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Stugotz Wants You To Understand Something No One Else Does

“Even some people at ESPN don’t get what we do!”

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The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. “With Stugotz” is always written in a smaller, less noticeable font, like it’s there to give credit, but not attract an audience.

If you listen to The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz for just 15 minutes, you quickly realize Jon Weiner (Stugotz) is not just a sidekick, he’s vital to their success. And if you listen to the show for only 15 minutes, you’re also likely to realize you don’t get the show.

Stugotz's 0-14 streak gets the 30 for 30 treatment | The Dan Le Batard Show  - YouTube

No show is better at creating a community, no show is better at making their listeners feel like they’re part of something special, and no show is better at creating organized chaos. In the last 15 years, they’ve been one of the most successful shows on radio, and Stugotz knows he’s just as important as his co-host of bigger font.

BC: How’d you get your start in radio?

STU: It’s something I always knew I wanted. Growing up with WFAN, Mike and the Mad Dog, I remember driving with my dad and hearing two guys talking sports who sounded like me and you. I asked my dad if they were getting paid for this. And when he told me ‘yes, a lot,’ I said that’s what I want to do.

It was more difficult to break into market one than it is Fort Lauderdale. I moved down here without a plan and stumbled on it, which basically summarizes my entire life. I was working for the Dolphins and Marlins in their sales office. I became good friends with Boog Sciambi who was the Marlins radio voice at the time, and when he started doing middays on WQAM, he helped me get an internship.

BC: And how did you end up helping launch 790 The Ticket without much experience managing a station?

STU: WQAM had no job for me after my internship, so I went back to New York and started working for the Knicks and Rangers making pretty good money. After a year, I got a call about producing for Hank Goldberg on WQAM. It was afternoon drive, major market, that was my foot in the door. I quit my job in New York getting paid six figures to take the job offering me about $4 an hour. But it was executive producer of a big show, if you want to be in this business that’s the type of risk you need to take.

While I was working on Hank’s show, sports radio really started to take off and most major markets were sprouting a second station. I saw an opening in Miami for something younger and hipper, so I put a group together and we leased 790. Paid a hefty price for programming rights and marketing, but we turned it into 790 The Ticket and I’m proud to say it’s still going.

BC: How’d you get Dan to be part of the new station?

STU: Toward the end of Hank’s show, it became a daily ripping of Le Batard and I didn’t even really know who Dan was! I read him in the Herald, but we never met. I figured if he could agitate Hank this much in print, he would be pretty damn good on-air.

We knew Boog Sciambi mutually, so he helped connect us and I told Dan I was starting a new sports radio station, but I’m not doing it unless you’re in afternoon drive. Dan loves being part of an underdog and he was certainly eager to take on Hank and WQAM, a station that hadn’t been very nice to him.

BC: Was the plan for you to be Dan’s co-host from the beginning?

STU: I was going to do the midday show and about a week before we launched, Dan said he didn’t want to do afternoons by himself. He originally wanted Boog as his co-host, but he was doing Marlins games and couldn’t leave QAM. But Boog told Dan I’d be a perfect co-host for him. I ditched the dream of doing my own show and it was the best call I ever made.

BC: Was there instant chemistry when you guys launched?

STU: It was awful. It started off with me interviewing Dan for three hours a day, we had no chemistry. We realized quickly Dan needed to drive the show because I was just guessing what he wanted to talk about.

BC: [Laughs] Were you treating him like he was a guest columnist?

STU: Dan will tell you stories of sleepless nights, riding around his neighborhood on a bicycle trying to figure out how to do the show. We had two different philosophies, I wanted to be Mike and the Mad Dog, Dan wanted to be everything but that. Eventually, we decided rather than me guessing what Dan wants to talk about, he’ll drive the show. That subtle change was huge. The other element that helped came a few months in, when Dan wanted to hire Marc Hochman. He had radio experience, a great sense of humor and was Dan’s best friend.

“I definitely knew the show could have a massive, wide appeal,” said Hochman, who’s in the midst of his own successful tenure hosting afternoons alongside Channing Crowder on WQAM and The Ticket. “We went in for three or four hours every day and just had a great time – and that translated to listeners having a great time. The majority of talk shows when we started, sports specifically, were super serious, even sour. There was no sports show that just felt like a party you wanted to be at. When we were having so many laughs every show, that’s when I knew the show could be a huge hit nationally.” 

BC: The goal of any show is to build a community with your listeners. If you ask people which shows do it best, you start with Stern, Dan Patrick gets mentioned for sports radio and then you guys are in that category equally. At what point did you realize you had that level of show?

