(April 30, 2018) 2017 was the most difficult year of Zach Helton’s career. After 15 years of never having been fired from a job in or outside broadcasting, he was let go by one station and dropped from the morning show at another. Helton, though, has landed on his feet. He is the new broadcaster for minor league baseball’s Bluefield Blue Jays.
Bluefield is the Toronto Blue Jays rookie affiliate.
Helton filled-in on some Bluefield broadcasts last season and heard the position might be opening. When the opening was confirmed in an STAA job sheet in early January, Helton moved quickly. “It may have taken me 30 seconds to make the call to GM Rocky Malamisura to let him know, ‘Hey, I’m still around and interested if you’re interested in me.’”
While things eventually worked out, losing two jobs last year was a blow to Helton’s confidence.
“It really was a gut check,” he says. “I knew deep down I had talent, but when things like that arise, I couldn’t help but doubt myself. It took the awesome support from my family, friends and even some strangers to let me know that I had gone too far in the broadcast game to turn back now.”
Helton’s broadcasting resume includes play-by-play for stations in Richlands, VA, Sidney, NE and Malone, NY, He spent half of 2017 hosting and producing a morning show in Mechanicsville, MD. When it didn’t work out, he sold cars to make ends meet.
“When I was selling cars part-time, I still was broadcasting to a lesser degree, so I looked at it as another way to get to the next point in my career,” Helton recalls. “It was also great that the company I sold for, Ramey Automotive in Richlands, Virginia, was open to letting me continue my broadcast passion and did everything they could to help me continue that moving forward.”
The sales experience actually benefitted Helton’s on-air career.
“I would recommend all broadcasters spend some time in sales for many reasons, like working on public speaking, learning how to sell yourself, and making excellent business connections, all of which I believe have made me a better broadcaster,” he says.
During the latter part of 2017, Helton applied for countless jobs. He received only a few call backs and no offers. “I definitely had times of doubt and had to look outside myself for answers and guidance. I reached out to [sportscaster] Mike Wagenheim, who I had first contacted years ago to listen to some of my games and give me some honest feedback. But that’s not all I received from Mike. He has been a resource for me for a few years now who has instilled confidence in me, and my craft that cannot be denied and I will forever be indebted to him for that.
“Likewise, Jon Chelesnik at STAA has been someone like Mike that I have been able to turn to with career questions and advice. These two men have kept me in a business I may have otherwise given up long ago.”
Since joining STAA last August, Helton has used STAA to connect with other sportscasters. “Coming from a small coal-mining community in Southwest Virginia, being able to network with some great minds and talents in sports broadcasting almost seemed impossible,” he says. “With STAA though, it was great for me to learn things from and interact with professionals I may have never had an opportunity to ever meet or speak to other than maybe bumping into at a ballgame somewhere.”
Now the games at which Helton will be bumping into other sportscasters are games he will be calling.
(Visit Zach’s STAA Talent Page).