(March 20) When the expansion Greeneville Reds take the field for the first time this summer, they will have an experienced voice behind the mike. Justin Rocke, who has called affiliated minor league games for the past four seasons, has been hired as voice of the Cincinnati Reds new Appalachian League affiliate in Tusculum, TN.
Rocke spent last summer in the Appalachian League as well, with the Johnson City Cardinals. Prior to that, he spent two seasons with the Tennessee Smokies, summer 2014 with the Brevard County Manatees and two seasons in the Cape Cod League.
Each of the past three winters, Rocke has called women’s basketball for the Army West Point Black Knights.
He is a 2014 graduate of Penn State University. He joined STAA later that year.
Boyd Sports LLC manages Greenville, Johnson City and Tennessee.
“It’s a tremendous honor to spend another summer as a part of the Boyd Sports family,” says Rocke told Baseball Digest. “I appreciate Chris Allen and Jeremy Boler showing faith in my abilities for yet another season. I am extremely excited to get back down to East Tennessee to work with them, the Reds organization and be the inaugural voice of the Greeneville Reds.”
(March 14, 2018) When Joe DiMaggio was asked why he always played so hard, his famous reply was, “Because someone might be watching me for the first time.” Similarly always doing his best has resulted in Spenser Smith getting back into affiliated baseball at the Class-AA level. An STAA member, Smith is the new Broadcasting and Media Relations Assistant for the Trenton Thunder.
It is the 1,000th sports broadcasting job accepted by an STAA member since 2007.
Smith moves to Trenton after four seasons broadcasting winter league, summer collegiate, Class-A and independent league games.
“While I was broadcasting the Frontier League championship series for the Florence Freedom last September, [Thunder broadcaster] Jon Mozes reached out on Twitter and gave me some kind words on my on-air work,” says Smith. “He’d decided to listen in to the series, as our manager was previously the hitting coach for Jon’s former employer, the independent Gary SouthShore RailCats.”
In December, Trenton had an opening in broadcasting and media relations that was emailed to STAA members. “Jon [Mozes] reached out to me directly to ask if I was interested in interviewing,” Smith explains. “It served as a positive reminder that you never know who’s listening.”
While Smith is aware of the hesitation some affiliated teams have with hiring from independent leagues, it never deterred him. “I reminded myself that at this level of the game, whether it’s affiliated ball or indy ball, hiring managers seek out candidates who can contribute to front office goals. The position descriptions can vary, but there’s so much overlap between media exposure, sales, social media and other aspects that, ultimately, a diverse skillset is your key to success in the job market.”
Smith also tips his cap to STAA. He’s been a member since 2014.
“My STAA membership has constantly reminded me of the value of relationship building in this industry. Keep in touch with those whom you meet, and don’t be afraid to seek advice and guidance. Also, be willing to offer help and information to others whenever possible, as ‘paying it forward’ is part of what makes this industry such a pleasure to be a part of.”
(March 9, 2018) If you’ve ever wondered if attending baseball’s Winter Meetings is worth the investment, here is another emphatic yes. STAA member Garrett Greene is the new Director of Broadcasting/Media Relations for the Biloxi Shuckers. The opportunity is the direct result of Greene attending baseball’s last four annual gatherings.
Greene moves to Biloxi from Helena, MT where he spent last season with the Milwaukee Brewers rookie affiliate. He replaces fellow STAA member Chris Harris, who has accepted a similar position with the Mississippi Braves.
“I’d met a few members of the Shuckers front office at the Winter Meetings in 2016 and met up with them again in 2017 in Orlando,” Greene explains. “Since they’re a team in the Brewers organization, we obviously had a common thread.
“I had also spoken with Chris [Harris] on multiple occasions leading up to the season in Helena and at various points during the season last year. I think all of that contributed to a finalist spot in the running for the Shuckers job.”
Proir to Helena, Greene spent a season with the independent league Saint Paul Saints. Biloxi represents his first full season opportunity.
“I’ve been moving around over the last couple of years. Working for the Shuckers lets me set my feet in one spot for a while,” Greene says. “Additionally, it’s an opportunity to stay in an organization I’m familiar with and make the jump to Double-A baseball.
Greene recalls that his first trip to the Winter Meetings in 2013 was less than fruitful. “I didn’t know a single person. I made a few friends, but failed miserably at connecting with fellow broadcasters, or even front office staff. On my last three trips to the Winter Meetings, I’ve met so many folks from all different walks of baseball, to the point where this year in Orlando I was running into someone I knew left and right. It’s not easy, but meeting people and making friends, not just business acquaintances or people you want to use later, was a giant contributing factor.
Greene has been an STAA member since 2015.
“STAA helped me get my first break into professional baseball, which is arguably the most difficult hurdle when you’re just starting out,” says Greene. “If it weren’t for the postings from STAA, I never would have seen the opening with the St. Paul Saints in 2016, an experience that changed the course of my career. Jon [Chelesnik’s] advice has also served as a subtle reminder of topics and practices that we all think we’ve internalized, but it’s good to be consciously reminded of them from time to time.
Three years after joining STAA, Greene is on his way to Double-A baseball in Biloxi.
“When you combine a 140 game schedule, life near the beach and a top-notch organization, this was just an incredibly alluring position, and I’m thrilled to be here,” he smiles.
The Bradenton Marauders (Class-A, Pirates) are providing new opportunities for two STAA members for the 2018 season.
Matt Neverett, who joined STAA last year, is the new play-by-play broadcaster. Nate March, who has served as the voice of the Marauders for the last six seasons, has been promoted to Manager, Communications and In-Game Entertainment. He has been an STAA member since 2010.
March, the 2017 Florida State League Broadcaster of the Year, will take on expanded oversite of the LECOM Park video board staff and integration of the video board into all facets of the game day experience. He will continue to serve as the primary point of contact for media inquiries and public relations initiatives.
“Nate has played a critical role in the growth and development of our brand in Bradenton over the last six years, which makes him the perfect person to facilitate our expanded visual entertainment efforts,” Pirates Director of Sales and Marauders General Manager Rachelle Madrigal said.
Neverett will be on the call for all 140 Marauders games in 2018. He spent the 2017 season with the Double-A Birmingham Barons assisting with broadcasting and media relations. He worked under two-time Southern League Broadcaster of the Year Curt Bloom.
A 2017 graduate of Appalachian State, Neverett has spent the off-season broadcasting college athletics in New England.
“Matt is a talented broadcaster who will carry on our tradition of providing one of the best on-air products in the Florida State League,” Madrigal said.
(February 23, 2018) A former Division I college baseball player is now getting paid to broadcast the sport. STAA member PJ Potter, a former player at Hofstra, is the new Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations for the Edenton Steamers of the Coastal Plain League.
“When I first saw the lead from the STAA e-mail, I knew I had to jump on it,” Potter grins. “The gig seemed perfect: a summer in North Carolina calling baseball. I couldn’t ask for more.”
Broadcasting last summer for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod League confirmed Potter’s desire to pursue baseball broadcasting as a career. “It is my dream to reach the Minor Leagues and possibly the Major Leagues if I work hard enough,” he says.
“Spending this season with the Steamers is going to allow me to grow exponentially as a broadcaster because of the daily games and calling the games solo. I feel this will make me a more complete broadcaster.”
Staying proactive after applying for the Steamers position was especially helpful in Potter’s pursuit of the job. “These organizations want to see that you are specifically interested in working with them, so show them that you are 100 percent on board with their team following the basic application process. It goes a really long way.
“Once I was offered the position, I accepted immediately because I knew this is exactly where I needed to be this summer.”
(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.”
(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.
(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.”
(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.”
(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.