ESPN Keeping Le Batard, Stugotz On Air With New Multiyear Deals

STU: Making everyone feel invested and part of the show, building that community was super important to Dan and ultimately became important to me. We wanted the audience to participate and contribute to the content of the show.

About three years in is when I knew we were building this community right. I got the ratings book and looked down toward the mid-teens, which is where we usually ranked for men 25-54. I didn’t see us there. Rather than look up, I scrolled down into the 20’s and still didn’t see us anywhere and thought, ‘shit we didn’t rate, our show sucks.’ I start scrolling back up and finally found us at a strange place – number one. I fell out of my chair.

It was validation, it felt really good to get that number one, and from there, we always stayed in the top-three.

“There isn’t a sports radio show in the country that has more of a loyal following than the Le Batard Show,” said The Ticket’s former morning host Jorge Sedano, who now hosts afternoons for ESPN Los Angeles. “I’ve been to their events and they are unmatched in the industry. Heck, their fans are so into the show – they’ve spawned off their own podcasts that get traction within the community of the Le Batard universe. Many of the people associated with the show, myself included, have made appearances on these off shoot podcasts. It’s truly a unique connection between the audience and that show. Nothing like it.” 

BC: How important is The Shipping Container and the ability to integrate different people, different personalities to the show, was that something you both wanted from the start?

STU: Invaluable. We always wanted as many voices as we could bring to the show, especially to lend to the funniness, wackiness and craziness. But even more importantly, to provide perspective and expertise.

The executive producer was always a major part of our show. But as we grow older, we realize it’s super important for the show to stay younger. The demo we go for is 25-54 and the closer you get to that 54, the more you realize you need to be closer to 25. Dan’s 51, I’m 47, we started incorporating Billy, Chris, Mike, The Shipping Container and other young voices because we love our crew, they help keep us young and keep the audience young.

BC: What about the ‘you don’t get the show’ approach and the ability to make the show something that is inclusive in terms of anyone is welcome to listen, but the content is exclusive to the people that do listen?

STU: It’s the most important thing we do, and it goes back to that community. One of the ways you create a community is by making them feel like they understand something that no one else does. We make the ‘you don’t get the show’ club seem like it’s really small, but it’s massive. 

It can be frustrating because the traditional sports radio listener might only tune in for 15 minutes and they’re probably wondering ‘what the hell is this?!’ But (executive producer) Mike Ryan reminds us about the younger generation and the way they consume content because that’s who we’re going after. My kids listen to podcasts, TikTok, YouTube and Instagram, not FM radio.

Even some people at ESPN don’t get what we do! They just took the SportsCenter updates away from me because they said it wasn’t professional enough. But that’s what we were going for! I’ve done everything in sports radio, I promise I can do traditional SportsCenter updates – we were trying to make those funny and the audience loved it. But some of the people at ESPN didn’t realize we were doing it on purpose and that’s frustrating.

You Don't Get the Show | The Official Dan Le Batard Show Merch Store

BC: Knowing the future of radio is digital and where a lot of your audience already is, did it bother you when ESPN took away a terrestrial hour?

STU: Dan looked at it as a demotion. I’m not going to say it felt good. I was upset and our audience was upset, but what happens is the more you push us down, the more emboldened our audience becomes. I know the future is digital. I’m in my car right now, all my apps are on my dashboard, what I don’t see is a radio.

I always wonder how Dan and I would do if we were digital only. The big three in terms of sports and rec podcasts are us, Simmons and Pardon My Take. We’re competing simply by repurposing our radio show into a podcast. How big would our show be if we weren’t already broadcasting it nationally on the radio? So now we’re doing one or two hours a day where it’s digital only and I’m excited to explore that space and see how big it can be.

BC: Do you want the terrestrial and digital hours to sound like different shows? Or do you want the terrestrial listeners to feel like they didn’t get a complete show if they don’t hear the podcast?

STU: Right now, because of Dan’s TV schedule, we’re taping the third hour later in the day. But ultimately, we want the third hour to be an extension of the two-hour radio show. So if you’re listening live, you feel like you have to be part of that third hour.

BC: Do you like the freedom offered with digital? Maybe the Le Batard Show brand is able to distance itself from Mickey Mouse a bit in those hours?

STU: 100 percent. For starters, there are no commercials to interrupt us, we appreciate the sponsors, but they’re placed, not forced in. The time is flexible, we can just keep going. It’s not a big deal, but we can curse. The digital space is more liberating and it definitely gives us more freedom. And Dan likes freedom. [Laughs]

BC: Does ESPN give you guys the freedom to address every issue you want?

