BY SHAEMUS KREIDER | Ball State Sports Link
In this uncertain time, I was very lucky to get the opportunity to broadcast baseball over the 2020 summer with the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters of the Northwoods League.
It was my first summer with a baseball team in a full-time capacity and was a catalyst for my further growth as a broadcaster.
The 21 teams in the Northwoods League provide real-world learning experiences with their internships. Here’s 10 things that I learned from my summer in Wisconsin.
1. Do your homework.
If you go into a season without a grasp of your team’s strengths and weaknesses, you have already fallen behind. Just like broadcasting an event, you need to know what the storylines are for your team well ahead of the season. Some of the best knowledge that I was able to gather came in preseason interviews with each player.
2. Bring a pillow.
In a normal year, Northwoods League teams travel up to nine hours away for road series on busses. In 2020, travel was limited as a COVID-19 precaution, but the point stays the same. After midnight on an interstate, you will need some sleep. Without a pillow, you’re going to be hard-pressed to get any shuteye.
3. Have fun.
The Northwoods League season is 72 games in 75 days. There will be moments where you struggle over the course of a season, and moments where you need a rest, but there will be thrilling and exciting moments that make it all worth it. Nothing makes a broadcast better than when you are happy to put on the headset. You will excel as a broadcaster if you can keep up the enthusiasm no matter what is happening behind the scenes.
4. Don’t forget why you are there.
You have two purposes when broadcasting. One is to entertain and inform the public. The other is to improve yourself. As I mentioned in point #3, you will have forgettable moments and poor calls over the course of 72 games. Even Joe Buck and Adam Amin have messed up in their careers.
The best broadcasters move on and continue their pursuit for a ‘perfect call’ every night. If you get down on yourself in the middle of a broadcast, you’ve let down your team’s fanbase, and yourself. Just like the players on the diamond, you need to have a short memory at times.
5. Get in-season feedback.
There’s no better way to get better game-by-game than to send your tape around mid-season and get critiques. Without many days off, you will not have much time to explore your own tape. Let your friends and colleagues give you things to work on so that you can better serve your team.
6. Bring your work boots.
Outside of the major leagues, broadcasters have to work outside of the booth. Make sure that you’re ready to write press releases and arrange media appearances. Also be ready to work wherever is needed around the ballpark. Lots of work is needed in the pre-season to prepare the ballpark for fans, especially after a harsh, cold Midwestern winter.
7. Enjoy a new part of the country.
The United States is full of unique locations. If you are away from home, enjoy the sights and sounds of your new community. Go out into nature and find a little peace after a day game. One of the glories of working in baseball is the travel. Getting to broadcast on the banks of the Mississippi River and a couple of blocks from Lambeau Field are two wonderful memories for me from 2020.
8. Expect the unexpected.
There’s a famous baseball saying: “you can’t predict baseball.” It’s true. Over the Rafters’ 47 games played in 2020, the following occurred:
- A pitcher was struck in the head by the sharp end of a broken bat.
- On an otherwise clear night, a double rainbow appeared over the ballpark.
- An opposing team brought their right fielder in to pitch and made five substitutions in the same breath. We spent a full inning attempting to parse the (illegal) substitution inside the press box.
You cannot become complacent during a game. Always be ready for a highlight to happen, even in a blowout. All three of these odd events happened in blowouts. The best broadcasters make 13-1 games entertaining.
9. Meet new people.
You will meet players and interns from across the 50 states. Take time to get to know them. They may not be a broadcaster, but they are in town for similar reasons. You will meet life-long friends over the summer.
10. Be creative.
With few off days, the Northwoods League can be monotonous, if you let it. Make sure to mix it up with guests and special talking points for each broadcast. One of the best moments this year was bringing Phillies prospect Bryson Stott, a former Rafters player, on the broadcast during a game. Insights from people outside of the booth assist in making a broadcast unique.