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Harold Reynolds Is The All-Star Week Vet Leading MLB Network’s Young Stars

“This is just another marking for us being able to show off, so to speak, our sport.”

Derek Futterman



Courtesy: MLB Network

The Pacific Northwest provides local sports teams with an advantage in its location, necessitating lengthy air travel from most other locales. Major League Baseball fans will turn their attention in that direction this week as the 2023 All-Star Game illuminates the “Emerald City” of Seattle. 

Bringing the heart of the baseball universe to T-Mobile Park, the home of the Mariners, has been a process over two decades in the making. The city last hosted All-Star Week in 2001, the year in which the ballpark opened and when the M’s set the all-time record with 116 regular season wins. Seattle featured eight all-stars in that summer. Harold Reynolds was not one of them. The former Mariners second baseman had been retired from the game for seven years at that point, but understood what the occasion meant to the area.

When he was growing up five hours south in Eugene, Oregon, Reynolds became captivated with the sport and began playing himself. As a college baseball player at the University of San Diego, he took heed of the 1979 MLB All-Star Game from the Kingdome and aspired to be there himself one day and he did – twice. 

In 2001, Reynolds was working with ESPN as a baseball analyst and covered the aforesaid All-Star Game, and he now returns with MLB Network.

“I went to Oregon first and then drove up here,” Reynolds said of his trip to the West Coast. “It takes me back to when I played here, but also I’m really proud to be somebody who grew up in the Northwest and this is our team. To see what Seattle has become and what they’re going to continue to do here is really cool.”

There is, perhaps, no better time for the All-Star Week to arrive in Seattle after the team snapped a vicennial postseason drought in 2021. The fans are right to think the team has a bright future again.

In 2009, MLB Network, a league-owned broadcast entity, launched adopting an all-baseball format. Reynolds was one of the first voices heard on its air.

“The foundation was laid so great,” Reynolds said of MLB Network. “It was going to be that we can talk about all 30 teams [with] the creativity of jumping in and out of games [through] live looks. Nobody was doing that in all of sports, and so that really was revolutionary.”

Reynolds has participated in nearly every studio program throughout his time at the network. This year, he is working with studio host Adnan Virk on the 6 p.m. EST edition of MLB Tonight and modified his preparatory process.

“When you do MLB Tonight [in] the late night, games are on and you’re jumping in and out of games,” Reynolds said. “The difference is being a little more scripted [and] having a plan of what we’re going to talk about – so it’s more set in our meetings than necessarily on the air.”

This past Friday, Reynolds embarked on a new challenge as a commentator on the inaugural HBCU Swingman Classic, presented by T-Mobile and powered by the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation. Joining Reynolds in the broadcast booth was HBCU sports journalist Symone Stanley and the television play-by-play voice of the Mariners, Dave Sims. Seattle legend and Reynolds’s former teammate Ken Griffey Jr. also participated in the broadcast on the field, corresponding from the visiting and home dugouts.

“We are the spokesmen and ambassadors for the sport,” Reynolds said of MLB Network. “This is just another marking for us being able to show off, so to speak, our sport. When you can collaborate with Ken Griffey Jr. and he puts his name on something and Major League Baseball says, ‘Yeah, we’re in,’ and the Network gets to air it, that’s when we’re the best.”

Aligning with All-Star Week is the presentation of the MLB Draft from Lumen Field, the home of the Seattle Seahawks. This year’s iteration of the event, which took place on Sunday, marked the third time the draft is being held at All-Star Week.

Reynolds was selected by the Mariners with the second pick of the 1980 MLB Draft. Many of his MLB Network colleagues were also drafted and understand the importance of the event and yield mentorship to its players. A similar premise holds true at MLB Network when new personalities have been added to its on-air lineup and benefited from an environment of congeniality and collaboration.

“I always say that I didn’t think I would love to do my job and my second career as fast as I [have],” studio analyst and former first baseman Yonder Alonso said. “I’m so deep into it where it’s like I want to be great at it.”