STU: ESPN has been great. I know our listeners are upset about us losing an hour because it feels like a shot at us. But ESPN has a digital monster on their hands with our show and that’s the future.

They haven’t just been good bosses, they’ve been great. When Dan and I joined ESPN, we were worried about the concept and them controlling us. They promised us that they wouldn’t and they really haven’t interfered since we joined. If they haven’t interfered on terrestrial, they certainly won’t on digital.

BC: Do you think the pandemic advanced the decision to give you guys a bigger digital platform? I think about my own listening habits, and they’ve changed in recent months. I was always in the camp of wanting a traditional five-hour local radio show, but now I listen to a lot more podcasts and a lot less terrestrial radio.

STU: A lot of industries have learned a lot from these past few months, so it’s possible, but we were likely headed toward this move anyway because our podcast numbers were so strong.

In the last few months, people ask ‘how do you do a show without sports?’ We were waiting for this moment our entire lives [Laughs]. The harder part was getting used to doing the show from different locations. I know our show seems like an unscripted mess, but there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes, a lot of producing on the fly, a lot of eye contact.

Nobody does more research on this than ESPN and I think they’ve stumbled on the idea that a two-hour show has a better chance of getting terrestrial ratings than four hours. Combine it all – the pandemic, shorter shows, the future being digital, it all contributes to what we’re doing.

BC: What’s your show prep? Most shows build a show sheet with segment topics, some bullet points and use that. But how do you create what sounds like organized chaos?

STU: Organized chaos, I like that. A lot of our content is produced, a lot of it also comes from conversations that spill out of commercial breaks.

I’m not sure anyone consumes more ESPN than I do. I love games, I love sports, so Dan can always rely on me to bring that. And when serious topics get put on our desk, there is no one better than Dan at discussing social issues, racial inequality, the president. It gives us credibility to play around with everything else.

We equate Dan to a dad at home trying to get serious work done and we’re the kids trying to prevent that. That’s where I think the organized chaos you mentioned comes from, me just reacting to Dan.

“Stugotz is the on-air glue that holds everything together on the show,” said ESPN Radio program director Liam Chapman. “He can play whatever role he needs to at any moment, he’s obviously more than willing to be the butt of the joke, and he’s shown his ability to give strong opinions, book guests and be much more. It’s a testament to the longevity of the show that Stugotz is willing to play all these roles and keep the chemistry flowing between Dan and the rest of the Shipping Container.”

BC: It’s unrealistic to expect someone can talk on the radio three hours a day for 15 years and not say something that comes out wrong, but has your approach to radio changed as society becomes more politically correct? The interview with Martina Navratilova in 2010, I don’t know if that goes over as well in 2020.

(In 2010, Stugotz referred to Navratilova as a “bitch” after she ended an interview with Le Batard on 790 The Ticket)

STU: Well that interview didn’t go over well then either and I certainly didn’t feel good about it when it happened. I was a father of twin daughters ten years ago, I’m still a father of twin daughters ten years later, I wasn’t proud of that interview then and I wouldn’t be proud of it now. What we’re talking about is have ramifications changed, because sometimes an apology isn’t enough.

I think any host in America would say the same thing, you constantly need to reprogram because if you want to just remain a caveman your entire life, shame on you. And it’s not just society changing, with age comes perspective. I know my character, I know my role on the show, but I do try to be more mature, more thoughtful of peoples’ feelings than I used to be.

Close shaves: ESPN's Stugotz reflects on enduring a "Finebaum," live lie  detector test - ESPN Front Row

BC: Can it be difficult to navigate the line between terrestrial and digital? There are things that can get you in trouble if you’re a play-by-play announcer, but a talk radio host might be able to make the same comment. Similarly, there are things you can’t say on talk radio that you can say on a podcast. There are different levels of what’s accepted, based on your platform.

STU: What you’re saying is fair, there is more leeway in a podcast right now, but that’s not going to last long. For us, we won’t approach it differently from a topic standpoint, it really just allows us to have more time. Dan and I are very aware of how and what we talk about. We don’t set out to upset anyone because we’re always going for funny, but when you miss on funny it comes off as mean. It’s a fine line regardless of where you do the show.

BC: 20-year radio partnerships are really rare and you’re getting closer to that number with Dan. I’m sure you have an ego, you’re competitive, you don’t get to this level if you’re not. Have you had the desire to do something solo?

