMES and the Shorebirds are located in Salisbury, MD.

“I am so appreciative to have the chance to further my career in both Division I collegiate athletics and professional baseball,” says Gulick. “The unique dual-nature of this opportunity was really appealing to me and I’m grateful that UMES and the Shorebirds are willing to work collaboratively with me.”

The UMES job opened unexpectedly last month. Since they didn’t have time for a lengthy search and they had used STAA in the past, the university asked STAA for recommendations.

“The UMES broadcaster has often doubled as the voice of the Shorebirds,” says STAA CEO Jon Chelesnik. “However, the baseball team doesn’t usually hire its broadcaster until after the first of the year. I suggested we could get a better broadcaster if we could get both the school and the team to approve that person before the start of basketball season. The folks at UMES worked hard to make it happen.”

A 2013 graduate of John Carroll University in Ohio, Gulick has broadcast a variety of collegiate sports for his alma mater, and for Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Case Western Reserve and Baldwin Wallace. His baseball experience includes time with the Rockford Aviators and Dayton Dragons. Gulick spent last winter as the voice of University of Cincinnati women’s basketball.

“I wasn’t actively seeking a new opportunity, but the rare combination of these two jobs really caught my attention. After having met several people with UMES and Delmarva, I know I’ll quickly find a home in Salisbury.”

For Gulick, one of the exciting aspects of the UMES job is the places the Hawks play this season. Their schedule includes games at Michigan State, Maryland, Georgetown, Missouri, Kansas State and Pittsburgh.

“I think most people that get into this business want to call games in loud, crowded arenas and I’m hoping I can feed off that energy on the air,” says Gulick.

Gulick has been an STAA member for nearly four years. “STAA’s services have provided the framework of my career,” he says. “I’m thankful to have begun using the many tools STAA offers while I was still a student at John Carroll University because it gave me a strong foundation with which to work.

“I have particularly enjoyed attending the One Day Ticket to Sportscasting Success Seminar each year because I’ve got to meet so many talented sportscasters who have helped me grow personally and professionally. That being said, the biggest asset in my mind is having my own professional-looking Talent Page with my resume and demos readily available. I appreciate what STAA has done in helping me build my career.”

(Visit Brendan’s STAA Talent Page).

Thigpen finds stability at DI Longwood U.

Darius Thigpen(November 3, 2015) Career and financial stability are an elusive duo for many sports broadcasters. Darius Thigpen has achieved both in his new position. An STAA member, Thigpen is joining Longwood University as Assistant Director of Athletic Communications in New Media.

Longwood is a member of the NCAA Division I Big South Conference.

STAA sent the job lead to members on September 15th. At about the same time, Thigpen learned of the opportunity through a friend who has ties to the school.

A 2014 graduate of Ohio State University, Thigpen spent the past two summers in minor league baseball. Two seasons ago he was a broadcasting intern with the Columbus Clippers. This past summer, he was the studio host for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. While Thigpen grew considerably in both positions, he is grateful for the stability of a full-time position with benefits.

“After going to the [baseball] Winter Meetings in San Diego in 2014 I learned full-time play-by-play jobs are extremely rare, especially for guys relatively new to the industry,” says Thigpen. “There are people who have been in the lower levels of the minors for years who are still looking for a position that is full-time. Most have to look for work in the baseball off-season.”

In addition to the stability, Thigpen appreciates the non-broadcasting responsibilities of his position at Longwood. “Rather than being in sales or something similar, the role calls for me to be an assistant SID, a utility guy for the Athletic Communications department, and to do anything else needed to help the Athletics Department.

“This is a job that will help me grow as a broadcaster, as a writer, as a media relations professional, and will help me develop a number of skills in the sports industry. I’ll be tested in a number of ways on a daily basis and I embrace the challenge.”

As excited as he is for the position in Virginia, Thigpen isn’t closing the door on one day returning to baseball.

“With calling games and doing plenty of media relations and PR work with Longwood I’ll be working on the skills required of many minor league play-by-play guys. There may come a day when I go back to minor league ball.

“I don’t know what the future has in store for me. Only God knows and I’m just living in the moment and working on doing my best at the opportunities I’ve been blessed with. I know in interviews we’re all in love with the ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’ question, but I try to take things one season and one year at a time. What I do know is that I’m in the right industry, I love what I do, and I’m going to continue to give sportscasting everything that I have.”

Leuthner to call hockey for 8-time NCAA champs

Bret Leuthner(October 27, 2015) Bret Leuthner’s first college hockey play-by-play gig is with a program that has won eight NCAA DIII national championships in the past 20 years. An STAA member, Leuthner is the new voice of the Middlebury College Panthers.

Though Middlebury, VT is four hours from Leuthner’s home in Vernon, NJ, the job was too good to turn down.