Alonso played 10 seasons in the major leagues, primarily with the San Diego Padres, but he also had a stint with the Seattle Mariners in the second half of the 2017 season. Having starred with seven franchises, he became familiar with many of the athletes around the league and estimates he played either with or against 90% of the players he covers. 

Since joining MLB Network in 2021, Alonso has honed his craft by adopting a similar approach to how he prepared to take the field. Before most broadcasts, he arrives promptly to watch games, conduct research, take notes and ask questions from his colleagues. When the lights turn on and the show goes live, he tries to deliver his analysis in an enjoyable manner while maintaining a perspicuous reverence for the game.

Every time he makes a contribution on the air, he keeps a 10-second clock in the back of his mind, a figure he ascertains is the amount of time he has to make an impression on a viewer before they turn the channel. 

“At all times, I always feel like I have to be on to make sure that if I do get each of those 10 seconds, they’re always the best 10 seconds that you can watch or learn something from the game of baseball.”

On Monday morning, Alonso will utilize his relationships with active players and familiarity with the evolving nature of the sport on a special edition of MLB Tonight from All-Star Media Day. Throughout the afternoon, Alonso will interview a variety of perennial and first-time All-Stars. Later that day, he and Reynolds will be on the MLB Tonight set to interact with the All-Stars from inside T-Mobile Field.

“When you are on the road, it’s so much fun [and] it feels like a college game day,” Alonso said. “You kind of get your heart pumping, you’ve got the fans on top of you [and] you’ve got all the players [with] all the access…. It’s a whole event not only just for them, but it’s a celebration for a very good first half of the season that everybody has been involved with.”

A unique aspect of MLB All-Star Weekend is the annual Celebrity Softball Game, granting local and national luminaries a chance to step outside of their comfort zones and compete with former big leaguers. In this year’s event, WWE personality Michael “The Miz” Mizanin, actress JoJo Siwa and musician Yandel were among the competitors covered by MLB Network. Lauren Gardner and Robert Flores return as the commentary tandem after working together last year, and now have a more discernible idea of the nuances of the eccentric event.

“The key to covering it is to be completely in the moment and try and just be the ringleader in what is very much so a circus,” Gardner said, “but it’s the most entertaining one you’ll get to see all year long.”

Gardner was juggling a surfeit of jobs in the early stages of her career in sports media and now finds herself with a national outlet hosting her own afternoon show, Off Base. The program is geared towards younger fans, a group MLB seems intent on chasing.

Indeed, rule changes implemented before the start of the regular season have expedited the pace of play and proliferated offensive output while ameliorating average attendance figures. Yet an emphasis on the culture surrounding baseball has fueled part of the growth, akin to other professional sports, and bolstered the marketing potential of generational talents. Gardner’s cousin encapsulated the intent of the show when giving his feedback, and his words are etched into her memory.

“He said, ‘It was like watching [me] and my friends sitting around and discussing the things that we would typically discuss,’” Gardner recalled. “Oh by the way, you have the added value of former players and analysts in the mix so they can give a different perspective and that valuable insight, but doing it in a very fun and relaxed manner.”

From her time covering minor league hockey on the radio to cheerleading for the Denver Broncos and serving as an in-game host for the Colorado Rockies and Colorado Avalanche, Gardner gained invaluable perspectives of different industry niches. When she served as a local correspondent for NHL Network, Gardner saw an opportunity to grow and contacted the broadcast entity to see if she could do more. Following two auditions, she began hosting for DAZN, MLB Network and NHL Network – all based out of a joint broadcast facility in Secaucus, N.J. Over four years later, she has refined her craft and become even more versatile, rendering her adept to make the trip to Seattle.

“The more that I’m just myself, the better and the easier and the more you’re kind of just in flow with what’s happening,” Gardner explained. “[If] you put in the work and you’re as creative as possible and you try to be the best teammate you can be, it doesn’t matter what level you’re at. In baseball, they say, ‘You get called up, but the game doesn’t change.’”

