Josh Starr new Danbury Hat Tricks voice

Josh StarrLifelong hockey fan Josh Starr will be the new Director of Communications/Play-By-Play for the Danbury Hat Tricks in the FPHL/NAHL. He starts in early July.

Starr’s passion for hockey play-by-play comes not only from his love of the game, but also from his experience in announcing the sport. He explains, “You don’t realize how much goes into the description of the action on the ice until you have to do it yourself. It is such a fast sport with a lot of different things going on in different areas of the ice and I absolutely love the challenge of describing it all.”

Planting the seed

Starr’s journey to discovering his love of play-by-play began in his youth, when his dream was to be a professional athlete. He shares, “Once I realized that was not going to happen, I still had a desire to be part of the sports world in some way. Right before high school began, I decided becoming a sports broadcaster was something I could do as a career in the sports industry.”

That’s when he started preparing to become a sports broadcaster. His announcing skills began to develop in high school through calling public address for basketball and lacrosse games. But it was during Starr’s years at Penn State that he realized how much he loved play-by-play. He gained significant experience there.

Always learning

In his position with the Hat Tricks, Starr will gain even more experience, not just in broadcasting, but also in other important areas like social media and media relations. I believe these are things that will make me more versatile and desirable when applying to future jobs,” he says.

Relationship building played a significant role in Starr’s job search. He shares, “I used my network at Penn State to speak with broadcasters who have gone through the junior/minor league hockey circuit and learned a lot from them. It really helped me to prepare for interviews and know what to expect when searching for a job in hockey.”

Starr joined STAA last year and shares some advice with new members: “Use all the resources. I wrote my cover letter for the Hat Tricks using Jon’s guide for it. I’ve spoken to Jon and a lot of other members about how to go about my job search. All of it is extremely helpful.”

He also shares that he found the Hat Tricks job in one of the STAA job leads emails, and says, “I just wanted to say thank you. I appreciate all the work STAA does for members and it certainly helped me get this job.”

Billson broadcasting West Virginia Miners baseball

Sports broadcasting veteran Marky Billson is eager to call baseball for the first time in five years. An STAA member, Billson will broadcast this summer for the West Virginia Miners, a collegiate summer baseball team in Beckley, WV.

Billson will call Miners’ road games. Fred Persinger II calls home games. “And he’s pretty smooth, if I may say so myself,” says Billson.

He learned of the Miners opportunity through an STAA Job Leads email. “I would say [the STAA job leads] are the best in the business,” he states.

Traveling man

Billson has called baseball In Arizona, Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee. His first impression is that Beckley embraces the Miners as much as any other baseball community he’s called home. “I’ve been involved with other baseball teams and when I would tell people I was the broadcaster I would often get indifference or maybe ‘can you get us tickets?’ Here they want to talk about yesterday’s game,” he says.

Something else that excites Billson is the fact that the games are broadcast on radio versus Internet. “I’m loving turning on the radio and hearing my name on a promo. Let’s face it, when you’re a broadcaster, that always puts a skip in your heart,” he smiles.

Feeling at home

It’s a bonus for Billson that Beckley is in a region where he has deep roots. “I’ve lived practically everywhere but I guess you could say primarily in the Tri-Cities, Tennessee area and Western Pennsylvania. Beckley is halfway between those locales, so culturally it’s a good fit. And when I have free time I can watch the Pittsburgh sports channel (Root) on cable! Don’t discount the latter,” he grins.

Billson’s sports media resume is impressive. Besides baseball, he’s also called football, basketball and soccer play-by-play. He’s hosted sports talk shows in Pittsburgh, PA and Johnson City, TN. He’s been a football field reporter on the sidelines of the Tennessee Volunteers and Pitt Panthers. And he’s a writer whose bylines include the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, SI.com, Athlon Sports and Baseball Digest.

