(January 29, 2019) Noah Cloonan’s goal upon graduating from Ashland University in December was to have a job in baseball by March.
Cloonan is joining the Myrtle Beach Pelicans as media relations and broadcasting assistant.
“I first heard about the Pelicans job in an email from STAA. I applied immediately,” Cloonan grins.
This will be Cloonan’s third year calling baseball. He spent the past two summers broadcasting summer collegiate ball.
“I think working in summer collegiate baseball really helped me in getting [the Pelicans] job,” Cloonan says. “I spent a summer in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate league [with the Loraine County IronMen] and a summer with the Bellingham Bells in the West Coast League. Those not only gave me great experiences and a chance to get reps but it also allowed me to make a lot of useful contacts.”
Cloonan joined STAA last October for two reasons. “I wanted to be able to get leads on jobs while also growing as a sports broadcaster at the same time,” he recalls. “My only hesitation [about joining STAA] would have been the price but when I weigh that with what it has given me it is 100% worth it.”
Landing his first job was difficult and nerve-wracking for Cloonan. “Talking to other broadcasters in my shoes helped me overcame that. It is great to share tips and experiences with one another and I think that really helped me.”
Cloonan’s advice for anyone joining STAA is simple. “Soak up all of the resources that are provided. Reach out to Jon [Chelesnik] and other members and grow as much as you can!”
(January 25, 2019) Chalk-up another win for relationship-building. A referral from a friend has landed Zachary Bryan a news, sports and play-by-play position at K101 in Woodward, OK.
The opportunity was emailed to STAA members in late October. Bryan, though, found the position through a friend. “I’ve been reaching out to people for feedback on my broadcasting and one of them let me know of an opening out in Oklahoma, I visited for a few days and they offered me the job.”
The same friend who told Bryan about the job also recommended him for the position. “Once you have a foot in the door and someone on your side it makes the job process so much easier. Showing the owner what I can do and bring to the table myself made the difference. I definitely wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to do that if I didn’t have someone who contacted me about the opening,” says Bryan.
Moving to Oklahoma was necessary for Bryan after spending the first 10 years of his career in the South. “I needed to be able to grow into a more complete professional and unfortunately I was only being given contract or part-time opportunities,” he says. “I knew I wanted to go full-time. K101 gave me the chance to grow and I took it.”
Bryan graduated from Columbia State Community College in Tennessee in 2010. In 2013 he landed his first play-by-play job, calling hockey for Vanderbilt University’s club team. Since then he’s broadcast for the University of Alabama Huntsville and for the Huntsville Force of the North American Basketball League.
Last year Bryan received a criticism that turned around his career.
“I received some negative feedback from a disgruntled viewer,” Bryan recalls. “He told a good friend of mine that I was getting worse on my play by play for UAH hockey. While I knew I wasn’t worse, I realized I wasn’t getting any better. I turned that negative in to a positive. Starting to have more people review and critique my calls elevated my game. If anything, I have [the critic] to thank for giving me a reality check.”
Bryan first joined STAA in 2012. “I’m a member because the organization has stuck by me even when I was having trouble just paying the fee from month to month. I appreciate the job leads, the advice, and the resources available but the biggest thing was sticking with me even when things were roughest. I’m loyal to people who are loyal to me.”
Bryan’s advice to young sportscasters is to be tenacious. “It’s going to be a long, arduous journey,” he says. “You will have more downs than ups, but the ups will carry you through. It took me three years [after college] to get on air and another two to get back on air. Be patient and persevere.”
(January 10, 2019) Job seekers sometimes wait days for an employer to confirm receipt of their application, if they hear anything at all. Marc Ryan waited less than one hour for a reply to his application to ESPN Update in Greenville, SC. Two months later, Ryan has been hired as the station’s new midday host and assistant program director.
“I saw the posting in an STAA email of course, and something amazing happened,” Ryan recalls. “Literally 20 minutes after I sent my materials, I received a call from the [station] and we had a great 40 minute conversation. It was kind of surreal.”
The station’s quick response was especially unusual because Ryan didn’t know anyone there. “My emailed materials were quite literally a message in a bottle. We spoke again for over an hour a few days later, and I had a good feeling the whole way through. We were on the same wavelength.”
