broadcasting, play-by-play

A Perfect Way to Express My School Pride

Something amazing happened last night in Oakland, and it involved the New York Yankees. As an unabashed New York Mets fan (despite their current freefall I will always bleed orange and blue, and black on Friday’s), typing these words would be followed by a wave of nausea, followed by a dollop of vomit at the back of my throat.

Not today.

Domingo German pitched a perfect game for the Bronx Bombers – not that they needed it as they crushed the hapless Athletics 11-0. I’m also not here to write about Domingo German.

In the future, when I refer to June 28th, 2023, it won’t be German or the Yankees that I’ll be thinking about, but instead the men behind the respective broadcast microphones for YES Network and WFAN. Ryan Ruocco and Justin Shackil are outstanding young broadcasters and perhaps the future voices of Yankees baseball, and they were on the air for their brush with history, instead of Michael Kay and John Sterling, who normally occupy those seats.

Ruocco’s call was captivating as his superstition danced around using the exact word ‘perfect’ until the game was in the books, and then let the crowd and pictures take center stage. Shackil meanwhile offered up a slight growl of enthusiasm on the final call which provided a little bit of a vocal callback to Brooklyn Nets voice Chris Carrino, which is important in the context of this story.

Ruocco, Shackil, Carrino – and even Michael Kay, all have something in common as products of Fordham University and 90.7 FM WFUV Radio. You can add Mike Breen and Dan D’Uva to that list, who recently finished calling the NBA and Stanley Cup Finals respectively.

Of course, the biggest and most important name of all is Vin Scully, who was a co-founder of WFUV and considered the greatest baseball play-by-play announcer of all-time.

Somewhere on the list, well below those names, as well as Bob Papa, Charlie Slowes, Spero Dedes, Barstool’s Tommy ‘Smokes’ Scibelli (you’ve made it when you’re parodied by Pete Davidson on SNL) and countless others, is my name. I’m a very proud Fordham and WFUV alum, Class of 1995.

My desire to work at WFUV started in high school, when I was a regular caller on One-on-One, New York’s longest running sports call-in show (still on the air). I wanted to host the show that I enjoyed calling for a large chunk of my high school days. At the time I wasn’t sure that I wanted to pursue sportscasting as a career, but upon joining the staff and then meeting our broadcast coach Marty Glickman, I realized quickly that I wanted to do play-by-play. I was instantly hooked.

As a Bronx native, I commuted to Fordham, and didn’t have the experience of living in the dorms or staying on-campus as most others did at Rose Hill. WFUV was my dorm, and the other students on-staff were my roommates and friends. Marty and the other professionals at WFUV were my true professors. I learned so much about broadcasting and life from them. I’ve shared some of them before and perhaps I’ll share more in the future.

It’s that time at WFUV which makes me gush with excitement to speak about what Marty Glickman did for me, as well as elated for the Ryan Ruocco’s, Justin Shackil’s and Dan D’Uva’s of the world when they get to call historic moments. While they attended Fordham well after me, we all had a shared experience because of our time in Keating Hall. And while Marty was my mentor, they all had Bob Ahrens to lean on, a wonderful human who cared for each of them (and countless others) as he would his own children. Bob played a major role in their success, and they’d be the first ones to tell you that.

I’ve advised many young broadcasters over the years from different colleges or high schools and my advice is always the same – find an environment that is perfect for you. Fordham was right for me, but it doesn’t mean it’s for everyone that wants to be a play-by-play announcer. What I would suggest is to find a place that suits you, that will present opportunities to learn your craft and to build that sense of camaraderie and support that I had at Fordham.

In my current role as play-by-play announcer for Quinnipiac University men’s and women’s hockey, I see the efforts of the student media organizations and how they work hard and work together to put forth quality content. When they finish their time and enter the workforce, they’re also quite vocal in their support of their fellow alumni and classmates, just as many of us fellow Fordham grads do with our fellow classmates and others that preceded or followed us. It’s wonderful to witness!

However, if you’re in a situation that doesn’t offer that type of support and mentorship, then seek it out. Don’t be afraid to approach play-by-play professionals via Twitter and kindly ask for a critique or seek some career advice. There are easy to find groups on social media where you can find that kind of support. You might have to knock on a few virtual doors, but with some time and effort, you’ll find as they say, ‘your people’.