STU: This isn’t anything Dan doesn’t know, but I think about it all the time. Constantly. But I also know anything I do away from this will never be as good as this at its best. I’m fully aware how important Dan is to me, and Dan’s fully aware of how important I am to him. When you have chemistry in this business, latch on because it’s hard to come by. But to say I never think about what it would have been like 20 years ago to do my own show is crazy.

I don’t know if I’ll ever scratch that itch, but the beauty of digital is, I have my own podcast and there’s no one stopping me from flipping the mic on and doing five episodes a week.

“Stugotz is the secret sauce,” Sedano added. “Dan is brilliant. However, every great radio host needs a foil and Stugotz plays that role to perfection. Stu is also way more relatable. Hence, why he has his own personal fan club named, “The Stugotz Army.” Dan readily admits on-air that the show isn’t the same when any of the components are missing. Their personalities are a perfect combination of discerning versus perfunctory. Hands down, Stu is as important to the show as anyone or anything.”

BC: You might never be able to create something where the product is as good as the show you have right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do something equally fulfilling. Chris Russo’s product is not as good as Mike and the Mad Dog, but having Mad Dog Radio might be more fulfilling.

STU: That’s a great point. There is some ego involved. With the Le Batard & Friends network, Mike Ryan told me STUpodity is the highest rated podcast. I got great satisfaction out of that.

Even that six-week hiatus Dan took last year, I knew what we were doing wasn’t as good as what me and Dan do, but we were getting to a place where it started to feel pretty good. And I think digitally, that was the biggest month we ever had, [Laughs] that selfishly felt great! I have enough confidence in myself and I’ve learned enough from Dan that I could create something pretty unique and special.

Even still, I don’t know how long it takes to get into the radio Hall of Fame, but f**k it if I’m not going to the Hall of Fame with Dan Le Batard. 17-18 years of being a pinata, I better be getting a Hall of Fame jacket.

Barrett Blogs

Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?

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How many times have you heard this sentence uttered at conferences or in one of the trades; radio has to do a better job of telling its story. Sounds reasonable enough right? After all, your brands and companies stand a better chance of being more consumed and invested in the more that others know about them.

But what specifically about your brand’s story matters to those listening or spending money on it? Which outlets are you supposed to share that news with to grow your listenership and advertising? And who is telling the story? Is it someone who works for your company and has a motive to advance a professional agenda, or someone who’s independent and may point out a few holes in your strategy, execution, and results?

As professionals working in the media business, we’re supposed to be experts in the field of communications. But are we? We’re good at relaying news when it makes us look good or highlights a competitor coming up short. How do we respond though when the story isn’t told the we want it to? Better yet, how many times do sports/news talk brands relay information that isn’t tied to quarterly ratings, revenue or a new contract being signed? We like to celebrate the numbers that matter to us and our teams, but we don’t spend much time thinking about if those numbers matter to the right groups – the audience and the advertisers.

Having covered the sports and news media business for the past seven years, and published nearly eighteen thousand pieces of content, you’d be stunned if you saw how many nuggets of information get sent to us from industry folks looking for publicity vs. having to chase people down for details or read things on social media or listen to or watch shows to promote relevant material. Spoiler alert, most of what we produce comes from digging. There are a handful of outlets and PR folks who are great, and five or six PD’s who do an excellent job consistently promoting news or cool things associated with their brands and people. Some talent are good too at sharing content or tips that our website may have an interest in.

Whether I give the green light to publish the material or not, I appreciate that folks look for ways to keep their brands and shows on everyone’s radar. Brand leaders and marketing directors should be battling daily in my opinion for recognition anywhere and everywhere it’s available. If nobody is talking about your brand then you have to give them a reason to.

I’m writing this column today because I just spent a day in New York City at the Disney Upfront, which was attended by a few thousand advertising professionals. Though I’d have preferred a greater focus on ESPN than what was offered, I understand that a company the size of Disney with so many rich content offerings is going to have to condense things or they’d literally need a full week of Upfronts to cover it all. They’re also trying to reach buyers and advertising professionals who have interests in more than just sports.

What stood out to me while I was in attendance was how much detail went into putting on a show to inform, entertain, and engage advertising professionals. Disney understands the value of telling its story to the right crowd, and they rolled out the heavy hitters for it. There was a strong mix of stars, executives, promotion of upcoming shows, breaking news about network deals, access to the people responsible for bringing advertising to life, and of course, free drinks. It was easy for everyone in the room to gain an understanding of the company’s culture, vision, success, and plans to capture more market share.

