This article was written by Matthew R.C. Bosen
This article was published in The National Pastime: Major Research on the Minor Leagues (2022)
The city of Beloit, Wisconsin, has been home to minor league baseball every summer since 1982 when a group of residents successfully purchased a franchise to serve as the Class A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers in the Midwest League. In their history, the team has had three names (Beloit Brewers, 1982-94; Beloit Snappers, 1995-2021; Beloit Sky Carp, 2022-present) and four major league team affiliations (Milwaukee Brewers, 1982-2004; Minnesota Twins, 2005-12; Oakland Athletics, 2013-20; Miami Marlins, 2021-present). This article details the unique approach that the Beloit Sky Carp took to finding the team’s “voice,” through the Dream Job competition.
As the former general manager of the Beloit Snappers and current director of sales at Visit Beloit, I experienced firsthand the number of aspiring broadcasters searching for a press box to call home at the annual Baseball Winter Meetings. After personally witnessing the strong demand for broadcasters to enter the baseball industry, I spent nearly a decade conceptualizing an event that could both capitalize on the interest of broadcasters and attract visitors to Beloit. After discussing my idea with a former Vice President of Alumni Relations at Beloit College, I was introduced to Beloit College alum and current Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster, Joe Davis. That introduction sparked the event to happen, as Davis could connect me to a plethora of professional broadcasters. The final piece of the puzzle was getting the Sky Carp on board to make the winner of the Dream Job contest the 2022 radio broadcaster for the team.
The Visit Beloit team created the inaugural Broadcast Symposium and Dream Job Competition, a first of its kind event, held January 7-9, 2022, at ABC Supply Stadium in Beloit, Wisconsin.1 The venue, a brand- new state of the art home to the Beloit Sky Carp (High A affiliate of the Miami Marlins), served as the perfect site for a broadcasting event with a baseball twist.2 The weekend featured a combination of networking, educational opportunities, and a live competition with a chance to be named the 2022 radio broadcaster for the recently rebranded team. The event had originally been slated for January 2021, but was postponed due to safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.3
I collaborated with several nationally recognized broadcasters who enthusiastically signed up to assist the next generation of aspiring broadcasters. As I mentioned, the first broadcaster to throw his support behind the concept was Joe Davis of the Los Angeles Dodgers and FOX Sports.4 Davis had graduated from Beloit College in 2010 and happily jumped on board to bring the concept to life in late 2019. Through his personal introductions and outreach to others, an impressive collection of broadcasters started to coalesce, including Jeff Levering (Milwaukee Brewers/Big Ten Network/FOX Sports), Elise Menaker (Big Ten Network/ Marquee Sports Network), Cory Provus (Minnesota Twins), Adam Amin (Fox Sports/Chicago Bulls), Lisa Byington (Fox Sports/Big Ten Network), Jon Chelesnik (Sportscasters Talent Agency of America), Robert Ford (Houston Astros/ESPN), Mike Hall (Big Ten Network), and Matt Lepay (Badger Sports Network/Learfield IMG College). All of them contributed to the event in one way or another.5
The seven finalists with the two keynote speakers (L—R): Joe Davis, Jacob Toepfer, Ryan Christofferson, Ryan Zimmerman, Jacob Norling, Brennan Mense, Mitchell Speltz, Larry Larson, and Wayne Randazzo. (Courtesy of the author)
Additionally, the list of broadcasters that signed on who had ties to Beloit proved to be lengthy and impressive as well. Davis and K.C. Johnson (NBC Sports Chicago) both attended Beloit College; Santoria Black (Grambling State University) and Nate Metz (Stove Leg Media) both grew up in Beloit; and Wayne Randazzo (New York Mets/Big Ten Network/FOX Sports) and Brett Dolan (Touchdown Radio/ESPN) both spent time in the press box at Pohlman Field, the previous home of the Beloit Snappers, early in their careers— Randazzo with the Kane County Cougars and Dolan with the Snappers.
Registered attendees for the event hailed from 17 different states. A total of 50 colleges and universities were represented between the broadcasters and attendees. Regular registration for the event was $285 and included entry into the Dream Job Competition and access to all speaker sessions during the Broadcast Symposium.6 Attendance was limited to the first 200 individuals to register.7
The first component of the event was an opportunity for all entrants to submit a demonstration of their broadcasting work in the areas of play-by-play, sports update anchoring, interviewing, and sports talk show hosting/podcasting. To accommodate the busy schedule of the judges, the submissions were due on September 30, 2021, and then were reviewed by the panel of professional broadcasters from October through December. After all reviews were returned, the scores were calculated and the top seven submissions were identified as finalists for the Dream Job Competition. Each judge provided constructive feedback for the entrants and those comments were shared with each registrant following the event.
The in-person portion of the event kicked off on Friday, January 7, with a welcome reception for all registered attendees.8 The event included live music, a collection of industry job postings, appetizers, and networking opportunities for the attendees. The evening gave attendees their first view of the playing surface at ABC Supply Stadium from the comforts of the Beloit Health System club which served as the primary venue space for the event. Attendees also got an up-close look at behind the scenes components of the stadium with a tour of the clubhouses and other team facilities.
Eventual “Dream Job” winner Larry Larson being judged following his performance. Facing him, left to right, are Nate Metz, Santoria Black, Wayne Randazzo, Joe Davis, Brett Dolan, and Maria Valentyn. (Courtesy of the author)
Education and networking were kicked into high gear on Saturday, when eight broadcasters conducted seven sessions detailing their broadcasting climb, college experiences, and advice for beginning a career in broadcasting. The tone for the event was set by Beloit natives Black and Metz with their morning keynote session “Planting the Seed.” The pair detailed their personal stories and winding paths to their current positions, kicking off the day by enthralling all attendees. The second session of the day featured Randazzo from his New Jersey hotel room as he prepared to broadcast the NCAA men’s basketball game between Rutgers and Nebraska. The session focused on experiences with the New York City media and fans, as well as the lengthy climb from the Mobile BayBears broadcast booth to the New York Mets.
The final presentation of the morning featured Menaker (“Baseball In My Blood”) where she shared stories from her experiences behind the microphone that shaped her career. Following lunch, Levering energized the attendees with a fun presentation focused on some of the less glamorous and challenging times required to make your way in the broadcasting world. The presentation also featured a couple of behind-the- scenes stories from working in the press box with the legendary Bob Uecker.
The two sessions following Levering were both delivered via Zoom due to scheduling conflicts for Johnson and Provus. Johnson joined from his home between Bulls games against the Wizards (Friday) and Mavericks (Sunday) while Provus joined the event from his car on the side of the road immediately following his broadcast of the NCAA men’s basketball game between Purdue and Penn State as he drove to College Park to cover the NCAA men’s basketball game between Wisconsin and Maryland on Sunday. Johnson talked about the path he followed through the newspaper side of the business and the challenges later in his career with the emergence and prevalence of social media breaking all major sports news. Provus delivered a Q&A style session about his Chicago upbringing and the path to Minneapolis, as well as the challenges and excitement that come with calling basketball in addition to his duties with the Twins.
The final session of the day on Saturday featured Dolan, who hit his presentation out of the park with his technical skill advice and delivery refining conversation with attendees. Dolan put his 25-plus years of experience to great use in providing insights that improved the ability of all broadcasters in attendance. The consensus of attendees was that Dolan provided the most impactful presentation of the weekend in terms of real-world advice that could be employed immediately the next time they found themselves behind the microphone.
The culminating day of the event took place on Sunday, January 9, with the two most anticipated events of the weekend. The seven finalists for the Dream Job Competition got the chance to show off their vocal cords in front of a panel of judges that included Davis, Randazzo, Dolan, Black, Metz, and Maria Valentyn of the Beloit Sky Carp to win the team’s radio broadcasting job for the 2022 season.9 Each contestant would have the opportunity to call one half-inning of a past Major League Baseball game. All attendees learned on Saturday afternoon that the series featured in the final competition would be the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians. The contestants were provided team rosters and told they would learn their assigned game and inning when they entered the press box on Sunday.
Joe Davis and Wayne Randazzo answering questions during their keynote session, with host Matt Bosen. (Courtesy of the author)
The seven finalists were sequestered from the other attendees until it was their turn to call an inning. One by one the contestants were brought to the press box they hoped to be working from the following summer and were handed a packet of information. The packet included their assigned game and inning, the box score to that point in the game, and the play-by-play recap up to that inning. Each contestant had ten minutes to compose their thoughts and prepare for the call. They were then shown a recorded version of the FOX broadcast of the game with no audio, and they were to call the game as if they were providing the live radio broadcast call.
Immediately following their turn at the microphone, each contestant was taken to the Beloit Health System suite where they received feedback from the judging panel on their performance. Once all seven contestants were done, their scores were tallied, and they were ranked from first to seventh. The results were announced following the closing keynote. Larry Larson of Bradley University edged out Brennan Mense of Kansas State University for the top spot and secured the 2022 job with the Beloit Sky Carp.10 Larson received the great news from Davis which made the moment even more surreal for the aspiring broadcaster.11 Larson said, “The biggest thing that jumped out with the Dream Job Contest was the immense pressure you were under. I’ve done enough broadcasts to this point in my career where I don’t really get nervous before hitting the air. I’ll get butterflies sometimes, but I know how to use those to create positive energy. This was completely different, knowing who’s not just listening to you, but judging you and nitpicking you. Fortunately, I was able to move past that. It was a unique challenge that I’m very grateful for.”
