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 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: