(March 1, 2019) Four years after enduring a bad experience in the Pioneer League, Joey Zanaboni is back in affiliated baseball. An STAA member, Zanaboni is the new voice of the Johnson City Cardinals.
Johnson City is the rookie affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I’ve been keen to get back to affiliated ball for awhile,” Zanaboni says. “It had to be the right situation though – a solid team with a front office I trust and get a good vibe from. Johnson City is a great organization that operates with integrity. I’m glad to be working with them.”
Zanaboni’s first experience in affiliated ball was in 2015 with the Orem Owlz. “The organization, unbeknownst to me when I accepted the position, planned to hold a promotion at the ballpark called “Caucasian Heritage Night.” When I learned of their plans, I raised immediate concerns in a professional and insistent manner. Ultimately, I resigned from my position in protest of their intentions. I refused to sacrifice my personal integrity for the prestige of the position.”
The immediate aftermath of Zanaboni’s decision was tempestuous. “Major media outlets, including USA Today and Deadspin, initially misreported the story, casting blame on me for the promotion’s creation. They were wrong to sow this confusion. Ultimately, when I contacted them with the truth, they corrected the record. I endured other harassment and veiled threats, but those died down fairly quickly.”
Many people voiced public support of Zanaboni’s decision. “I appreciated those,” he recalls. “Ultimately though, my decision to leave what STAA called at the time ‘a perfect career arc‘ was simply based on personal integrity. I could never look myself in the mirror knowing I did not speak out against a planned Caucasian Heritage Night.”
Prior to Orem, Zanaboni’s “perfect career arc” featured consecutive seasons in summer collegiate and independent ball. Since Orem, Zanaboni has broadcast community college sports in Mississippi, baseball for the Texas AirHogs of the American Association and basketball, baseball and soccer for the University of West Florida.
Zanaboni’s relationship with the Johnson City Cardinals has been developing for a couple of years. “The front office learned of my story and my work from a mutual acquaintance, Matt Slater, who is a special assistant to the general manager in St. Louis,” Zanaboni says. “Zac Clark, GM in Johnson City, and I connected a few times and then were able to meet at the Winter Meetings in December in Las Vegas.”
Zanaboni has been an STAA member since 2014. “I’ve stuck with [STAA] because of the number of leads it generates. I apply to a lot of jobs through it. And I appreciated the article STAA published in 2015 to help me get the truth out there about what happened when I resigned my position with the Owlz. That meant something.”
Persistence has been Zanaboni’s key in the job market. “I’ve kept grinding. That’s been huge. And I’ve tried to treat people with respect along the way. People remember that, I think.”
Since the Orem situation, Zanaboni has continued his commitment to diversity in sports. “I have served as a broadcaster and sports information director at Coahoma Community College, an HBCU in northern Mississippi, and, most recently, have been part of a pioneering effort to bring the Chinese national baseball team to the independent American Association.
“I’ve done these things having more fun than any radio guy out there. There’s a joy unmistakable in my broadcasts. My soul was tested by a set of strange circumstances four summers ago. I passed and it set me free.”
(Visit Joey’s STAA Talent Page).