Dave Michaels announced independent professional baseball games in the Dallas Texas area during 2007 and 2008. He was the online radio broadcaster for the Continental Baseball League’s Lewisville Lizards (2007) and McKinney Blue Thunder (2008); and he continues to announce and host online radio programs for local high school, college, and professional sporting events. In addition, he hosts a weekly online radio show with Dallas Cowboys players during the NFL season.
Dave was kind enough to give IndependentBaseball.net an exclusive interview. He believes that there is not enough “how to” information on the major sports websites for those who want to join the industry. His interview offers a terrific introduction to announcing baseball games on the radio, and it offers concrete steps that prospective independent and “affiliated” minor league baseball broadcasters and announcers can take. If you want to discover more about Dave and his radio accomplishments then be sure to visit his website at http://www.davradioproductions.com.
IndependentBaseball.net: Dave, thank you for agreeing to help future baseball announcers, especially those who aim to break into independent baseball or Minor League Baseball at the lower levels. While we will cover specifics in a few moments, what is the main philosophy you have about announcing a baseball game versus another sport?
Dave Michaels: I always tell anyone who is serious to remember this one thing when it comes to announcing a baseball game: Baseball is a “story interrupted by a game.”
IndependentBaseball.net: What do you mean by that?
Dave Michaels: It means that on the radio, listeners are “blind.” You must paint a picture for them because there is nothing that they can see. It is up to you, as the announcer/broadcaster, to “paint a picture” so that they can “see” the game simply from your voice.
IndependentBaseball.net: How is this different than announcing other sports like football or basketball?
Dave Michaels: Football is a “crammed” sport. There is not much time between plays to tell a story because you have to recap so much after each play. In basketball there is so much back-and-forth action, and the color commentator usually fills in a lot of the nuances of the action. This leaves little time for telling a story.
Baseball on the other hand, has lots of time between pitches and time between innings, pitching changes, and has lots of colorful characters who can been easily seen by the audience. Some examples are the bat boy, the mascot, fans in the stands who make spectacular catches of foul balls, base coaches, and the umpires. This doesn’t even factor in any time you have coming back from commercial breaks where on-field promotions are happening.
IndependentBaseball.net: If you were a college student or someone who wanted to break into the professional radio announcing business then what advice would have helped you most?
Dave Michaels: In addition to going to a formal college program where they specialize in teaching you about announcing, I would have studied the “greats” like Vin Scully and Red Barber. Then I would create my own style, employing the lessons which made the “greats” so compelling.
IndependentBaseball.net: What other advice do you give college students and first-time radio announcers?
Dave Michaels: It’s more than “balls and strikes”!! You have to get to know the players and how they tease each other, what advice they give each other, in what areas does the player need to develop (or he is working on with his manager and coaches), and the topics which are of concern to the players.
You have to build trust with the players and let them know that you are an ally, and not someone who is going to air any “negativity” about the players on the air. Also, by getting to know the players you will be able to add unique “tidbits” of information. These unique stories play into the psychology of the listener because the human brain loves a good story; and it helps to make you “hypnotic” in the minds of the listeners.
IndependentBaseball.net: In your opinion, how does a “rookie” radio announcer (online or broadcast) become considered as “professional” in the shortest time possible?
Dave Michaels: There are several things a professional announcer does which separates him/her from the rest, especially at the lower levels of Minor League Baseball or independent baseball. The first is that you have to gain trust from the players so that you know lots about them. You need to know birthdays, where the player went to college, what they think of the season so far, what the manager wants from them (e.g. in what areas does the player have to improve in his “mechanics”), and other useful information.
By necessity, this means getting to the ballpark early! You can’t just show up 10 minutes before the First Pitch and call a game on the radio. You will do your listeners a disservice. With most online broadcasts being archived today, people have the opportunity to go back and listen to a broadcast whenever they want. You need to make your announcing so compelling that they believe that they are listening to it live!
Also remember that you have a secondary job to do: help sell advertising and promote your sponsors. Mel Allen was one of the best ever at tying in a sponsor to the game’s action. Be sure to study Mel’s broadcasts and SLOWLY incorporate them so that they just seem like a natural part of your calling the game. If you overdo it, you may actually represent the sponsor in a bad light! Done correctly, you will do your team a terrific service and help the team increase its chances of retaining the sponsor next year.
IndependentBaseball.net: What else can an announcer do to become more “professional” quickly?
Dave Michaels: He can invest in, or have the team acquire, good equipment. Some teams use cell phones as part of the broadcast, and it compromises quality. You want the live broadcast and the archived recordings to sound clear and as if you and I are in the same room with the listener.