Ryan moves to Greenville from Houston, TX where’s he’s been at part-time host at 610 KILT since 2016. He’s also hosted in Tampa and Atlanta and nationally on CBS Sports Radio Network and the former Sporting News Radio Network. In Tampa he co-hosted with current Monday Night Football personality Booger McFarland.
While Ryan is excited to again have a daily show, the assistant program director responsibilities are also important. “Over the years, I’ve developed an interest in the management side. As of today, I can’t tell you whether I’d rather host or manage ten years from now, but I can share I’m interested in both,” he says.
Ryan has been offered at least one job and been close on several others in recent years. The experiences have taught him a lot. “One of my good friends in the industry, Jeff Pantridge, was a former colleague of mine at 98.7 The Fan in Tampa. He shared something with me a few years ago that really stuck: ‘It only takes one PD to fall in love with you.’ That’s so true.
“I’ve learned not to get hopes up too high on any one possibility. Look at each gig you apply for as just that; a possibility. Teach yourself to remain even keeled through any interview process. The reality is you’ll be ok whether you get the job or not, and a rejection may teach you what’s required to land the next one. Finally, the belief that what’s meant to be will be. An acceptance of that offers peace of mind.”
When applying for ESPN Upstate, Ryan made sure to put his best foot forward. “STAA has helped me hone my cover letter over the years, and that helps — having genuine energy and especially a vision for how I would be able to help this employer. I also provided a list of ways we could market the new show, which seemed to be well received.
“STAA was pivotal in receiving the job offer,” Ryan continues. “I learned of the opportunity before the crowd, I received encouragement from Jon [Chelesnik] throughout, and most importantly he was there to answer critical questions for me when the offer came. He even reviewed my contract for me! Suffice it to say Jon and the service he provides was a critical piece of the process. I wouldn’t want to envision going through the last two months without him.”
Now that the I’s have been dotted and the T’s have been crossed, Ryan is excited to be working in Greenville. “People frequently talk about ‘fit’ at a job. I’ve never interviewed for a position where the fit felt better at this stage,” Ryan smiles.
(January 8, 2019) Building relationships and attending the Winter Meetings are two things a broadcaster can do to maximize their chances for working in minor league baseball. John Kocsis parlayed this strategy into the Director of Broadcasting/Media Relations position with the Hagerstown Suns.
The Suns are the Class-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. Kocsis moves to Maryland after two years with the West Virginia Power. There, he worked his way up from video production and promotions to a broadcasting and media relations position.
In Hagerstown, Kocsis follows fellow STAA member Shawn Murnin, who has accepted a new position he has yet to announce. Murnin helped Kocsis land the job as his successor.
“I met Shawn through my work in West Virginia this past summer. When Hagerstown travelled to Charleston, I talked with Shawn. I had also spoken to him at the Winter Meetings prior to the job opening up,” says Kocsis.
The Hagerstown opportunity started to unfold when Murnin called Kocsis and asked to meet at a sports book to talk. “Shawn explained to me that he had accepted a new job and that Hagerstown was looking for a replacement, but did not want to open the job up. Rather, he was looking to compile a short list of names of people who were free agents that might be interested,” Kocsis says.”
He interviewed the next day and was eventually offered the position.
Kocsis credits West Virginia Broadcast and Media Relations Manager and fellow STAA member David Kahn with helping polish his skills. “I’ve workshopped a lot of my delivery with the help of David. Most importantly, I have learned to sell within the market of baseball. My time in Charleston [West Virginia] has set an incredible foundation for my future within the sport and I look forward to start building it in Hagerstown.”
Kocsis suggests that anyone looking to get into or move up in Minor League Baseball should attend the Winter Meetings.
“There’s no other place where every MiLB team gathers at the same time and it’s scheduled a year in advance. You may not walk out of Winter Meetings with a job, but you never know when you’ll find a connection to a new friend or potential boss/assistant in your future. There are a lot of people to learn from over the course of five days. Take full advantage of it.”