STAA’s Benjamin and Lewis join NBC’s Olympics broadcast team

tokyoA pair of STAA members and former STAA All-Americans have been tabbed for play-by-play assignments at next month’s Tokyo Olympics. Jack Benjamin and Chris Lewis will be broadcasting for NBC’s from studios in Stamford, CT.

Benjamin is the play-by-play voice at Nicholls State University. He has broadcast events for Olympic Channel Home of Team USA and has called various sports on ESPN platforms and Cox Sports Television.

Benjamin is a 2018 graduate of Santa Clara University and earned
STAA All-America honors as one of the nation’s most outstanding collegiate sportscasters. He joined STAA as a college sophomore.

It’s long been a dream of Benjamin’s to call the Olympics; He’ll handle play-by-play for several events.

“I’m incredibly excited to join the NBC Sports Olympics team, along with so many other talented broadcasters,” he says.

Lewis is the voice of Boise State University women’s basketball and calls games for CBS Sports Network and Mountain West Network. He is a graduate of Syracuse and, like Benjamin, a former STAA All-American. He’s been an STAA member since 2012 when he was a college senior.

Lewis will be broadcasting Olympic table tennis.

“I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can from the experience,” he says. “I just want to do the best job that I can while working with a bunch of great people and make their time working with me as enjoyable and pleasant as possible.”

DuPuis joins college radio colleague at WRNR

Spencer DuPuisA pair of former colleagues at Marshall University’s campus radio station is going to work together at WRNR in Martinsburg, WV. STAA member Spencer DuPuis is joining the station as a sports talk host and play-by-play broadcaster.

“It’s exciting for me not only that I get to began my professional only a little over an hour from home, but also that I was one of two hires for this position. The other is my former colleague at WMUL, Nick Verzolini,” DuPuis grins.

Out of nowhere

DuPuis found the WRNR opportunity unconventionally. “Funny enough, because I live about an hour from WRNR and Martinsburg, WV the job popped up as a sponsored ad on Facebook,” he recalls. “I immediately got my materials together and emailed them to the contact person. Then I got a call a couple hours later asking me to set up an interview. It all happened in about a week.”

The fact that his first full-time sportscasting job is close to home is exciting to DuPuis. “I know the general sports realm of West Virginia and I get to be teamed up with a former colleague from college radio.”

Pandemic challenges

Hitting the sportscasting job market during the pandemic was less than ideal for DuPuis. “Graduating college in 2020 and trying to get a broadcasting job was a huge challenge. Something that I tried to do was to stay positive and work on my craft independently so I could stay polished.

Joining STAA

DuPuis joined STAA at about the same time he grabbed his diploma. He learned of STAA after seeing a replica of the trophy won by STAA’s inaugural Jim Nantz Award winner and DuPuis’ fellow Marshall University alumni, Adam Cavalier. It is displayed in a trophy case on the university’s campus.

“One way that my STAA membership has benefited me is being able to see job openings in my email a few times a week, especially during my busy weeks where I didn’t have the time to spend hours looking for jobs,” says DuPuis.

Fortunately for DuPuis, his sportscasting job search is on an indefinite hold as he and Verzolini join WRNR. “I think it’s going to be great for us to start our careers together as we worked very well together at Marshall,” DuPuis smiles.

Barry adds Hawks baseball to his Boise broadcasting resume

Leonard BarryLeonard Barry is not having to go far to broadcast baseball this summer. The STAA member and Boise, ID native is calling games for the Boise Hawks. The Hawks are an independent team in the Pioneer League, a Major League Baseball partner league.

Barry is the fifth consecutive STAA member to be the voice of baseball in Boise. He follows Steve Granado in 2016, Brendan King in 2017, Rylan Kobre in 2018 and Blaine McCormick in 2019.

Jack of all trades

Broadcasting isn’t be the only thing Barry is doing for the team. “I’m dipping my feet into a bit of everything — taking care of media relations, doing a bit of graphic design and video editing, doing SID style work creating game notes and stat packs and posting on social media. Lastly making sure we get on air every single night acting as my own broadcast engineer since we aren’t on terrestrial radio,” he says.