In addition, the announcer must have “continuity.” This means you know how that night’s game fits into the bigger picture. For example, early in the season you can comment on the past season(s) of the team and how the team may have improved. You can talk about stadium improvements, winter leagues in which the players gained more experience, and information about the league. One of the biggest drawbacks with independent baseball is that information about other teams and leagues is not as readily available as it is with Minor League Baseball. By providing the listener with information about the league, its history, and how it ties in with the rest of independent (and affiliated) baseball you will be able to tell a much more comprehensive story.
Again, announcing a baseball game is more than balls and strikes. It is a story interrupted by a game!
IndependentBaseball.net: What else can the announcer do during the actual time on air to make his/her listeners feel compelled?
Dave Michaels: There are a few things that can be done depending on your system, communications, and team/league policies. For example, during a long break in the action (such as a conference on the mound) you can ask listeners to e-mail (or Twitter) you questions which you can then address during the rest of the broadcast, if appropriate. For example, a parent of a player may ask if his/her son is dropping the bat head when swinging with 2 strikes. If you feel that this is appropriate for conversation (and have permission from the team) then you can use that to talk about the player’s mechanics, a story that the same player told you about how he is trying to improve his swing, and maybe a story about where the player played previously.
This leads to the next thing a baseball announcer should have: knowledge about baseball! I don’t mean just the “romantic” or “glorified” stories about baseball, but the actual truth as believed by the players who play the game.
In addition, an announcer needs to work well his/her color commentator. The “color guy” needs to do just that: add “color” to the story. The color commentator needs to add anecdotes, pick up on nuances that the average listener (and fan) won’t see, and tell funny stories related to what you bring up during conversation. That’s why you must be entertaining: you need to know how to be fluid, lead your color commentator, weave the sponsors into the conversation (when possible), and have a genuine enthusiasm for the game. All of these will help keep your listener tuned into your coverage and not change the channel or shut down your online broadcast window.
IndependentBaseball.net: What are some of the “cardinal rules” you believe get broken too frequently, especially during independent baseball broadcasts?
Dave Michaels: There are a few of them. The worst cases in recent history have to do with online announcers who are chosen because they are family members, sponsors, or friends of high-dollar sponsors. These people, who are not passionate about calling the game and leaving a positive mark on baseball history, violate these rules with the greatest frequency:
* Poor enunciation
* No originality
* Only calling balls and strikes
* Way too many clichés — we all use them occasionally, but announcer should strive to minimize clichés and find his/her own expressions
* Little baseball knowledge
* Over-hyping sponsors which tend to repel the listeners
There are a few other “cardinal rules”:
* NEVER “bury” your own team. If there is a problem, resolve it off the air. The listeners are there to cheer on their home team, and they don’t need you (the announcer or color commentator) to “throw the team under the bus”
* NEVER talk about irrelevant things. It’s one thing if your Aunt Maude is having a birthday, and you give a quick mention. Droning on about her, especially if she has nothing to do with the team in any way, is just bad announcing. The same applies to other topics or world events which don’t tie into the game
* NO inside jokes. If the listener doesn’t even have a chance of getting the joke then you risk losing the listener. Even if the listener remains, you have broken rapport with the listener and you will have to work hard to get the listener back to feeling compelled to listen.
* NOTHING degrading or crass. This is just basic manners. Engaging in those topics cheapens you, the team, the players, the listener’s experience, and the sponsors’ funding
* NO degrading commenting on the girls. As a guy you should stay away from commenting on women in the stands. If you must comment, be complimentary and move onto the story quickly. This is just good policy for tons of reasons!
IndependentBaseball.net: Dave, thank you for all of your insights! What final recommendations do you have for our readers?
Dave Michaels: If you want to become an announcer, go to a good school and send your demo tapes to the appropriate decision-makers in independent and affiliated minor league baseball. Learn what it takes to be a professional, and remember that you are there for an entire season.
Like the players, there will be nights when you’re tired and don’t have “much in the tank” for your broadcast. It is on nights like those where you really have to dig deep and keep your listeners interested… especially during a rain delay! That is why you need to be prepared, come to the stadium early, learn how to tell stories and be entertaining, have a knowledge of baseball history and the league in which your team plays, and have communication with the fans.
Finally, be sure to read up on the “greats” of baseball announcing. You can learn much from their perceptions of what to do as an announcer and how to make your listeners feel compelled to listen to your stories as much as to listen to the actual game.
I wish all future baseball announcers the best as they pursue this fun, crazy business known as professional baseball!
For a list of books which Dave recommends, look at the image below and click on the titles which interest you the most.
There are several good books about the independent professional baseball leagues. You are welcome to see a list of suggestions through this link: Books Get notified of upcoming independent baseball tryouts from either of these services: first service or the second service. Prospective players can find some helpful resources here We will be providing a growing list of possibly helpful tips and suggestions on various baseball information. This will range from "how to" information about baseball skills all the way to helpful information for casual baseball fans. Please click the link for more information: Tips And How To Information