Toll in awe of his new role with The Party Animals

Of his new full-time job, Drake Toll enthuses, “I sit in the office now and I’m in awe of my surroundings. Having read the books and watched the documentaries, it’s like I’m in the midst of endless celebrities… and I kind of am! It’s as if someone who’s a massive Full House fan just got thrown into the cast of Full House one day and nobody was the wiser. There is not a job in sports, not a single one, I would rather be in. Everyday is a new, nuts adventure.”

The opportunity that has Toll doing backflips — possibly literally — is the Broadcast Entertainer for the Party Animals Banana Ball Club. The Party Animals are the biggest rival of the world famous Savannah Bananas; both are owned by Fans First Entertainment.

Toll will be the life of the party as the Party Animals:

* Play at five Major League Baseball stadiums in 2024, including Fenway Park.

* Start their own headliner tour this year featuring 12 games. The schedule includes two games in Las Vegas, two in Greensboro, NC, two in Greenville, SC and six in Savannah Georgia.

* Embark on a planned nationwide headlining tour in 2025.

Toll is a 2023 graduate of Baylor University. Most recently, he’s been a sports talk host on ESPN Central Texas in Waco. He was introduced to Party Animals Nation via video on January 26th.

Toll was asked a series of questions about his new opportunity. His replies are typically entertaining and insightful.

Q: How did the Party Animals job come about?

A: Interestingly enough, I was happy with my role at ESPN Central Texas hosting ’The Drake Toll Show’ each day, and I wasn’t looking to make a move. But when a radio position in Fayetteville, AR came open, I applied to move closer to home. This opened a can of worms. During the hiring process with the Arkansas station, I became more open to other moves. After seeing the Party Animals job opening on STAA, I knew working with Jesse Cole and company would be the perfect fit for me. I knew dozens, if not hundreds, would apply, and my odds of even being looked at were quite low. But I put my zaniest hat on, recorded an unconventional demo and soon received a video from Jesse inviting me to interview. Along each step, STAA was the catalyst to make this move happen.

Q: What attracted you to The Party Animals, Fans First Entertainment?

A: I’ve worked in traditional baseball, from regular season college ball to summers in Alaska and on Cape Cod, but the rules of broadcast have never fit my energetic, outlandish style. I never imagined I’d find a job in broadcasting that would let me be myself, maximum creativity encouraged. The Party Animals job description included “The successful candidate will consider the normal guidelines for baseball play-by-play then do… the exact… opposite.” I was sold. The description went on to list fire breathing, rapping and bartending as encouraged actions. This allows me to try traditionally unwelcome and often discouraged things. I feel like broadcasting shirtless tonight? Can do. I want to call the game from a kiddy pool? Let’s do it. I want to bring a sarcastic, deprecating energy to the opposition? Have at it. That’s the environment I crave.

Q: Broadcasting for the Party Animals gives you freedom to be you. What does broadcasting play-by-play in the traditional style feel like to you?

A: Broadcasting [games] in the traditional style is an art. Truly, I have such a reverence for those who are committed to mastering traditional broadcast. But while my favorite artist is Vincent Van Gogh, you may take his work for scribbling recklessly. Art is often up to interpretation. The art of traditional play-by-play is one that I can appreciate, but it’s not one that I enjoy. If everyone sounds the exact same, if everything in broadcast stays the exact same, the art will die. You’re not wrong for being a traditional play-by-play savant, but I don’t consider myself wrong for acting like I won the lottery while wearing a fur coat in a kiddie pool as a pitcher backflips into throwing strike three.

Q: What is something you did that you think was especially helpful in your pursuit of the Party Animals gig?

A: Everything that was normal, I did the exact opposite. I relentlessly studied the Fans First culture, and I understood how my personality could fit before entering the interview process. I showed up to my first Zoom interview shirtless, puffer-vest donned, wearing pit vipers and sipping a beer. That blew [Fans First Entertainment Owner] Jesse Cole’s mind. At that point, I didn’t know if I was candidate No. 1 or an afterthought. I had to stand out. Moreover, when Jesse asked for more content to prove I could create, I worked on Thanksgiving in order to have five pieces of material edited and complete within 48 hours. That speed encapsulated my excitement and passion for the job. In my pursuit, I did what was necessary to impress the living P.T. Barnum. That’s tough to do, so I had to think outside of the rules.

[Toll later added] I was never asked for a resume. I never gave my background at all. All Jesse needed was that first video and an interview. This revolutionary hiring style is something I hope other organizations adopt.

Q: Describe Jesse Cole.

A: Relentlessly committed. Take Walt Disney, P.T. Barnum and Bill Veeck back from the dead, combine their brains and put the new guy in a yellow suit. That’s just Jesse Cole. Jesse is so impassioned by his vision that ignites a craving for excellence. When he is set on an idea, his fervor makes everyone else around him just as committed to completing a new, wild venture. Jesse takes everything that is normal in business and sports, evaluates it, and does the exact opposite. If you’re searching for direction in life or better results both personally and in your career, please read Fans First. Study Jesse Cole. His ideas will change your outlook on life.

Q: What is one way your STAA membership has benefitted you?

A: My STAA membership, coupled with the continued support of Jon Chelesnik, landed me a dream job. STAA fulfilled a dream that transcended my imagination. Standing in the broadcast booth at Historic Grayson Stadium for the first time, I got emotional. Had you told me six months ago that I’d be working alongside the Savannah Bananas, I can’t put into words what I would have felt. Thanks to STAA, every day is an out of body experience.