Staying in Boise means Barry is continuing his broadcasting of various sports for Boise State University and the NFHS Network.

Leaning on friends

Barry first learned of the Hawks opening in an STAA Job Leads email late in 2019. Two months later they said they wanted to hire him. Then the pandemic wiped out the 2020 season.

Local contacts helped Barry earn the job. “I had three different people call or send messages on my behalf,” he recalls. “All three of those conversations were mentioned to me when I came in for the interview.”

Teaming with STAA

Barry joined STAA in 2019, three years after being told of the organization by Portland Trail Blazers Broadcaster and former STAA member Travis Demers. “I had not heard about it until I job shadowed him back in 2016 while he was hosting an afternoon radio show in Portland,” Barry remembers.

“I think my play-by-play has greatly improved thanks to the monthly [STAA] member critiques. I always walk away learning something. The addition of the STAA Member Community [in November 2020] has also been a great help, because there are so many members sharing knowledge daily about prep, broadcasting and the job market,” he says.

Dillon Clark to broadcast Carolina Thunderbirds hockey

Dillon ClarkDillon Clark spent countless car rides listening to legendary Pittsburgh Penguins broadcaster Mike Lange. Now Clark is following his idol into hockey play-by-play. An STAA member, Clark is the new VP of Media Relations and voice of the Carolina Thunderbirds of the FHL.

“It’s exactly what I had hoped to do after college,” Clark smiles. “This is the sport I know the best and enjoy calling the most. The additional duties of the job, like media relations and social media management, will allow me to add more tools to my toolbox and make me a more well-rounded professional.”

Clark credits Lange for fueling his hockey passion. “His love for the game and for the team was infectious,” Clark recalls. “On the TV side, I always loved when the Penguins were on national TV because we all knew what that meant – a Doc Emrick call. If Mike Lange made me fall in love with the game, Doc made me fall in love with calling it.”

Referred to STAA

A recent graduate of the University of South Carolina, Clark called Gamecock hockey for SGTV. He joined STAA in March. “I had heard about STAA here and there throughout my early days in college, but the two people who really pushed me to join were 2014 Jim Nantz Award winner Kevin Fitzgerald and fellow South Carolina alum [and STAA member] Brett Williams. I have been fortunate enough to call both of them mentors through my years in college.”

Job Market Makeover

Revising his job market approach was among the first things Clark did after joining STAA. “I really took a hard look at my resume and demo tapes in the weeks leading up to submitting an application,” he remembers. “The guidelines on the STAA website made me realize just how cluttered and ill-worded my resume was. I shortened it immensely and reworked a lot of the wording.”

Clark also realized his demo tape was too highlights-driven. “I added more continuous game samples, and I believe those continuous calls were an enormous factor in my selection [by Carolina]. My interviewers noted that they could hear I was a student of the game – that doesn’t come through in highlights.”

A door opens

The Carolina opportunity opened when their former VP of Media Relations and STAA member Drew Blevins accepted a job with the Fayetteville MarksMen of the SPHL. STAA members were notified of the Thunderbirds opening in a job leads email. It was not published on the public STAA job board. Now, the Thunderbirds job is his.

“It’s exactly what I’ve had in mind over the last four years,” Clark grins.

Blevins is new Fayetteville MarksMen hockey voice

Drew BlevinsDoing fill-in play-by-play for the Fayetteville MarksMen, then staying in touch, has led STAA member Drew Blevins to his new job as the voice of the team.

“The Marksmen are building a strong culture from the front office and out into the community and I enjoy the aspect of being part of the engineering that helps some of the new projects work,” he says.

A foot in the door

Blevins most recently broadcasted for the Carolina Thunderbirds of the FPHL. However, it was filling-in on four MarksMen broadcasts last season that led to him landing the number one job.