Applying her ability to penetrate beyond solely discussing game action, Gardner will be on the red carpet ahead of the Midsummer Classic catching up with the All-Stars. Reynolds will also be on hand to provide his perspective as a former player, but both know the inherent value of the event comes in bringing out personalities and emphasizing clothing ensembles.

“Why does Francisco Lindor change his glove and his shoes every night?,” Reynolds posed. “Well, come to the red carpet and you get an understanding of his fashion sense and his personality.”

“I think fashion is such a beautiful form of self-expression and [finding out] why they chose to rock that look,” Gardner added. “It’s just so much fun [in] kind of letting them be the guide.”

Throughout the whirlwind of MLB All-Star Week, MLB Network and numerous other broadcast entities are producing unparalleled content to effectively cover the proceedings. Other professional sports leagues have followed the league’s paradigm and optimized their showcase to be more conducive for consumers in the 21st century. Despite never covering the National Hockey League All-Star Game, Gardner has watched it from afar and discussed it during studio coverage as an NHL Network host. She likens the NHL All-Star Skills Competition to the Home Run Derby, both of which celebrate particular aspects of the sport, and appreciates players wearing microphones and communicating directly with the broadcast booth in the course of gameplay.

FOX has the television broadcast rights for Tuesday night’s MLB All-Star Game, marking its 24th broadcast of the landmark event. MLB Network, however, will present extensive pregame and postgame coverage on its flagship program, MLB Tonight. The network has annually had its analysts and camera operators roam the field in batting practice to conduct interviews with the players as they prepare for the game. Alonso, Pedro Martínez, Albert Pujols and Chris Young will be interacting with All-Stars, cultivating indelible moments by obtaining a firsthand look at their routine on the field. The advantage Alonso and Pujols have is in playing first base, a position where conversation abounds when runners find a way to reach.

“I love talking to the guys that can’t speak the language in English because a lot of these guys – they don’t get to talk that much so if I do have them in front of me, I always like to hear what their mindset is all about, especially in a moment like the All-Star Game [and] also just the festivities,” Alonso said. “I try to get the most out of the players.”

Reynolds remembers having a discussion with Los Angeles Angels stars Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani last year and talking about what it was like to be teammates. As they have assimilated into the network, Alonso and Gardner are building rapport with players and conducting unforgettable interviews and bringing fans compelling content. 

“They want something that’s real and that’s relatable,” Gardner said. “It’s kind of funny – you can have all the training in the world as a broadcaster, and I think what I’ve found as I’ve become more and more successful is what resonates with people is that you kind of let any guard down and you’re just your most authentic self.”

Reynolds maintains his chemistry with players in the offseason on MLB Network’s morning program, Hot Stove, which he hosts with Matt Vasgersian. As time has progressed, Reynolds has established friendships with players and personnel from around the league while building a sense of trust. Additionally, he has been open to discussing the transition from playing to broadcasting with athletes, including Alonso, and guides those new on the job.

“Don’t feel like you need to start broadcasting right now,” Reynolds said he tells active players. “That’s going to take care of itself. You go play your sport. You have a small window of time. Do it, go enjoy it [and] broadcasting will be there later.”

As the National League tries to snap a nine-game losing streak in the annual exhibition contest, MLB Network will be on hand to mark the unofficial halfway point of the season. Leading up to the resumption of regular season play on Friday, programs recapping the best of the first half and previewing the second half of play and postseason pushes will take the air. In the present moment though, Reynolds, Alonso and Gardner are immersed in the action from the peripatetic nucleus of the sport.

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Matt McClearin is Not Just Filling a Void at The Ticket

“As much as I dreamt about this opportunity, it’s even more so than I probably could ever have dreamt.”

Derek Futterman



Matt McClearin
Courtesy: Matt McClearin

Norm Hitzges is considered an industry pioneer, helping establish morning sports talk radio in the Dallas area. Spending a total of 48 years in the format, he made an immense contribution to the field. When Hitzges officially retired in June, there were questions surrounding who would move into the midday slot on Sportsradio 96.7 and 1310 The Ticket to work alongside host Donovan Lewis. The station eventually made the decision to bring one of its own home in Matt McClearin, and he has excelled in the assignment since officially taking over in August.