(January 2, 2019) National sports talk radio veteran Dave Smith is being reunited with a boss for whom he worked more than a decade ago. Smith is joining SB Nation Radio where he will host Thursday nights from 8 to 10 pm and weekends from 9 pm to 1 am Eastern. He will work under COO and Program Director Craig Larson. The pair formerly worked together in Los Angeles.
“I’m really excited to be working for Craig Larson again,” Smith says with a grin. “He was my PD when I did a national show for Sporting News Radio. I also worked with Craig at 1540 The Ticket in Los Angeles where I did local afternoon drive. He’s always been an excellent radio programmer and is a radio lifer, so obviously he is my kind of guy.”
Smith spent the past five years hosting on NBC Sports Radio. He became a free agent when NBCSR decided in November to discontinue most of it’s shows to focus on it’s 24/7 sports update business.
“I was both surprised and emotional because I worked there for five years and had a great experience,” Smith recalls. “I loved everybody I worked with at NBCSR and can’t ever thank Jack Silver, my PD, enough. Five years ago I was wondering if I’d ever work again and then Jack saved my career by not only hiring me, but encouraging me and bringing out the best in me. I’ll really miss everyone at NBCSR, because they are some of the best people I’ve ever worked with.”
Smith contacted STAA immediately after learning of the changes. “On the same day I posted my demo and resume on STAA, [owner] Jon Chelesnik called and told me he spoke with Craig Larson [on my behalf] and to be expecting Craig to contact me. Sure enough, I received an email from Craig an hour later. A few days later I was on board at SB Nation!”
This is Smith’s second stint with STAA. The first was nearly nine years ago. “I re-joined STAA because I was a member a few years ago and impressed by Jon Chelesnik’s professionalism and dedication to getting his clients jobs. Being a former radio guy himself, Jon knows the ins and outs of this business and has the contacts to make things happen for his clients. And what a great decision it was to join because I had a new job in less than a week!”
A new job with a former boss in Larson.
“After 10 years, we’re working together again and I can’t wait,” Smith smiles.
(December 28, 2018) Any sports broadcaster with a significant other knows the challenges of nurturing personal relationships while building a career. Low pay, odd hours and frequent travel are challenging realities. STAA member Tim Slack has found a new job that relieves his family of those burdens. An STAA member, Slack is the new Sports Information Director/Associate Athletic Director at Arizona Western College in Yuma.
The opportunity is a blessing for Slack, his wife Krista and their one-year old son Zeke.
“We are really excited about the position, school, and community,” Slack grins. “This accomplishes a goal we’ve had since we got married of keeping Krista at home with our son, especially while he’s young.”
Slack’s sportscasting experience is varied. It includes affiliated and independent minor league baseball in California and North Carolina and sports radio and NCAA Division II basketball in Kansas. He even spent four years teaching and coaching high school baseball in Walnut Creek, CA.
“These last three years since I returned to broadcasting have certainly been filled with trials but I feel like I have grown professionally, and probably more importantly, personally as a result,” Slack says. “I have a really deep appreciation for anyone who finds a way to make the family/work balance successful.”
The AWC job opened when fellow STAA member Sam Hovan accepted a position at Longwood University in Virginia. Slack contacted Hovan after reading about Hovan’s move on the STAA website and realizing how much they share in common.
“I reached out to Sam based on a lot of his story and our similarities in what I consider an atypical broadcasting path,” says Slack. “We both taught high school, we worked in the American Association where we know some of the same people, and we both have families. I called him just to talk to him about his path and how he was able to find balance, as that has been an adjustment for my wife and I over the past year.
“We just talked about family and broadcasting. I learned a lot of discipline that he practices with his family to protect them and his employer.”
Slack applied to be Hovan’s replacement. He knew the school wanted to move quickly and figured they had gone in a different direction when he didn’t hear from them right away. “Then the week after Thanksgiving, I received an e-mail asking to interview. From there I was asked to come down to Yuma for an in-person interview. I fell in love with the town and community pretty quickly and was really blown away by the passion in the athletic department,” Slack recalls.
“It really struck me in my visit that my previous experiences and jobs match up perfectly with the direction of the school and that my family will really benefit from the tight-knight community.”