“I stayed in touch with their owner and texted weekly with their former play-by-play voice, and one of my good friends, Shawn Bednard. Those relationships helped me find out that Shawn was leaving to go somewhere else and I sent a ‘check-in text’ to the owner on Monday. He scheduled me for an interview on Thursday morning and I was offered a contract that afternoon.”

Personal growth

Relationship building is something Blevins admittedly was not good at when he graduated from North Carolina State in 2017. “When I was coming out of college, I was really good at the handshake and the first impression but I had no follow-through with my network—so I would think that shows a little personal growth, too, which is rewarding.”

The fill-in games for Fayetteville certainly helped Blevins land the team’s top job. His success, though, is about more than that. “It’s taking the chances like that, and maximizing them, that can lead to new jobs in higher leagues,” he suggests.

Staying sharp

Full-time sportscasting opportunities didn’t present themselves to Blevins immediately upon his graduation. Instead, he taught high school media arts in his hometown of Wake Forest, NC before going to work for the Thunderbirds in 2019. “It’s actually one of my favorite things to tell interns and college students who contact me is that I didn’t [immediately] get the chance to broadcast professionally.”

He continues, “I had to scrounge and dig for on-air opportunities and would score a job with Duke softball or Campbell baseball or ACHA division-II hockey. As a teacher I would teach from 7:50 until 3:45 and then race to my car to get to the venue and be ready to call whatever is was. All the prep work and charting had to be done at night after school leading up to the game.”

When work was infrequent, Blevins found other ways to stay fresh. “I was fortunate to be able to keep my skills sharp in the off-air department with video editing, graphics, writing. But when the jobs were few and far between I would set up in front of a TV with a recorder and call a game from the TV.”

Coincidentally, it was a demo created from a TV broadcast that helped Blevins land his first hockey gig. “I called a game between the New Jersey Devils and the Carolina Hurricanes from the television. That was the call that the Thunderbirds heard that made them want to give me an interview,” he smiles.

Help from STAA

Blevins has been an STAA member since 2018.

“STAA has been one of the best resources for me in my professional career,” he says. “The job board and the job opening emails are so helpful and I think it helps all members get a leg-up on having the chance to score those jobs over someone who is not a member.

“STAA also does such a good job of helping broadcasters develop into their mature on-air voice. From the preparation advice and the anecdotal stories in the emails to the video and audio group critiques on the website, I have learned a lot of information that I’ve developed into good habits or have worked on implementing into my own broadcasts. That information in this field is invaluable and hard to come by through any other avenue.”

Now, Blevins is taking all that he’s learned, and earned, to Fayetteville.

“For me, it’s a privilege to be calling professional hockey in my home state. And now, to have worked for not just one but two pro hockey organizations in N.C. is really special.”

Widening search lands Miranda at WCTV in Tallahassee

Dominic MirandaA small change in job market strategy is leading to big results for Dominic Miranda. He is joining WCTV in Tallahassee, FL as a sports anchor/MMJ.

“Having the opportunity to report on Florida State is amazing, but there is so much more going on there,” Miranda effuses. “There’s the opportunity to tell the stories of so many athletes and teams that this was truly a can’t miss opportunity.”

Miranda gradated from DePauw University in Indiana in 2019. A month later, he joined WTHI TV in Terre Haute. He loved his time there and is grateful for it. Eventually, though his duties started trending more towards news than sports, especially during the pandemic. Miranda recalls, “A news anchor at WTHI who I really respected always said of me, ‘When you do news, it’s like writing with your left hand. When you do sports, it’s natural, it’s easy, it’s without thought.'”

Miranda decided it was time to look for the next step in his career.

Hitting the job market

The Indiana native initially confined his job search to Big Ten Conference country. “I’m a Hoosier through and through. My family, my girlfriend, my friends, and my network are all in the Midwest. I would be silly not to want a job somewhere up here,” he says. He later chuckles, “This is not a great tactic.” To his credit, Miranda came close on several jobs.