As I sat in my seat, I wondered ‘why doesn’t radio do this on a local level‘? I’m not talking about entertaining clients in a suite, having a business dinner for a small group of clients or inviting business owners and agency reps to the office for a rollout of forthcoming plans. I’m talking about creating an annual event that showcases the power of a cluster, the stars who are connected to the company’s various brands, unveiling new shows, promotions and deals, and using the event as a driver to attract more business.

Too often I see our industry rely on things that have worked in the past. We assume that if it worked before there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for the client. Sometimes that’s even true. Maybe the advertiser likes to keep things simple and communicate by phone, email or in-person lunch meetings. Maybe a creative powerpoint presentation is all you need to get them to say yes. If it’s working and you feel that’s the best way forward to close business, continue with that approach. There’s more than one way to reach the finish line.

But I believe that most people like being exposed to fresh ideas, and given a peak behind the curtain. The word ‘new’ excites people. Why do you think Apple introduces a new iPhone each year or two. We lose sight sometimes of how important our brands and people are to those not inside the walls of our offices. We forget that whether a client spends ten thousand or ten million dollars per year with our company, they still like to be entertained. When you allow business people to feel the excitement associated with your brand’s upcoming events, see the presentations on a screen, and hear from and interact with the stars involved in it, you make them feel more special. I think you stand a better chance of closing deals and building stronger relationships that way.

Given that many local clusters have relationships with hotels, theaters, teams, restaurants, etc. there’s no reason you can’t find a central location, and put together an advertiser appreciation day that makes partners feel valued. You don’t have to rent out Pier 36 like Disney or secure the field at a baseball stadium to make a strong impression. We show listeners they’re valued regularly by giving away tickets, cash, fan appreciation parties, etc. and guess what, it works! Yes there are expenses involved putting on events, and no manager wants to hear about spending money without feeling confident they’ll generate a return on investment. That said, taking calculated risks is essential to growing a business. Every day that goes by where you operate with a ‘relying on the past’ mindset, and refuse to invest in growth opportunities, is one that leaves open the door for others to make sure your future is less promising.

There are likely a few examples of groups doing a smaller scaled version of what I’m suggesting. If you’re doing this already, I’d love to hear about it. Hit me up through email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. By and large though, I don’t see a lot of must-see, must-discuss events like this created that lead to a surplus of press, increased relationships, and most importantly, increased sales. Yet it can be done. Judging from some of the feedback I received yesterday talking to people in the room, it makes an impression, and it matters.

I don’t claim to know how many ad agency executives and buyers returned to the office from the Disney Upfront and reached out to sign new advertising deals with the company. What I am confident in is that Disney wouldn’t invest resources in creating this event nor would other national groups like NBC, FOX, CBS, WarnerMedia, etc. if they didn’t feel it was beneficial to their business. Rather than relying on ratings and revenue stories that serve our own interests, maybe we’d help ourselves more by allowing our partners and potential clients to experience what makes our brands special. It works with our listeners, and can work with advertisers too.

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BSM Writers

Brandon Kiley Doesn’t Pretend To Be Someone He’s Not

“There was a time where the audience probably said, this guy isn’t a St Louisan. But this is home for me now and I’ve adopted it.”

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There must have been something about Brandon Kiley that everyone saw as a young aspiring sports radio host. Nick Wright saw enough to bring him to Houston at SportsRadio 610 as an intern for a summer. Will Palaszczuk saw enough to urge him to apply for his old job in Columbia, MO at KTGR. Ben Heisler saw enough to know he’d fit perfectly with Carrington Harrison in afternoon drive at 610 Sports in Kansas City. 

Maybe you can chalk it up to Kiley being able to make such great contacts. Or maybe it’s just that he was supremely talented at a young age. Odds are it’s a combination of both. But he was destined to be a sports talk host somewhere, it just turns out he’s having success over the air in a city he never imagined he’d work in. 

A Kansas City kid, Kiley knew at 16 years old he wanted to be a sports radio host. He was even more sure of it when he started doing college radio at Mizzou. But it was in Houston where he got his real taste of what sports radio was like.

“I went to 610 in Houston for the morning show with Nick Wright,” Kiley said. “He basically just assigned me as an extra producer. We had known about each other through Twitter and I had a little bit of a relationship with him beforehand. I think he knew I was willing and able to take on more tasks than a typical intern would usually do. Essentially, I became an extra guest booker, cut audio for them, and came up with topics at night. It was like he had an extra producer for the summer and it was my first real experience doing something like that.”