“One thing I’ve tapped into the last couple years within STAA is the great network of like-minded broadcasters who are eager to grow in what they do. It’s great practice for all the networking pieces that STAA produces and it’s an easy introduction because we share STAA in common. Sam was really gracious with his time in the middle of his own job transition.”
Slack has been an STAA member off and on since 2010. He’s used STAA’s resources to constantly refine and improve his broadcasting and his job market approach. “I’ve always tried to take the little bits from each STAA Insider newsletter and truly evaluate how I’m doing and what I could do better. I’ve made so many changes over the last few years — little adjustments that I feel like have added to a better overall presentation,” he says.
“When I started as a professional 10 years ago, I literally had no idea what I was doing in the market. As I’ve gone through my ups and downs, I have to believe I have used every STAA resource to grow as well as evaluate my shortcomings. I have become better at networking, better at honest criticism of my own work, and a better balance of patience/persistence.”
(December 14, 2018) Veteran Phoenix sportscaster Jeff Munn has been a voice on the broadcast teams of the Arizona Diamondback and Arizona State University. Now he’s adding professional football to his resume. An STAA member, Munn will be the radio voice for the Arizona Hotshots of the new Alliance of American Football.
“Jeff is very well known and does such a great job with whatever he does,” says longtime Phoenix Suns radio voice Al McCoy. Munn has filled-in for McCoy on many Suns broadcasts over the years.
Munn has been the voice of Arizona State women’s basketball since 2004. He’s filled-in on Sun Devils men’s basketball and baseball. From 2006 through 2015, he hosted Diamondbacks radio pre and game shows and filled-in on play-by-play.
The National Sports Media Association named Munn Arizona Sports Broadcaster of the Year in 2010.
(December 11, 2018) Ben Wilson has lived in the Columbia, MO market since graduating from the University of Missouri in 2015. Those roots have led Wilson to his new job as a sports talk host and play-by-play broadcaster at KTGR, the local ESPN Radio affiliate.
Wilson will co-host a daily sports talk show, host a Saturday morning show and do play-by-play for Mizzou Olympic sports.
“I already had a good relationship with the majority of the on-air staff prior to the position coming open,” says Wilson. “Just by being in the know and understanding the job landscape of the market, I had a pretty good idea that the job would be coming open about a month before it actually did. Because of that, I had an interview lined up well before the position was officially posted, which obviously gave me a big edge over the other applicants.”
One advantage of the position is it allows Wilson to continue his burgeoning TV play-by-play career. “The big selling point was that they were willing to wave their usual non-compete clause, which will allow me to keep calling the SEC Network + and Fox Sports Midwest games, as well as any other freelance TV play-by-play opportunities that come up,” Wilson smiles.
The KTRG opportunity will ease the challenges Wilson faces as a freelance TV broadcaster. “It allows me the security of an on-air full-time position, while still having the ability to continue my freelance play-by-play,” he says.
Honesty was a key for Wilson in persuading KTGR to waive its non-compete clause. ” I was up front with the station that continuing my ESPN +, Fox Sports Midwest and SEC Network + play-by-play assignments was not only essential to my career development, but would also not interfere with my duties at the station. Obviously I was extremely grateful that they were willing to be so flexible and let me continue my play-by-play opportunities on the side.”
Wilson joined STAA his senior year in college. “I really appreciate how many network-level broadcasters have worked with STAA to share their career paths and give advice,” he says. “I’ve found it very helpful to hear first-hand from successful broadcasters in the industry, and have picked up a lot of useful things to apply towards my own career.”
(November 29, 2018) Marco LaNave is getting the opportunity to continue his minor league baseball career closer to his Midwest roots without leaving his current ownership group. An STAA member, LaNave is the new Lead Broadcaster and an Account Executive for the Akron RubberDucks.
The RubberDucks are the Class-AA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.
LaNave moves to Akron after three seasons with the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, also a Double-A affiliate. Fast Forward Sports Group owns both teams.
“Collaboration between the clubs made me familiar with Akron’s operation,” says LaNave. “The organization presented the opportunity for me to develop further as a broadcaster and contribute to the year-round business operation for the RubberDucks. I continue to work in a great ownership group and am able to grow professionally, particularly as a broadcaster.”