“A couple in Madison, Wisconsin. One in Toledo, Ohio. One in Indianapolis. And one in Green Bay, Wisconsin. All of which I found out about through STAA,” he says.

WTHI eventually told Miranda he was being moved to the weekend evening news anchor position. He was flattered but not enthusiastic. The move prompted a major change in his job market strategy. “It motivated me to expand my search,” he recalls. “At the end of the day, I was doing myself a disservice by limiting the location in which I could land a sports job. Not two weeks after that, the Tallahassee job at WCTV came through.

“It just goes to show that the right opportunity is out there if you don’t limit yourself. When things come about as easy, simple, and fast as this job did–that means they are meant to be.”

Getting uncomfortable

Moving to Florida is taking Miranda out of his comfort zone. That’s part of the reason he’s doing it. “People grow the most when they are placed outside of their comfort zone,” he says. “Everyone should experience being ‘alone’. That’s where you experience the most growth as a person. It will be hard at times, no doubt, but it will make me better.”

When Miranda is asked why he remains an STAA member two years and two jobs after joining, he smiles. “Where to begin?” he wonders. “The job leads are outstanding. You get them before anyone else. It’s huge. But knowing what to do with those job leads is the most important thing. The help and guidance that STAA provides is invaluable. Job market help, demo reel help, networking help, and encouragement. That stuff cannot be understated. STAA is undeniably the best investment I’ve ever made. I am incredibly thankful for Jon and the STAA team for doing what they do. Jon is incredibly supportive and personable. I would encourage anyone to truly, truly take advantage of what they have to offer. It’s an incredible help.”

Miranda’s advice to other sportscasting job seekers is simple, “Always bet on yourself. You can do this. You have the tools around you to make this career happen. Just keep grinding, be humble, and never lose faith in yourself. Hard workers and good people always, always, always find a job.”

Just like Miranda has in Tallahassee.

“I know the people at WCTV will help me succeed, and that will place me in an outstanding position to take the NEXT step 3 years down the road. I love the Hoosier state, and I will miss it, but this was too good of an opportunity to pass up.”

Zeppernick stays close to home, joins WHIZ TV

Court Zeppernick is staying close to home for his first full-time job in sports broadcasting. He’s joining WHIZ Media Group in Zanesville, OH as a sports anchor/reporter and believes he’s found a good fit.

“It offers a wide variety of learning and experience,” he says excitedly.

Zeppernick is an Ohio native and a 2020 graduate of Ohio State University. He’s been an STAA member since 2017 and learned of the WHIZ opportunity in an STAA Job Leads email.

“I received an interview a week and a half later, after following up with [WHIZ News Director George Hiotis],” Zeppernick recalls.

Zeppernick believes following-up was a key to him earning the job. “I explained why I believed I was best qualified for this position.” He was offered the job at the end of his first interview.

Zeppernick brings considerable newsroom experience to WHIZ. His resume includes internships with NBC4 and ABC6 in Columbus, OH, and with BTN Student U.

Ironically, it was the second time in five months Zeppernick had applied for the WHIZ position. “I was just as eager and excited to find out that the same position had become available again in late March, and pounced on it by applying as soon as I found out.

“Therefore, the challenges and frustrations were a thing of the past with this position,” Zeppernick grins.

STAA members returning to baseball broadcast booths this summer

baseballMany STAA members are returning to baseball broadcast booths this summer – most of whom didn’t have opportunities to call games last year.

We’ve recently published stories about Evan Stockton and Justin Gallanty assuming broadcast duties with the Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis, AAA), Nick Badders taking over for the NW Arkansas Naturals (Kansas City, AA), and Kyle Kercheval joining the Quad Cities River Bandits (Kansas City, A).

Here are some additional STAA members who will find themselves in new baseball booths this season. They are listed alphabetically by last name. (Sorry Ryan Zimmerman).

