(February 15, 2019) Corpus Christi and Amarillo Texas are less than 10 hours apart but the distance represents a big step forward for Sam Levitt. After two seasons as the No. 2 broadcaster for the Corpus Christi Hooks, Levitt has been hired as the No. 1 for the new Amarillo Sod Poodles.
The Soddies are the AA affiliate of the San Diego Padres.
“The San Diego Padres will provide top-level prospects and make it an exciting team to cover every day,” Levitt said in a press release.
Levitt has been broadcasting baseball since he was a student at Northwestern from 2010 to 2014. In addition to calling games on the campus station, Levitt spent two summers with the Orleans Firebirds of the Cape Cod League. 2015 began a two year stint with the independent Gateway Grizzlies before Levitt moved to Corpus Christi.
“My goal is to provide this [Amarillo] fan base with some of the best coverage in the Texas League and all of Minor League Baseball, from our radio broadcasts to creative presence on the web and social media. I want fans to feel connected to the organization in a meaningful way.”
In addition to baseball, Levitt’s resume includes broadcasts on the Big Ten Network, Comcast SportsNet Chicago, ESPN3, American Sports Network and other outlets.
“I’m incredibly excited to join the Sod Poodles and be part of starting a new chapter of professional baseball in Amarillo”, said Levitt.
(February 5, 2019) Conor Clingen is a lifelong Chicago White Sox fan. Now he’s getting the opportunity to broadcast for their Class-A affiliate. An STAA member, Clinger is the new Broadcasting/Media Relations Assistant for the Winston-Salem Dash.
“With the grind of Minor League Baseball, being a fan can only be a small part of the motivation to apply for the job,” says Clingen. “After doing more research, I found that Winston-Salem is one of the most well-run organizations in MiLB.”
He’s right. The Dash led the Carolina League in attendance last season and won the Bob Freitas Award as the best Class-A organization in Minor League Baseball. “Additionally, getting the chance to work with [Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations] Joe Weil was an intriguing aspect of the job. I had heard plenty of Joe’s work through his work with the Dash and Notre Dame football’s pre and post game show,” says Clingen.
Clingen set a goal for 2019 to go after his sports broadcasting dream full-time. He learned of the Dash opportunity through an STAA job leads email. Accepting the position required him to leave a well-paying job outside of broadcasting. “I knew it would come to a point where my day job and broadcasting would come into conflict,” he says. “I had a great experience at my job, but I needed to make this jump to achieve my career goals.”
Clingen joined STAA in 2016 at the start of his senior year at Notre Dame. “Multiple
Notre Dame broadcasters had applied for the Jim Nantz Award, and [friend] Mike [Monaco] was an All-American in 2015,” Clingen recalls. “After seeing all that STAA had to offer, it was an easy decision to become a member.”
Initially, Clingen joined STAA mostly to receive sportscasting job leads. “However, after being a member I have found so much more value,” he says. “The articles, videos and prep tools are all very helpful. The best part of STAA has to be the personal advice [Owner] Jon Chelesnik is willing to give. While being realistic, Jon is always extremely encouraging and knowledgeable about every aspect of the industry.”
Clingen’s candidacy for the Winston-Salem position was boosted by assistance from several friends. “I received a lot of great advice and had outstanding references. I’d especially like to thank Mark Sasseti, Mike Monaco, and Nathan Bush. All three of these great people advocated for me, pushed me to go for this, and gave me plenty of advice along the way.”
Clingen’s advice to anyone joining STAA is to take advantage of all the comes with a membership. “Soak up every resource available to you,” he suggests. “Whether you’re updating your resume or trying to learn a new sport, STAA has what you need to prepare. Of course, I’d recommend reading every job leads email. You never know what you may find!”
(January 31, 2019) Constant change is common in the early years of a sports broadcasting career. Jake Eisnenberg has experienced it, but whereas it once made him nervous, he now embraces it. His latest career change is taking Eisenberg to Richmond, VA where he is the new Communications & Broadcasting Assistant for Double-A baseball’s Flying Squirrels.
“The Flying Squirrels are an organization that’s enjoyed tremendous success since their inception, and they have a great reputation across Minor League Baseball,” says Eisenberg. “That reputation was more than affirmed by the support and excitement I saw from the crowd at last week’s annual Hot Stove Banquet.”
Eisenberg’s road to Richmond started in 2017 when he met Flying Squirrel’s Director of Communications and Broadcasting Trey Wilson at baseball’s Winter Meetings. “We’ve stayed in touch,” Eisenberg says. “I reached out to him to congratulate him after it was announced he’d be the new lead broadcaster and Director of Communications. Once I saw the posting for the communications and broadcast position, I sent him an email with samples of my work. He interviewed for me for the job in Las Vegas at this year’s Winter Meetings.”
Eisenberg moves to Double-A baseball after working last summer in an assistant position with the Class-A Winston-Salem Dash. He’s spending this off-season as a studio host for IMG College and broadcasting a variety of Wake Forest and Davidson University athletics on ESPN+. The baseball portion of Eisenberg’s resume also includes stops with the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Chatham Anglers.
The itinerant lifestyle of a young sports broadcaster used to be unnerving to Eisenberg. Not anymore. “One of the mental challenges I’ve faced is uncertainty at points—that you could be somewhere completely different six-to-eight months from any given time. But I’ve learned to look at that aspect of this industry in a more positive light. Six-to-eight months from now, for instance, there’s also chance to have a brand-new experience in a brand-new place and learn from brand-new people.
One thing Eisenberg is especially looking forward to about Richmond is learning from Wilson. “There’s a lot that he has to teach, and a lot that I have to learn,” he says.
Eisenberg is also excited to be part of Flying Squirrels Insider—a 30-minute, bi-weekly television series for which he will produce feature-length video pieces and gain on-camera experience.
Eisenberg joined STAA in 2017 on the recommendation of Westwood One play-by-play broadcaster Brandon Gaudin. “I’d tell someone who just joined STAA to make sure to take advantage of the resources at your disposal. The most valuable part of STAA to me has been the job leads. They’re a great way to not only find out about opportunities, but also to keep up with industry news,” suggests Eisenberg.
Keeping up on industry news helped lead Eisenberg to Richmond and he couldn’t be more excited. “From the get-go, it felt like the Flying Squirrels would be an all-around great fit.”
(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.