“First and foremost, I get to have the opportunity to work with an excellent crew that produces great games that air on WTVK 92.1 FM there in Middlebury,” says Leuthner. “Also, I get to move up to call action on NCAA Division III games, not to mention those of an eight time National Champion. And lastly, I just have such a passion to be on the play-by-play for hockey games, and really all games in general. The opportunity was just too good to pass up.

Leuthner started calling hockey in 2011 for the New Jersey Outlaws and was named the Federal Hockey League’s Broadcaster of the Year. For the past three seasons he has been behind the mic for William Patterson University. Leuthner has also broadcast minor league basketball and baseball and a variety of high school sports.

The eight hour round trip is to Middlebury is going to be challenging, but Leuthner says his family is tremendously supportive. “My wife has been my backbone ever since I started this broadcasting journey. And when we need help, my parents and in-laws are always willing to help watch our children. Knowing that I have that support to where I can just concentrate on the broadcast is immeasurable.”

Leuthner has been an STAA member since 2009.

“STAA has been vital in my career progression,” he says. “I watch some of the Member Makeovers, listen to some of the critique sessions, read the weekly Insiders, and of course I always plan to attend the STAA One Day Ticket to Broadcasting Success seminar every year. The networking and the lessons learned there and with my STAA membership undoubtedly has gotten me to where I am today. I cannot thank Jon [Chelesnik] and Mel (STAA Digital Content Manager Melodie Turori) enough for everything they have done to help my career.”

(Visit Bret’s STAA Talent Page).

Barnett named voice of the RoughRiders

Nathan Barnett(October 20, 2015) Dallas native Nathan Barnett is returning home. He is joining the Frisco RoughRiders as Play-by-Play Broadcaster and Manager of Media Development.

Barnett, who was with the RoughRiders as the Media Relations and Broadcast Assistant in 2013, now rejoins the club in a larger capacity. He will broadcast RoughRiders games on both radio and television and serve as the club’s primary liaison with the media and front office.

An STAA member since 2010, Barnett is also a former student in a sports broadcasting class taught by STAA CEO Jon Chelesnik at Palomar College near San Diego.

Barnett, 26, spent the past two seasons as the Media Relations Manager and Broadcaster for the Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Pelicans, the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. The Pelicans are a sister franchise of the RoughRiders as part of Greenberg Sports Group, led by Frisco CEO & General Partner Chuck Greenberg.

Recently, Barnett was named 2015 Carolina League Broadcaster of the Year in his second season in the circuit, and he called the Pelicans’ first Mills Cup Championship since 2000 this September. In addition to broadcasting games, Barnett handled media relations and assisted in the team’s ticket sales efforts.

“Nathan is one of the top talents in Minor League Baseball, and we’re thrilled that he’s returning home to the Metroplex join our RoughRiders front office staff,” said Jason Dambach, Riders’ Executive Vice President & General Manager. “Nathan’s ability as a play-by-play announcer is exceptional, but his skillset in the areas of media relations, social media and marketing and many other facets of our day-to-day business operations makes him the perfect addition to our team.”

Barnett joined the Pelicans after one season in Frisco in 2013, when he worked as the Media Relations and Broadcast Assistant with the RoughRiders.

“It is sincerely a dream come true to return to home to begin the next stage of my career in Frisco,” said Barnett. “I attended countless Rangers and RoughRiders games growing up, I am passionate about both organizations already, and I admire and look up to the local media in DFW. This is a thrill. I cannot thank Jason Dambach and Chuck Greenberg enough for the opportunity to work for one of the preeminent franchises in Minor League Baseball in such a vibrant market. I hope to continue the good work of those who came before me in this position, most recently Alex Vispoli, who is a friend and a mentor.”

Prior his first stint in Frisco, Barnett made two other stops in baseball, with the Palm Springs POWER (Southern California Collegiate Baseball League) and the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (Northwoods League). He also spent two seasons with the Ontario Reign, the now-AHL (AAA) affiliate of the LA Kings in sales and broadcasting capacities.

In the DFW market, Barnett has filled in as the play-by-play broadcaster for SMU Women’s Basketball broadcasts and worked as a sideline reporter and play-by-play voice for McKinney Independent School District during football and basketball games on 97.5 KLAK.

A graduate of Pomona College in Claremont, California, Barnett helped found the Claremont College’s broadcasting program in 2011 as a student and received his degree in Politics. Born and raised in Dallas, Barnett attended The Lamplighter School and later St. Mark’s School of Texas, where he graduated cum laude with High-Honors in 2007.

Lippman joining ABC 27 in Harrisburg

Ross Lippman(October 13, 2015) Sometimes, the toughest part of taking the next step in a sports broadcasting career is knowing when to do it.

Ross Lippman recently faced this decision. After three months of challenging decisions and anxious moments, Lippman is moving to the next stage of his career. The 2013 Jim Nantz Award winner (presented annually by STAA to the nation’s most outstanding collegiate sports broadcaster) and STAA member is joining ABC 27 WHTM in Harrisburg, PA as an all platform sports journalist.

