09/11/2016 1:41 PM
Whiting, Ind. – Sept. 11, 2016 – It was June 1, 2012, and it was a day I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.
I had two challenges on the docket that day – an AP Pre-calculus final exam at Portage High School, and my first ever Northwest Indiana Oilmen radio broadcast on AM 1230 WJOB at Benedictine University that evening.
The test went well – I later found out that I set the curve and received 100 percent among three classes of bright high school juniors. But the broadcast, it wasn’t as noteworthy. I was well prepared, but struggled to put it all together on the air. I was the color commentator and No. 2 broadcaster alongside Andy Schultz that season, and I was a train wreck early, and still getting comfortable even by season’s end.
But fortunately for me, the last five years have entailed very little calculus and a whole lot of Oilmen baseball. As I left the ballpark that first night, I knew so little about the journey I had just embarked upon. I had no idea that five years later, I’d still be talking about Oilmen baseball on AM 1230 WJOB.
If you’ve been around the team the last five seasons, I’ve grown up before your very eyes. And the Oilmen organization, it’s grown right with me.
I’ve written hundreds of Oilmen press releases over the years, so most come easily to me. But this one? This one’s tough.
The Oilmen have meant so much to me – and I’m proud to say I’ve meant so much to the Oilmen – that it’s not easy to say goodbye. But after five years, 225 total games and 163 straight without missing, I’m leaving the Northwest Indiana Oilmen.
It’s a unique situation to have witnessed the extent of Oilmen history. It started on that early June day in 2012 against the rival DuPage County Hounds, the first game in franchise history for both teams. It ended last month, fittingly against those same Hounds, as the Oilmen hoisted the league championship trophy. I also bookended my time with the team with championships, as the Oilmen won league titles in 2012 and 2016.
Owner/President Don Popravak gave me the opportunity to shine, and I took that chance and ran with it. I’m Northwest Indiana through and through, and there was no better fit than me running communications and broadcasting for that team. When Don called to promote me to Director of Communications and lead play-by-play broadcaster after the 2013 season, that’s something I’ll never forget.
While I’ve been a fixture since Game 1, a rotating cast of characters has sat next to me on Oilmen radio. I’ve been “glad to be joined” by some outstanding broadcast partners over the years. It was awesome teaming up with Andy in 2012, Joey Gelman in 2014, Brandon Pavlina in 2015 and Nathan Dickinson in 2016.
My only season not actually on Oilmen Radio on a regular basis was 2013, and that year was a turning point for my time with the organization. In 2012, I was still getting my feet wet, learning what it’s like to work for a team like this and didn’t do much to stand out. The Oilmen went with two new broadcasters in 2013, bringing in Jason Guerette and Jonas Nordman.
But I was persistent, and was given the opportunity to return and help with game stories, PA announcing, photography and make contributions to the radio broadcast. I also think I learned the most that season, and Jason and Jonas were a huge help to me. My goal was to get back on the radio somewhere in 2014, and I’m so happy that place ended up being with the Oilmen.
I covered and worked with two managers during my time with the Oilmen – Justin Huisman (2012-2014) and Adam Enright (2015-present). Both ran the baseball side of the organization in a professional manner and were great to work with.
There’s nobody I’ll miss more than the guy I consider my best friend in Oilmen baseball over the last three seasons, and that’s Director of Statistics David Bork. The chair to my right at Oil City Stadium featured over a dozen color commentators during my three years as Oilmen play-by-play broadcaster, but the chair to my left held constant. He does a great job in his role, but most importantly I just loved having him around.
Particularly in recent years, I’ve been fortunate to become close friends with everyone around the ballpark. It’s not everywhere that you’re on a first-name basis with umpires, grounds crew members, concession workers, ticket takers, gameday staff, opposing coaches and opposing team employees. I’ll miss those people.
Also, I got to hang with cool people in the press box every night for five summers. I have great memories of all of the staff and media that came through over the years, and also all of the interns that spent time with the Oilmen.
Dave Melton from the Post-Tribune has been covering the Oilmen since the first home game in 2012. I had gotten to know Melton from covering local sports two years before that. He’s a class act and does great work.
My all-time favorite intern group was 2015, when David Bork and I had a blast and ran a smooth operation with Jimmy Lafakis, Brandon Pavlina and Logan Joza. I’ll also miss the regular Oilmen fans, like Toni Dybel and Charlie Pastorelli.
And of course, I’ve gotten to know hundreds of players over the last five seasons. I enjoyed them all, but a few favorites that come to mind are Zack Jones, Alec Olund, Cameron Linck, Andrew Lowe (who also broadcasted games with me), Zack Forney, Chase Dawson and Jake Perreira. The most fun to watch from a baseball standpoint included Enrique Zamora, Matt Pobereyko, Jimmy McNamara, Tyler Sroczynski and Stefano Belmonte.
It’s the end of a special run. I’ve seen 222 of the 238 games in team history, with all of the missed games coming during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. I’ve seen 141 of the 145 Oilmen home games. But when Opening Day 2017 hits, it’s time for someone else to take my chair.
I’m on to a new journey. Working with the Oilmen has been the greatest experience of my life. It’s spanned from the midway point of high school all the way through college as a constant. Now, it’s helped me land a new opportunity that I’ll begin soon.
The stories and memories from five seasons with the Northwest Indiana Oilmen are so numerous that I could write a book. Instead, I’ll close it out with a line I often use at the end of broadcasts – I hope you enjoyed.
I know I sure did.