01 May 2015

How is it already the end of April? What I've been up to lately and other pictures ...

May 1, really? Came way too fast for me.

The good news is that I've kept fairly busy. The Big East Digital Network and St. John's have given me the opportunity to dive back into my first broadcasting love, college baseball, while I usually seem to find enough Major League Soccer-related work to keep me going.

On the baseball side of things, I'm up to 31 different stadiums in which I've seen college games after I saw Villanova Ballpark for the first time with Bob Hirschfield back on April 19 in a really interesting Villanova-Xavier game that went down to the wire.

We were back at St. John's, of course, the following weekend, and I never tire of trading stories with Bob, the former head coach at NYIT and a player on the 1968 St. John's team that went to the College World Series. I've done enough games at Kaiser Stadium now that the crew running the broadcast features a bunch of friendly faces every time I go, and it's great to develop that kind of routine and comfort level on a show.

Back in soccer, I've done radio calls for two New York Red Bulls games, and I got to cover the International Champions Cup press conference on Tuesday. It was as good an excuse as I can imagine for frequenting the Trump SoHo, and I interviewed a player from the game that got me back into soccer, Dwight Yorke from Manchester United and the 1999 UEFA Champions League final.
Oh, and I followed along nervously while my friends Eric and Della were stranded and then rescued in Nepal … I know how scared I was trying to send positive thoughts and help, somehow, from the US, but I can't imagine how scared and brave they were to get through the whole thing. Amazingly thankful.

Now that they're safe, it does feel like spring may be finally here (!), and I'm looking forward to more soccer, baseball, occasional trips to Central Park, and venturing out to see everything else New York has to offer.

17 April 2015

Calling more New York Red Bulls games while going back to my radio roots

A photo posted by Jason Baum (@baum717) on
I had the great chance to fill in as the play-by-play voice of the New York Red Bulls on MSG for their first two broadcasts this year, covering for Steve Cangialosi as he finished out his hockey season with the New Jersey Devils.

I'm going to keep calling Red Bulls games, however, as part of the team's online radio network, which kicks off tonight when the Red Bulls host the San Jose Earthquakes at Red Bull Arena at 7 p.m. ET. I won't be calling every game, but I'll be calling about one-third of them, mostly alongside former MLS defender Steve Jolley.

This is a combination of my first soccer team (I interned for the MetroStars in 2002) and my initial entry into broadcasting: radio! I began my MLS broadcasting career by calling Houston Dynamo games on the radio for three years, calling one game in 2008 and then almost every game of the 2009-11 seasons. It's a very different style of calling games than television (you talk a lot more!), and I enjoy them both, so it's going to be neat to mix in some radio work this year.

Most of all, I'm looking forward to seeing more MLS games in person this year and to continuing my coverage of a team that's been really fun to watch so far. I've called two of the Red Bulls' three road games this year, and those games have had seven goals, including a 30-yard chip and a 90th-minute game-tying goal.

What will my first MLS broadcast at Red Bull Arena since 2011 bring? We'll find out tonight! The game is televised only in Spanish, so try turning down the volume and checking us out at NewYorkRedBulls.com!

09 April 2015

Fifth time's the charm: baseball season is finally here!

I was excited to call a lot of college baseball and softball this year. I love college baseball, I thought I could easily embrace college softball, and I was looking forward to improving in a new area.

That has proved to be far more difficult than expected.

You see, the weather in New York (and much of the country, of course) has been awful. When I finally opened an NEC Front Row broadcast at LIU Brooklyn on Wednesday, it was the first time I got to call any baseball or softball this year on my FIFTH attempt.

Not cool at all. Here's how I went 0-for-4:

0-1: March 18 - LIU Brooklyn vs. St. John's baseball game cancelled due to field conditions.
0-2: March 21 - Two different flights out of La Guardia get cancelled during a snowstorm, and the SEC Network has to plan without me for my only scheduled college softball game. A big letdown. Missed a great game, too.
0-3: March 25 - I'm on hand to call LIU Brooklyn vs. NYIT baseball, but as the forecast grows steadily worse, it is correctly decided that we cannot do our broadcast because the rain could damage the equipment. The game goes ahead in nasty conditions, and I leave after two hours and five innings, barely able to feel my feet.
0-4: April 7 - As on March 25, the LIU Brooklyn vs. St. John's baseball game happens, but once again, rain prohibits us from broadcasting. This time I stay warm at home and follow online.

So I finally got on the air on Wednesday in LIU Brooklyn's 13-5 loss to Iona, and while it was cold and windy, we had no rain to speak of. I've got more baseball on tap throughout April and into May (starting this weekend with two games of what should be an excellent St. John's-Seton Hall series), and I'm looking forward to some warmer, springier days at the ballpark!

Calling a game at LIU is a pretty unique experience. The field is an enormous rectangle of artificial turf that has a baseball diamond in one corner, softball diamond in the next corner over, and loads of space for soccer and lacrosse up to the other two corners. With a temporary fence and all sorts of screens, overhangs, and ground rules, you never know exactly how a ball is going to play in the outfield.