Before joining Fast Forward Sports Group, the St. Cloud, MN, native’s baseball career path included a radio internship with the Minnesota Twins and four years as lead broadcaster with the Class-A Quad Cities River Bandits.
“Moving to a new city also presents more possibilities,” he adds. One new opportunity that has already developed is that LaNave has joined the sports anchor staff at 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland.
Minor league baseball broadcasting is a challenging field. Upward mobility usually comes slowly. LaNave’s passion for the sport keeps him involved.
“With the support of family and fiends, I have enjoyed the journey, recognizing success and struggle as growth personally and professionally. I am blessed to have met and worked with many great people I can call friends and mentors. Their impact on me, and the opportunity for me to have an impact among my colleagues, club and community, make work in baseball uniquely rewarding.”
LaNave has been an STAA member since 2014. “STAA membership provides valuable resources to stay motivated, knowledgeable and prepared for opportunities. With career advice on a variety of topics, updates on opportunities in the industry, and opportunities for feedback, as an STAA member, I have specialized support for my work and goals in sports broadcasting.”
(November 2, 2018) Career planning has become more challenging in the two years since the first of Sam and Alaina Hovan’s two children were born. Selectivity became paramount. When a new opportunity presented itself, the Hovans knew it was right. Now Sam is the new Assistant Director of Athletics Communications/Digital Media at Longwood University in Farmville, VA.
The opportunity is a hybrid athletics communications position with traditional SID responsibilities and plenty of broadcasting. Hovan will serve as voice of Lancer athletics for radio and roughly 40 broadcasts of various sports on ESPN+. He leaves a sports information and broadcasting position at Arizona Western College, a two-year school in Yuma, AZ.
“The job at Longwood allows me to grow as a storyteller both in and out of the broadcast booth,” says Hovan. “Longwood focuses on connecting with their fan base in a way that is unique, I think, among schools. The communications team has creative freedom to try out story ideas that I haven’t really seen too many other places.”
The fact that Longwood is a Division I school also appeals to Hovan. “The expectation is excellence,” he says. “I have a chance to find out if I have what it takes as a broadcaster to keep pursuing my dream at the highest level.”
Hovan admits the challenge of moving up sometimes makes him nervous. “Sure! But who wouldn’t want the opportunity to pursue their dream and find out if they could really achieve it or not,” he says enthusiastically.
Starting a family two years ago has changed the way Hovan and his wife evaluate potential career opportunities. “It has a huge impact. Instead of seeing how a position would impact me and my career, I look at it together with Alaina as a team,” he says. “We evaluate how it would affect our whole family from how much she might have to work, would I be able to help cover her work hours watching the kids, when would I see my kids, etc. We really try and communicate to stay on the same page about what is best for our family and go from there.”
The Longwood opportunity was not posted on STAA’s public job board but was emailed to STAA members in September when the university requested assistance. “I started putting my application together quickly,” Hovan recalls. “In the process of researching the school and creating my cover letter, I found that I had worked with Chris Cook, my future boss, when I was interning for the capstone piece of my Master’s degree [at Syracuse].”
Many job seekers emphasize the broadcasting part of positions that include media relations or other duties. Hovan knew better. “I think it was really important that I focused on ALL aspects of the job, and that I didn’t try to make up things that I didn’t do. The broadcasting is important, of course, but the position encompasses quite a bit more. Since my experience lined up with both parts, I could emphasize that.”
Hovan also dug into Longwood’s athletic history when preparing his application. “Hopefully, I made myself stand out because I already had a base level of knowledge about the teams/programs when I interviewed. While I always knew to do that, STAA helped me clarify how that should come out in the cover letter.”
Hovan joined STAA in May and attended an STAA San Diego Play-by-Play retreat in July. “There are two big challenges that my STAA membership helps me address. One of the biggest is finding out about open positions. It is really difficult to hear about most of the openings, and many that I wanted to apply for don’t have public postings.
“Second, my membership provided great tools to help my approach stand out. Specifically, I learned how to polish my cover letter even more. I always knew how important it was to research your potential employer, but STAA gave me a concrete approach to putting what I learned on paper in a coherent way.”