“I’ll anchor and report in some capacity every day, and help build the station’s presence on the air and on the web,” says Lippman. “I’m excited to be working for [Sports Director] Gregg Mace, who has been at ABC27 for over 35 years. I’m also reuniting with Pat Welter, who I went to Emerson College with while he was in their graduate program.”

Lippman moves to Pennsylvania after two years at WVNY/WFFF in Burlington, VT. With the expiration of his contract rapidly approaching, Lippman had to decide whether to sign an extension at the station he loved, or play the job market and face unemployment for an indeterminate period of time.

It was a very difficult decision.

“Obviously, having a job is the best way to maintain financial security, but I also had to gauge the likelihood that I would land back on my feet, and if I did, somewhere that would allow me to continue growing and developing my skills as a broadcaster,” says Lippman. “Vermont is a beautiful place, and I felt a great deal of loyalty toward the people that gave me my first job in the business. But I ultimately decided the best decision for me was to move on.”

Lippman wanted to be sure that the way he handed his departure reflected his respect for his former employer. “I wanted to leave there on very good terms, and express my gratitude and appreciation to the people who supported me while I was there. I’ve heard too many stories about people and their sour grapes toward ‘this station’ and ‘that company.’ I didn’t want that at all,” says Lippman.

As Lippman weighed his decision then pursued his next opportunity, he leaned heavily upon several mentors for advice. “Whenever I have an important decision to make, I like to call and ask a handful of people what they think. I pick their brains and try to get both sides of the coin,” Lippman says. “Some people might see that as indecision on my part, but I like to think of it as taking the people I trust most and valuing their opinions. I have several mentors and friends who have supported me, especially Mike Curkov and Brendan Fitzgerald.

“I’ve also received a huge amount of support and mentoring from STAA. From their daily services of job leads and the updating of my Talent Page, to many lengthy phone calls with Jon Chelesnik, I was never without advice and guidance.”

Lippman admits feeling considerable anxiety over the three months of unemployment. “I was lucky to leave Vermont in July, and return to my hometown on Cape Cod. So I was greeted by a lot of days on the beach and plenty of sunshine,” he smiles. “For the first few weeks it was a much needed vacation. After that, my daily routine became the same — applying to stations and following up with anyone I may have interacted with about a job. After a month and a half went by, I started to become concerned. Once the calendar turned to September I knew I would have to get back to work, in television or not, and that’s when Gregg Mace reached out to me in Harrisburg.

“I did want to find a good place for my next job, and I wanted it to be for a station that could help me become a better journalist and storyteller. It took much more time to get there than I anticipated, but I’m very glad to have waited and not given up on finding it.”

(Visit Ross’s STAA Talent Page).

KU alum Chavez to call women’s hoops for alma mater

Jimmy Chavez(October 7, 2015) Anyone who has struggled to take the next step in their sports broadcasting career will find motivation in Jimmy Chavez. After leaving a national radio network, Chavez spent the past three years doing freelance work to keep his sports broadcasting dream alive.

It has paid off.

An STAA member, Chavez has been named Women’s Basketball Voice and Coaches Show Host at his alma mater, the University of Kansas.

“This is a dream position to call basketball inside Allen Fieldhouse, which is the mecca of college basketball,” says Chavez. “Add the fact that I am a KU alum makes it as special as it gets.”

After graduating from KU in 2006, Chavez’ career began a steady upward climb from Russell, KS, to Wichita, to Yahoo Sports Radio Network. When he left YSR in 2012, Chavez could not have anticipated how challenging it would be to take the next step forward. He spent the past three years doing freelance play-by-play for high school games and working in a variety of positions outside of broadcasting.

“It was hard many times and honestly, I came close to throwing in the towel a couple of times,” admits Chavez. “It was team of people that would keep me fighting when I started to question how much fight I had left in me. It was my wife. It was my family. It was friends in the business that really wanted me to not give up. People like Brian Hanni, like [STAA’s] Jon Chelesnik, like Jay Sanderson, like Chris Allison and Blake Cripps, like Greg Sharpe, like Wyatt Thompson and many others that would give me encouraging words or be ready to help at a moment’s notice.”

Chavez’ biggest takeaway from the past three years in the sports broadcasting job market is how quickly things can change. “No matter how dark it seems or how lost the battle may appear, everything can change with one break,” he says. “Suddenly, you realize that everything happens for a reason and it was all leading you to this point and that it’s never an easy journey. But, if you stay with it, keep pounding the rock and don’t skip steps, something special might just happen for you and you’ll be ever the more grateful and appreciative of the journey.”

Chavez’s first KU broadcast will be on a Sunday afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse.

“I honestly don’t think I’ll fully comprehend how special [the KU job] is until that first game when I sit down and I see the sun shining through those windows,” he smiles.

(Visit Jimmy’s STAA Talent Page).