Below are two of the wildly entertaining videos Drake submitted with his Party Animals application:

Next stop for Robyn Hearn: 5News in Fayetteville

Robyn Hearn is young but her suitcase already has many stickers: Stillwater, OK, Binghamton, NY, Wichita Falls, TX. And now, Fayetteville, AR. Hearn is moving to The Land of Opportunity to join 5News as a sports anchor/reporter. Among other things, she’ll contribute to coverage of the Arkansas Razorbacks.

“The great thing about this area is how much they love their college and love college sports,” she enthuses. “I’m excited to be joining just in time for SEC play in basketball and the baseball/softball seasons. I know how much Razorback fans love their baseball!”

Hearn first learned of the opportunity in an STAA Job Leads+ email. “It was in the back of my mine to apply,” she recalls. Before she did, though, the station found Hearn’s website and contacted her. Things fell into place after that.

On the move

There is a saying in sportscasting, “Go where the jobs are.” Hearn has always been willing to do exactly that. The Dallas native attended college at Oklahoma State University. She launched her career in Binghamton, NY before moving back to her home state for a job in Wichita Falls. Have suitcase, will travel. “I’m willing to go wherever because that’s when you grow the most,” she states. “Being uncomfortable in a city where you know no one is when you learn the most about yourself. From the start of my career, I’ve learned the importance of getting to know the people and sports in my new community. It’s been difficult but I’ve enjoyed getting to experience life outside of my hometown.

“Do I miss being near family? Of course! However, I love being able to make my own home in the areas that I get to live in. Also, I enjoy getting to learn about the athletes and coaches in different areas. Even though most of the major sports are played nation wide, getting to see the talent levels in every stop I’ve been in has been awesome!”

Always learning

Hearn has been an STAA member since 2021. “I’ve continued to be a member of STAA because of the resources it has brought me. From job postings to learning how to improve as a sports reporter, in my time being a member I’ve been able to apply everything STAA has taught me to my work.”

Something that helped Hearn earn the 5News position is the variety of experience she’s gained so early in her career. “I’ve learned a lot since graduating from college almost four years ago. I’ve grown as a reporter and as a person.”

One skill Hearn hasn’t yet mastered is the Razorbacks famous “Wooo Pig Sooie” call. ” It’s coming,” she laughs. “I’ve been practicing but I know it will only get better once I’m in Fayetteville.”

ASU grad Brown new OM/Play-by-Play voice for Ingstad Media

Patience is a virtue. Comparison is the thief of joy. The sportscasting job market has provided Jake Brown with an understanding of both famous quotes. Patience and perseverance have paid off, though. Brown is the new Operations Manager/On-Air Host/Play-by-Play Broadcaster for Ingstad Media’s two radio stations in Morris, MN.

It’s a great opportunity for someone who graduated from Arizona State University just last month. “I’ll basically be doing everything I’ve wanted to do since I was 12,” Brown states. “I’ll co-host multiple radio shows while doing play-by-play for multiple sports for the University of Minnesota – Morris. I also have the potential to do a lot more with the big sports teams in Minnesota like the Vikings and Twins.”

Patience

Brown learned of the opening in an STAA Job Leads+ email. It was far from the first job for which he applied. “One frustration I had was getting a lot of rejection emails. All my other friends who graduated with me were getting jobs while I felt stuck. Just know that a job is going to come. It just may take a longer wait than others.”

Remaining diligent is Brown’s best advice for other job seekers. “STAA sends out job leads all the time. It’s always good to apply to a job you’d like to see yourself doing no matter the market. At some point, an employer will see your skills or potential and want you to join their team.”

Well-prepared

Brown is well prepared for his opportunity. At Arizona State he broadcasted play-by-play, hosted shows and was a digital and audio reporter for Cronkite News. He spent last summer as a broadcast intern for the Sioux Falls Canaries baseball club. Brown joined STAA in August on the recommendation of fellow STAA member Tanner Hoops, a member of the broadcast team at the University of Minnesota.

“I joined STAA to connect with other broadcasters and to get the members-only job leads. I also always love joining discussions in the Member Community,” Brown smiles.

Now, Brown is trading Arizona’s heat for Minnesota’s chill, and he couldn’t be more thrilled.

“There’s so much potential in this job and I’m excited about it!”

Dackiw overcomes frustration, lands at KFYR TV

Ben Dackiw’s pursuit of a TV sports anchor/reporter job became frustrating enough that he considered adjusting his goals. “I thought about making a new reel dedicated to my news work, but decided to stay the course and stick with sports,” he recalls. “I just stayed hopeful and kept putting my name out there. All it took was that one bite to get this first job.”

That first job for the December 2023 University of Oklahoma grad is as a sports anchor/reporter at KFYR TV in Bismarck, ND.

“After applying to jobs all over the country, I applied to this opening and got a response the next day. Getting a sports reporter job fresh out of college is a dream come true for me.”

Dackiw appreciates all that his new opportunity has to offer. “A lot of people who work in this field have to do news for their first job. I get to report and anchor for my first real reporting job in a part of the country I’ve never seen before. It’s a brand new adventure.”

Sportscasting has always been Dackiw’s goal. “There’s never been a plan B and there’s never been anything else I’ve wanted to do.”

As comfortable as Dackiw is on camera, he admits that self-confidence has sometimes been a challenge. “It might sound silly, but looking at myself on camera felt weird. It wasn’t until I was deep into my senior year of college when I realized I can really do this.”

Dackiw joined STAA in October at the suggestion of his college friend and fellow STAA member Matt Bowling. “Matt told me about the opportunities and just the know-how that comes with STAA,” Dackiw states. “I don’t think there was a single job opening in the country I didn’t know about.”

Dackiw’s perseverance through his early sportscasting job market frustration has paid off.

“I never gave up hope and had great people around me.”