Kevin DiDomenico (Salem Red Sox No. 1)

DeDomenico just finished his junior year at Virginia Tech where he studies under sportscaster/instructor Bill Roth. The university will be providing broadcasters to Salem (Boston Red Sox Low-A) for the foreseeable future. DeDomenico spent 2019 with the Pulaski Yankees, the advanced rookie league affiliate of the New York Yankees.

Dana Grey (Brooklyn Cyclones No. 2)

Grey joins Keith Raad on Cyclones broadcasts. Grey earned Honorable Mention honors as a senior at Syracuse in STAA’s 2019 All-America program.

“There’s so much to be excited about this season for baseball in Brooklyn,” Grey says excitedly. “It’s the inaugural campaign for the Cyclones (New York Mets High-A affiliate) at the full season High-A level and the team was just ranked in the top-5 of MLB.com’s ‘Most Loaded MILB Rosters.’

He adds, “The stadium sits just a few miles south from Citi Field, putting the Cyclones right in the thick of the Mets organization and their fans. I truly can’t think of a better ballpark experience than that in Brooklyn with the boardwalk, amusement park and ocean all within feet of home plate.”

Rob Marcello (Purceville Cannons No. 2)

The Cannons are members of the Virginia-based collegiate Valley Baseball League. Marcello is a 2019 graduate of Dean College where he was a student of veteran sportscaster and accomplished instructor John Rooke. Marcello’s baseball play-by-play experience includes summers with the Hyannis Harbor Hawks and the Brockton Rox.

Brandon Ross (Gateway Grizzlies No. 2)

Brandon will share the Grizzlies booth with former Jim Nantz Award winner Nate Gatter. Ross himself was an honorable mention candidate for the award in 2020, his senior year at Syracuse. He spent Summer 2019 with the Burlington Royals.

Ross is also an accomplished broadcaster of collegiate Olympic sports on ESPN+ and ESPN3.

“[There is] definitely a long history of strong broadcasters going through Gateway and the fact that I still get to work with, and learn from, Nate is a huge plus,” Ross grins.

Geoff Safford (Missoula PaddleHeads No. 1)

Safford moves to pro ball after having previously called independent league games in California. He’s spent the past two years outside of baseball, broadcasting instead for a radio station in Havre, Montana.

The PaddleHeads are members of the Pioneer League. The league is not affiliated with Major League Baseball but is an MLB Partner League. Safford will start out calling home games only. “I may be asked to hit the road more as the season progresses,” he says. “They are taking a cautious approach like many teams in minor league baseball due to the pandemic and other factors. I am very excited as I feel this is a huge opportunity in my career.”

James Stanley (Wilson Tobs No. 1)

Stanley is the Tobs’ Director of Media Relations and Broadcasting in the highly regarded Coastal Plain League. He graduated last year from the University of Missouri. Stanley is a native of the greater Kansas City, KS area.

Sam Weiderhaft (Myrtle Beach Pelicans No.1)

Weiderhaft initially planned on spending this summer in Nebraska in the college baseball Expedition League. He called an audible when the Pelicans (Chicago Cubs, Low-A) offered him their top spot. Weiderhaft is also handling media relations for the team. He is a 2020 graduate of Butler University and a play-by-play voice at Coastal Carolina University.

Ryan Zimmerman (Gary SouthShore RailCats No. 2)

Zimmerman is a 2020 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. He broadcasted Golden Bears baseball, among other sports. Zimmerman was scheduled to call games last summer for Cotuit of the Cape Cod League before Covid canceled their season. He ended up broadcasting in the Midwest Collegiate League.

We know there are several STAA members that have unintentionally been omitted from this list. If you are among them, let us know by emailing Jon Chelesnik at jon@staatalent.com.

Congratulations to all.

Dana Grey sums up the summer perfectly when he says, “I think we could all use a little baseball back in our lives.”