Minor league memories and tips for sports broadcasters

by mike janela - multimedia host and producer | April 23, 2019

Mike Janela is a multimedia host and producer with experience as a studio host for the San Diego Padres and Villanova Wildcats, and play-by-play voice for the Hickory Crawdads, University of North Carolina-Greensboro Spartans, and Anderson Joes. He can be followed on Twitter @mikejanela and is a Clubhouse Mentor if you’d like to reach out for advice.

Visit Part 1 of his blog for the difficult realities of working in minor league baseball.

If the first part of my blog didn’t scare you away from ever applying for a minor league baseball job, congrats: you might have what it takes to survive a 13-game homestand or 11-hour bus ride.

In this part, I’ll share some of the positives that make the industry’s hardship worth it. And if you’re an aspiring broadcaster like I was, I threw in a few practical tips for you that I hope help you get that career started. And don’t forget about me when you become more successful than I am.

YOU’LL NEVER FORGET IT

Those cross-country moves will expose you to parts of the country you may have never otherwise even considered driving through. Wearing a thousand hats teaches you a ton of responsibilities that won’t just refine what jobs you like and are good at, but also help with a bunch of hiring buzzwords like skill set diversification. There’s no sugarcoating the abysmal wages, but the desperation will assuredly make you a better money manager and hungrier to earn more. And those long days and longer seasons build a camaraderie very few workplaces can match. It’s been 10 years since my last Minor League Baseball job and I still stay in touch with former coworkers to this day.

And man, the stories you’ll have. I’ve got a pretty famous one from my run-in with Wally Backman. But I also remember interviewing 18-year-old Madison Bumgarner during batting practice before just the fourth start of his career. Or the time our team bus popped a flat tire on a 12-hour overnight ride and we sat on a deserted Florida roadside for 2 hours before anyone owned an iPhone. Or all the emails players’ families sent thanking me for being the only connection to their son playing so far from home.

So much about working in sports, particularly baseball and particularly the minors, sucks: the arduous hours, the losing streaks, losing your holidays and weekends. But I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

IF YOU’RE A BROADCASTER

Everything I’ve said to this point applies to pretty much any gig at that level. But I also wanted to share a few words specifically for any aspiring broadcasters.

  • Unless you’re hardcore Glengarry, Glen Ross, making money will be even harder for you than others. Because while you’re on the road prepping away games, all your coworkers are at the home office making calls and taking meetings and drumming up those commissions. And good luck if you think you’ll have time to pick up a second job or drive Lyft or something. I cannot stress enough: understand the financial risk inherent with getting into this business.

  • That said, it can be a good life depending on your organization. Because I had to go on road trips (which often meant losing free weekends that office staff got to enjoy), my bosses let me show up in the early afternoons for home games when everyone else clocked in at 9 in the morning. And I could do whatever I wanted on road trips, which made for a pretty independent lifestyle.

  • STAA Talent was an invaluable tool for finding minor league broadcast openings. From what I gather, it’s still really useful, and a great resource when looking for your next jump.

  • -Create as much shoulder content as you can. Start a team podcast. Write player features. Curate photo galleries. Produce behind-the-scenes video series. The more content you create, the better broadcaster you’ll become and the more valuable of a hire you’ll make for a better position later.

  • -Keep copious notes of your performances and save as much of the media as you can. Start a Google Doc and whenever you really nail a call or have three brilliant innings, write it down. When the time comes to update your reel or apply for a better job, you’ll save a ton of trouble trying to remember and find that great walk-off homer you want to include.

  • -Prepare for the offseason. I was fortunate enough to have better job offers on the table that I didn’t return to either minor league team after my first season. But if you plan on making Orem or Altoona home for a couple years, make sure you have a plan in place with your organization. Do they want you in the office 9-to-5? Are you furloughed until Opening Day? Are you free to pick up gigs with a local college basketball team to make money through the winter? Going from September to April or May with no content is death to an aspiring broadcaster, so make sure to find a way to get your reps in, and remember that even Major League Baseball team broadcasters still do winter sports double duty in the offseason.

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You lasted nearly as long as a July, 11-game South Atlantic League road trip. As a thank you, feel free to reach out to me with any questions, particularly if you’re a young broadcaster. I have plenty of people to thank for listening to my tapes, providing feedback, and sharing general advice at that time of my life. More than happy to pay it forward. Just don’t give my email to Wally Backman.

Mike

Mike Janela is a multimedia host and producer with experience as a studio host for the San Diego Padres and Villanova Wildcats, and play-by-play voice for the Hickory Crawdads, University of North Carolina-Greensboro Spartans, and Anderson Joes. He can be followed on Twitter @mikejanela and is a Clubhouse Mentor if you’d like to reach out for advice. You can connect with him here