Imagine the confidence he left Houston with as he traveled back to Columbia for another year of college at Mizzou. Few, if any, on campus could have claimed the kind of summer Kiley just had. He parlayed that experience into a once-a-week show at KCOU, the student radio station. The following semester, he pitched the idea of doing a daily show

“I told them I’d take any time slot available,” Kiley said. “The one that I got was the very glamorous 6-7 am time slot. There weren’t a whole lot of college kids that wanted to wake up that early every morning. I ended up having a rotating cast of co-hosts and it ended up being super valuable because I learned how to work with a lot of types of personalities.”

He excelled as a host and found his style behind the mic, and soon after, he got his first big break. In March of 2014, Will Palaszczuk contacted Kiley and told him he was taking another radio job outside the market. The two knew of each other, seeing as both were in Columbia and covering the same games in town. Palacsuk told Kiley he needed to apply for the spot he was leaving at KTGR.

“There was literally one sports station and one sports show in town and it was that one,” Kiley said. “I applied to him the previous semester and said, hey man, if you guys have anything available I would love to come work there. It just so happened he got a job elsewhere and he called me up and said, ‘Hey man, I don’t know what your plans are, I’m about to take another job and they’re going to post my job available. I don’t know if they’re going to make it a producer or co-host gig, but I think you should apply because I think you’d be good at it’. Will’s good work helped a ton in terms of me landing the gig. I graduated and told them I wanted to make it full-time.I was essentially a producer and co-host for the afternoon show. I never even applied anywhere outside of Columbia”

For two years, Kiley stayed at KTGR and covered the Missouri Tigers. He was fresh out of college and living in a college town doing what he loved in his early 20’s. It wasn’t a bad life. But one night in Columbia changed his entire professional career. It just so happened it occurred on the rooftop at Harpo’s, one of the most well-known establishments in town.

“My roommate at the time, we both worked at the radio station in Columbia,” said Kiley. “He worked at the hit music station and I worked at the sports station. We all went out one night at Harpo’s and he said, ‘Hey, I just want to let you guys know I’m getting out of radio and moving to Kansas City.’ I was like, oh shit, what am I going to do? Our lease was up in two months, so the timing worked out well and I was looking at Barrett Sports Media looking where I could go next.”

“My girlfriend at the time, now my wife, was from St. Louis and there was a job available there. I had always thought, that’s not a place I want to live, why would I ever want to live in St. Louis? They didn’t have a football team, it just didn’t seem like a great fit for me. But my buddy tells me he’s moving and I’m like, St, Louis it is! That night I ended up applying for the job and got a call back from Chris “Hoss” Neupert, who at the time was the PD here, and asked if I would be interviewed with him and Kevin Wheeler, whose show I would be producing.”

So off to St. Louis he goes. For three and a half years, Kiley embraces his new city and tries to work his way up at 101 ESPN. 

But the Kansas City kid felt a pull back to his hometown. Oddly enough, Ben Heisler even reached out to tell him he was leaving the station to pursue another opportunity in sports. It felt like the perfect time to pursue his dream of doing sports radio at the station he grew up listening to.

“I’m from Kansas City and grew up listening to 610 Sports Radio,” Kiley said. “A guy I listened to growing up was Nick Wright. I also listened to a bunch of Carrington Harrison, Danny Parkins and Ben Heisler. Those guys had what I consider one of the best shows in Kansas City sports radio history. I got to know them through Twitter and Heisler sent me a text. He knows I’ve always been interested in moving to KC. He tells me he’s about to get out of radio and into more fantasy football stuff and his job is going to come open.

“I had applied for multiple other jobs in KC over the years and had never gotten any real consideration. When Heisler left, I knew Carrington and thought this might work out. I ended up getting in contact with their PD Steven Spector and it felt like a real opportunity. I got what I considered to be my dream job, producing in the afternoons and hosting a Saturday show at 610 Sports. I thought, what could there be more in life than this? This is the best.”

But life happened and he had to make a decision around three months after moving to Kansas City.

“2-3 months later it became clear, it was going to be difficult for my girlfriend, now wife, to move to Kansas City with all of the family ties she had in St. Louis,” said Kiley. “It was the decision of, do you stay in Kansas City and chase the dream or do we alter the dream, in terms of the job, and see if there’s anything in St. Louis?”

He never thought his best years and most successful years as a sports radio host would come in St. Louis but they have. It’s a city he loves and he’s worked hard in hopes it will love him back. But he’s also not going to pretend to be someone he’s not. Though it can sometimes be hard for St Louisans to accept someone that’s not from there, Kiley doesn’t act like he attended World Series games in 1982, listened to Jack Buck growing up or watched Kurt Warner at the Edward Jones Dome. He’s himself.