Larson continued, “It’s always been my goal to get into professional baseball directly out of college, and winning the competition locked up that goal for me. I couldn’t be more grateful to the Beloit Sky Carp organization and Visit Beloit for creating this opportunity. I can’t wait to not only broadcast in a brand-new, state of the art ballpark, but also travel the full schedule and get to tell the stories of all the talented players on the roster.”
Between the contest and the announcement of the winner, the inaugural event provided an opportunity for attendees to hear from two of the best in the business in a casual fireside chat style when Randazzo and Davis dazzled the crowd with their personal experiences. Both got their baseball starts in the Southern League with the Montgomery Biscuits and Mobile Bay- Bears, respectively. That is where Randazzo and Davis formed a friendship that has lasted more than a decade and seen both rise to prominence with Major League Baseball teams on opposite coasts. Following the presentation, both broadcasters spent ample time with attendees networking and answering questions of those who hope to one day reach the same heights.
Visit Beloit is already working on the second version of the event slated for early January 2023. The conference will again feature presentations from professional broadcasters, as well as a job competition to receive professional feedback and a chance to compete for a yet-to-be-determined broadcasting job. Information about the event will be available at www.visitbeloit.com/symposium.
MATTHEW R.C. BOSEN is the younger of two brothers and was born and raised in Collinsville, Illinois. He attended Southeast Missouri State University and earned a degree in sport management with a minor in business administration. He has called Beloit, Wisconsin, home since December 2007. After spending seven years in minor league baseball, he transitioned to the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Visit Beloit, in October 2013. A lifelong baseball fan, he resides in Beloit with his wife, Kelly, and dog, Astro. He has only nine of the current MLB stadiums left to complete the circuit.
1. “Visit Beloit Hosts Sports Broadcast Symposium and Dream Job Competition,” WCLO, May 6, 2021, https://www.wclo.com/2021/05/06/visit-beloit-hosts-sports-broadcast-symposium-and-dream-job-competition.
2. Austin Montgomery, “Radio ‘Dream job’ competition set to find future voice of the Beloit Snappers,” Beloit Daily News, May 7, 2021, https://www.beloitdailynews.com/news/local-news/radio-dream-job-competition-set-tofind-future-voice-of-the-beloit-snappers/article_d01c1b78-6fdd-58e7-a246-e049a594ab74.html.
4. Joe Davis, phone conversation with author, December 19, 2019.
5. “Broadcast Symposium Schedule of Events,” Visit Beloit, January 7, 2022, https://visitbeloit.com/wpcontent/uploads/2022/02/Symposium-Schedule-of-Events-v2.pdf.
6. “Visit Beloit hosts the Sports Broadcast Symposium and Dream Job Competition,” SportsBeezer, May 6, 2021, https://sportsbeezer.com/australia/visit-beloit-hosts-the-sports-broadcast-symposium-and-dream-jobcompetition. Early bird registration rates were available to save $50 off registration.
7. “Beloit Snappers looking for broadcasters,” WIFR, September 1, 2021, https://www.wifr.com/2021/09/01/beloit-snappers-looking-broadcasters.
8. “Visit Beloit Announces Dream Job Competition,” Sports Destination Management, November 3, 2021, https://www.sportsdestinations.com/destinations/wisconsin/news/visit-beloit-announces-dream-jobcompetition-21412.
9. “Inaugural broadcast symposium and dream job competition kicks off this weekend in Beloit,” WCLO, January 4, 2022, https://www.wclo.com/2022/01/04/inaugural-broadcast-symposium-and-dream-job-competitionkicks-off-this-weekend-in-beloit.
10. Mel Huang, “The New Voice of the Beloit Sky Carp Gets Called Up to High-A Ball,” Bradley, 2022, https://www.bradley.edu/heres-the-latest/story.dot?id=70f17ab9-f384-4b1a-9872-91f9a328fd58&fbclid=IwAR0qic47LZCj12xrqDvg-HLjsZMMgo4pQeYk5M9MXQ4nzjNDV7sVn_MBL0.
11. Bill Vilona, “Rockford Native Wins Dream Job Competition As First Radio Voice Of Sky Carp,” Beloit Sky Carp, 2022, https://www.milb.com/beloit/news/sky-carp-radio-competition.