I called Wednesday's game from a table adjacent to the LIU Brooklyn dugout, underneath the main rows of elevated bleachers and just to the right of home plate. It makes seeing the right-field corner just about impossible, but the trade-off is that you really feel like a part of the dugout chatter!

At any rate, great to be calling baseball again, and I'm looking forward to seeing how all these Northeastern teams, something of a mystery to me in my Rice days, fare throughout the season.

15 March 2015

I was there ... when MLS debuted in New York

I've been to at least 50 professional baseball games in the state of New York, probably closer to 100, and a distinct majority of those have been in New York City.

But until Sunday night, I had never been to a professional soccer game in New York City.

In fact, Sunday's home opener for expansion club New York City FC was only the third professional soccer game I've attended in New York state -- the other two were on Long Island.

So while I'm not wild about soccer teams being called Football Clubs, super-rich parent clubs are not my cup of tea, and I do prefer soccer-specific venues, it was pretty cool to be there with more than 45,000 fans as (New) Yankee Stadium made its MLS debut.

I was there to observe and network, rather than appear on-air, but it was a very cool atmosphere punctuated by two moments of brilliance from David Villa. (See for yourself). There was an impressive amount of light blue in the stands, given that NYC FC is a new team, and when the entire stadium got going with unison chants of "N-Y-C, N-Y-C," it gave me goosebumps.

Welcome to MLS, New York.

13 March 2015

I'm baaack! It's never easy, but the 2015 schedule is starting to take shape

It’s been more than two months since I’ve last posted here. I’ll try not to go silent that long again.

While the last two-plus months did include an awesome vacation (hello, Diamond Head, at right), I’ve spent most of it (including parts of said vacation) trying to line up work for 2015. While last year was my best yet as a professional free-lancer, it left me with no guarantees and little scheduled work heading into 2015.

While I got some early chances to stay involved, covering the 2015 adidas MLS Player Combine (see me poolside!) and working on the online stream of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft for MLSsoccer.com, one (excellent, top-25) college basketball game on Jan. 16 was my only live sporting event in the first 65 days of 2015.
This is not a comfortable position for a broadcaster. Not only is covering live events what I enjoy the most, but it’s also what I intend to make the lion’s share of my livelihood. Sitting around without work bums me out AND fails to pay the bills.

This is a not uncommon problem for me in the spring. In 2013, I went from Feb. 27 to June 1 without calling a major live event. Of course, I was planning a wedding at the time, so I had some things to do, but it was still extremely frustrating. Once I got started, however, I wound up covering a decent set of MLS games that year.

Since 2015 is my second year in the New York sports market, I have felt a little more confident than last year that work would eventually turn up. Don’t get me wrong, I was stressing it. I made calls and sent emails and went to meetings so that I could network. I sat around and waited for responses, agonized when other broadcasters got jobs I had hoped for, estimated the minimum I would make if no other jobs came along, and wondered when something good was going to happen.

Let’s just say it’s not my favorite time of year.

But I truly remained positive, moreso than in years past. My wife, my family members, and various colleagues all helped me to do so, and I fell back on the lessons of years past:
  • Something good will happen; I just don’t know when.
  • Work will find you when you stop reaching for it. 
  • Be patient. 
  • Believe in yourself.
Clich├ęs, I know, but they work. I don’t have my entire year planned out, but I have a pretty good idea of what I will be doing most months, and any additions to that mental schedule will be a welcome bonus!

For now, I am happy to say that I am on track for a busy spring schedule calling soccer, baseball, and softball for my usual variety of networks and outlets. My season started by hosting the pre-game show for the Philadelphia Union’s record-setting 6abc broadcast last Saturday, the first time I have covered the opening weekend of MLS play since I was full-time with the Houston Dynamo in 2011.
The current highlight of my spring schedule is a March 21 softball game I will call for the SEC Network, featuring top-20 teams Tennessee and Missouri. It is the highest-level production I have ever worked for in a sport other than soccer, and it is a chance for me to prove I can call multiple sports and earn more work at that level.

I also expect to call baseball games on more days this year (5 and counting) than any year since 2006 (I called about 100 games that year in minor league baseball), which is an exciting return to my broadcasting roots.

Soccer will, thankfully and not surprisingly, continue to make up the bulk of my schedule for the year, and I am waiting on several opportunities in the first half of the year that will be very exciting if (when!) they work out.

The work of landing jobs is not done. It never is. Thinking about opportunities and what may be available in the future is never far from my thoughts.

But I've got games to study for and the temperature in New York City is above 40 degrees. That makes me excited to get out of the apartment and start working on 2015!