“That wasn’t my love and I can’t pretend that it was,” said Kiley. “Have there been times, especially early on where that was a potential issue for me? Yeah it was. There was a time where the audience probably said, this guy isn’t a St Louisan. But this is home for me now and I’ve adopted it. It does in a lot of ways remind me of Kansas City, where if you take the time to know what the soul of the city really is, in terms of sports, I think people can appreciate and respect it.”

Kiley doesn’t hold on to his Kansas City roots on the air, in terms of the topics he talks about. He’s a Chiefs fan and even writes for Arrowhead Pride, but he’s not going to talk a lot about the Chiefs in a city that doesn’t have an NFL team. He’s also a Mizzou grad and talks about the teams on Rock M Nation, but again, he’s rarely, if ever, going to do several segments a day on the Tigers. Instead, he knows the audience wants to hear about the Cardinals. Blues talk is clearly next in line. Everything else falls down the order if not off of it completely. 

Kiley grew up watching baseball, so he can easily break down what issues the Cards’ offense may be having in the middle of May, but hockey was different. He didn’t grow up around the game and the transition to having in-depth conversations on the Blues was a more difficult task. 

“When I came here the first time it was during the middle of a Blues’ playoff run. At that time I was just plopped into this thing, and I didn’t know shit about hockey. I had probably watched about 10 hockey games in my entire life. I’m looking at Kevin Wheeler like, I’ve got to be honest I don’t have a lot on hockey I’m going to be able to help you with. If you could help bring me along with it, that would be great. Over the years I’ve been able to take it in. I used to host a show with Jamie Rivers, who’s a former Blues player. If you told me five years ago I’d be able to do that, much less enjoy doing that, I would have said you’re out of your damn mind.”

Whereas most sports radio shows in football markets are searching for content to help fill segments, this is one of the sweetest times of the year for Kiley and everyone at 101 ESPN. The Blues are deep in the playoffs and the Major League Baseball season is underway. His show BK and Ferrario covers it all every weekday from 11 am – 2 pm. 

Kiley never thought this would be his life, but he loves what he’s built in St.Louis and doesn’t give off the vibe he’s looking to leave anytime soon. He’s a great example of someone who didn’t pigeonhole himself into just one market. He was willing to look outside of his hometown and has found true success. 

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Will Middlebrooks Has Been The Breakout Star Of The Red Sox Season

“If I was going to work for an organization or a regional sports network, why not the Red Sox, for someone that I’m actually a fan of?”

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The Boston Red Sox experience in 2022 is just different. In every way.

The team has struggled out of the gate. They certainly aren’t the team that was two wins away from the World Series last year.

Fenway Park doesn’t even accept cash anymore.

But it’s not just that the Red Sox are different on the field or at the ballpark – they are different on television too.

When loveable, longtime Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy died in October 2021 at the age of 68, we knew that consuming the Red Sox on TV would never be the same.

There is no replacing Jerry Remy. One person can’t do it. No way.

And the fans know it.

The bosses at the NESN know it too. They haven’t tried to replace Remy on the broadcasts with just one person. 

In fact, they’ve brought in several new people to the broadcast team. A group of people just rotating in, giving viewers a different experience and a different perspective every night. 

They’ve added former Red Sox players Kevin Youkilis and Kevin Millar to the broadcast booth roster. They’ve added Tony Massarotti of 98.5 The Sports Hub as well.

And in the pre- and post-game studio, they’ve taken a similar approach, which is an extension of previous years, mixing and matching host Tom Caron with a slew of former Red Sox players including Jim Rice, Tim Wakefield, Ellis Burks, Lenny DiNardo, and former Sox infielder Will Middlebrooks, who will be in the studio for about 40 games this season.

I think that NESN has found a formula that works. It’s been fun and informative – and different. In a year that serves as a constant reminder of what’s been lost as a viewer, it’s refreshing to realize that these broadcast teams are giving you something gained.

A star is born.

When I mentioned to Caron that I wanted to write a piece on Middlebrooks, he said: “He’s a rising star.”

And it’s easy to see why he feels that way.

Will Middlebrooks is young (33), accessible, opinionated, active on social media, and he has the playing resume to legitimize his point of view.

But it took some real coaxing to get into the business in the first place. After a devastating leg injury ended his playing career in 2019, Middlebrooks was unhappy.