31 December 2014

Here's to 2014: A year of new thrills, adventure, and excitement

So 2014 is in the books. What a crazy year. I didn't get married or anything, like in 2013, but I still hit some milestones this year:
  • My first full year in New York, living life to the soundtrack of car horns and sirens, construction drilling and trains rumbling. I made some sort of trip to four of the five boroughs this year (usually for a sporting event), but there is, of course, a lot more I still want to see. Strange, wonderful, exciting place.
  • My first broadcasts on ESPN2. It's my job, and I try to stay level-headed, but I'm not going to pretend I wasn't nervous before my call of the NWSL semifinals Aug. 23 and the MLS Game of the Week Oct. 12, both on ESPN2. So thankful to have those opportunities and to work with really excellent people on both shows.
  • More women's soccer calls than I've ever done before. This started with the US women's national team in June, continued to the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in August, and wrapped with plenty of college soccer for ESPNU and the SEC Network in the fall. The same game, just a little different, and a host of World Cup champions as color analysts. I had an awesome time and can't wait to do some of it again!
  • My first televised (multi-camera) baseball games! I think I'm associated more with soccer now, but my broadcast career started with (and primarily dealt with) baseball from 2002-06. It's the sport I've been attached to the longest. I finally got the chance to call some televised games with St. John's ESPN3 broadcasts this spring, and it didn't disappoint.
I also saw two concerts and the birth of a cow at the Houston Rodeo, two incredible (and incredibly different) weddings, old family hangouts in Arkansas, Derek Jeter's second-to-last game, and soccer's first Cosmos-Red Bulls showdown in the Open Cup.

I saw soccer games in MLS, NWSL, NASL, USL PRO, NPSL, USOC, SEC, ACC, and AAC.

I was visited in the city by friends new and old, from those leaving on an around-the-world trip to those who live a few subway stops away, and several whose transit status falls somewhere in between.

I experienced crazy weather in Tucson in February, froze my butt off in Chicago in March, shivered in Dallas in April, sweated in Kansas City in August, toured the Southeastern Conference in September and October, and relished covering indoor sports in Queens, Brooklyn, and Jersey in November and December.

I partied (in the sense of attending an event) at the Frick Collection, took my dog into a bookstore (who knew that was allowed?), went to the FDR Museum in Hyde Park, and swelled with pride as my (far) better half was sworn in as a member of the New York State Bar.

Quite a year, personally and professionally, and much to be thankful for. Here's to many more exciting ventures, changes, and memories in 2015!

28 October 2014

Experiencing an SEC football game on the plains of Auburn

I was in Auburn, Alabama last weekend to call the Iron Bowl of Soccer - Auburn vs. Alabama - and got a dramatic finish in a 1-0 Tiger victory in overtime.

The night before, I had the chance to take in my first conference football game in the SEC - Auburn vs. South Carolina - and go behind the scenes with the SEC Network broadcast of the game. It was a really fun experience, and I thought I'd share some of my pictures and my impressions:

20 October 2014

Pictures from my latest Georgia trip, ESPNU broadcast

I made my second trip of the year to call a game at the University of Georgia last weekend, including what felt like my umpteenth flight from LaGuardia to Atlanta. Many more still to come, of course!

With a free Saturday night and no college football in the area, I went to see Silverbacks Park in north Atlanta, home to the Atlanta Silverbacks of the North American Soccer League. Small stadium (c. 5,000 capacity) with a large youth-soccer presence in the crowd.

I was very surprised by two things: 1. The wind made it quite a cool evening. 2. T-shirts for 'MLS Atlanta 2017' were sold side-by-side (from a third-party vendor) with those of the home team, a member of a league often considered in competition with MLS. Very interesting.

My partner for Sunday's game, airing on ESPNU this time instead of the SEC Network, was former US women's national team star Shannon MacMillan, who won the MAC Hermann Trophy as the nation's top player in 1995 while at Portland, then was a key player as the US won the 1996 Olympics and 1999 World Cup and later played in the WUSA.

What had not occurred to me was that the 1996 Olympic soccer competition culminated in Athens, Georgia, with MacMillan scoring the semifinal game-winner and a goal in the final in games played before capacity crowds in Sanford Stadium, the Georgia football stadium! This was Shannon's first time back to Athens in 18 years, and even though she was performing in a much smaller venue, I think she had a great afternoon.

Most of us working on the broadcast were shadowed by University of Georgia broadcast television students as part of ESPN's Campus Connection program, and Shannon and I had the chance to talk to a bunch of them before things got too crazy, so that was a lot of fun.
The game itself was a little hectic. A half-marathon held in the morning had limited our crew's access to the site, so there were a few things that wound up being done on-the-fly. In taping our opening segment, we were about to complete our best take when the stadium PA system launched into The Star-Spangled Banner, a definite no-no. So we did the open live, and except for one word stumble on my part (which I fairly successfully worked through), it still went great!

Afterward, with flights from Atlanta scheduled for Sunday night, we both high-tailed it out after the game, but not before I changed clothes and took a quick selfie with the stone Uga (pronounced like Uggla without the L) that keeps watch over the UGa Soccer Stadium!

Once I got to the airport, I could not convince TGIFriday's to switch any of its televisions away from Sunday Night Football, so to catch the first half of LA vs. Seattle for the MLS Supporters' Shield title, I used their wireless signal instead.
Finally, here's a link to our post-game segment, including both of the game's goals.