“I sat around and sulked and was angry about it for about three months,” he said. “And my wife, Jenny (Dell), finally said, ‘You need to get off your butt and do something, find not just, work, but find something you’re passionate about again.’”

He didn’t know at that time that he was passionate about media work, but Dell, who works for CBS Sports, volunteered him to do a show at CBS Sports HQ in Ft. Lauderdale, near where their family resides.

“She said, like it or not, you have a show in three days. You’re going to try it out, and if you’re good at it, they’re going to hire you,” he recounts of their conversation. “I was like, I don’t want to do it. I’m not ready to talk about baseball. I hate baseball right now. I just have such a bad taste in my mouth from everything that happened over the past year.”

But that didn’t deter Dell from pushing her husband to take the chance.

“She said, well, I don’t care. I already told them that said you would do it,” he says. “So she kind of threw me to the wolves, but for the best. And I went in and I gritted my teeth and just got it done and then talked baseball. I did it a couple of more times and they said, ‘Hey, you’re decent at this. We’re going to hire you on for a year!” “And here we are, I’m four years into it,” he joked.

And over those four years, Middlebrooks has ballooned into one of the most recognizable follows for baseball fans. In addition to working at NESN and CBS Sports, he’s also one-half of the Wake and Rake podcast, has appeared on ESPN Radio, has done color commentary for college baseball, and has more than 155,000 Twitter followers.

Resonating with Boston 

When I ask Middlebrooks about landing the NESN gig for 2022, he beams through the phone. He says he wanted the challenge of working in Boston and he welcomed the opportunity to expand his media footprint.

It’s evident that he loves the Red Sox – and the city of Boston. How couldn’t he? He made his Major League debut with the organization, played parts of three seasons with the team, won a World Series with the Sox, and met his wife in the city.

“If I was going to work for an organization or a regional sports network, why not the Red Sox, for someone that I’m actually a fan of?” he said. 

While it’s clear that Will loves Boston, and it’s clear why NESN loves him, what needs more unpacking is the attachment that the Red Sox fans have to him considering he spent just those three seasons there and doesn’t live in New England full-time. 

Middlebrooks can’t quite figure out why the people of the region hold him so close, but he does have a good hypothesis.

“I think that if I left anything, it was people saying, ‘well, he played hard. He gave everything he had,’ he said. “And I know that’s really important in Boston, just the blue-collar mentality of ‘keep your head down, work, play as hard as you can, even if things aren’t going well, just bust your butt and be a good teammate and all that.’”

But there just may be something else at play.

“I think a lot maybe had to do with when the marathon bombings (2013) happened…I’m pretty outspoken on social media about that stuff and with my teammates, we all rallied around each other,” he said. “I think I was just lucky enough to be a part of a team that was really special to everybody in Boston. So they embraced me after that.”

The Family Dynamic 

Dell has been in sports media for more than a decade as a host and sideline reporter for CBS and NESN before that. She knows the business and its nuances. She understands when and how to look at the camera and when and how to ask questions of athletes. She knows the expectations of her husband’s current employers. She’s undoubtedly a great resource to have.

But as Middlebrooks finds his own footing in the business, and as his star grows, what is that dynamic like? She has the answers to the tests already, but how does he balance using that resource versus figuring things out on his own?

“I’m very open to anything she has to say,” he said. “I’ll come out of my office, like, ‘Hey, that was pretty good!’ And she’s like, ‘Yeah, it was good…but…”

“She always has something, and at first it used to really annoy me, because I’m like, man, I thought I was doing really good,” he said. “And she’s like, ‘No, you are doing good. I’m just trying to help you get to that next level. There are just little things here and there that you don’t know.’ And as a competitor, it’s really frustrating. But you know, after a couple of minutes I walk away, I’m like, you know what? I’m really appreciative to have that access to someone that can help.”

What’s Next?

At such a young age with such already vast experiences, it seems plausible that even bigger media steps could be in play for the former infielder. I asked him if he has a goal he’s working towards. Sunday Night Baseball? The MLB Network? Something else?

“One thing I’ve really learned is to not look too far down the road and kind of just live in the moment and enjoy the moment,” he said. “I’m really happy with being with with CBS and with NESN, and within that umbrella, of course, I would like to grow. Does that mean in the booth? Does that mean more games pre and post? Sure I’m up for anything where they want me, because what I’m doing right now, I feel like is a dream job outside of playing and I’m so happy with it.”

Middlebrooks has been on the NESN broadcasts all week and will continue through this weekend as the Red Sox host the Mariners in a four-game series.

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