McClearin, a Texas native who grew up listening to Hitzges and other programs on the outlet, is living his dream with the medium he set his sights on from the time he was young. Over the years, he had a chance to be around Hitzges and saw his elite level of preparation and congeniality firsthand.

“One of the kindest humans I think that I’ve ever met,” McClearin said of Hitzges, “especially in this business, and that says a lot, I think, about how to carry yourself. Even when you have success and get to a certain level, [knowing] the right way to treat people and the right way to go about your daily business.”

It is safe to say that Hitzges had an impact on everyone at The Ticket, and it is a legacy that McClearin hopes to further perpetuate. Every time he walks into the studios, it is not lost on him the magnitude of the assignment he has been entrusted with, and he remains focused and driven on realizing his full potential.

Reaching this point took endurance and patience, but the timing ultimately ended up working out in his best interest. Growing up in the metroplex, The Ticket was a fundamental part of the sports sound and represented McClearin’s innate ambition.

McClearin was selected by station management to work in paid positions for two years while attending Texas State University – production director and program director – which entailed 20 to 25 hours per week within the offices and studio. In addition to working on job-specific functions, he also used the time to perfect his editing skills and board operating procedures and gain on-air repetitions. By the time he graduated and sought to apply for a job, he surmised that possessing versatility would engender a larger swath of chances to become immersed in the craft.

“Originally, [I was] kind of practicing the craft as much as [I] could and learning as much as I could,” McClearin said. “I could increase [my] value, I think, of being able to walk into a radio station in Dallas in a Top 5 market and say, ‘I can run the board; I can do production [and] I can do on-air stuff,’ but not just talk.”

By happenstance, he learned that The Ticket was looking for a part-time sports anchor to fill in for various shows, leading him to send his demo reel to the outlet. After some conversations with station management, McClearin officially joined the team and became immersed in refining his on-air skillset with guidance from program director Jeff Catlin.

“He’s very hands-on [by], early on, giving you a lot of constructive criticism and helping you to learn the ins and outs and proper formatics and how to set up each segment correctly,” McClearin said of Catlin. “Doing things like that and having those opportunities [are things] I always enjoyed.”

McClearin eventually began working as a pregame and postgame studio host for Dallas Stars broadcasts. Moreover, he would attend Dallas Cowboys games and collect audio from the players and coaches to edit and send back to the radio station to be used across its programming.

Working hard and going the extra mile helped separate McClearin from his competition both inside and outside of the radio station, ultimately earning him a weekend show with Scot Harrison. His candid assessments of the local teams and ability to delegate on the show, indifferent towards whether or not he is the center of attention, have rendered his hosting abilities conducive to success.

“I’m just a big believer in being who you are and being real and presenting that on the air,” McClearin said, “so no matter what you’re going through or what’s different about you, there are listeners out there that can connect with that and understand that you’re being real.”

The program remained a fixture on the weekends before both hosts were offered the chance to become part of the weekday programming lineup, following sports radio luminary Paul Finebaum. This opening, however, would require McClearin and Harrison to pick up and move to Birmingham so they could broadcast from the studios of Jox 94.5.

Both hosts eventually agreed and spent the next three-and-a-half years on the outlet, growing a new audience and becoming an indispensable part of the evenings in the area. There are certain instances in any business that are fugacious and unexpected in nature though, and the show cancellation in 2016 was an example of such.

McClearin returned to Dallas to work as a part-time radio host on ESPN Radio 103.3 FM, an extraordinary circumstance in that he was in the same building he used to work in with The Ticket. The station was operating under a local marketing agreement (LMA) with Cumulus Media and competing with the very outlet they were sharing the building with, cultivating a professional atmosphere mired by the ratings. The onset of the global pandemic caused the station to shutter.

“It was one of those things where you’ve just got to believe in what you’re doing and believe that there’s an appeal to what you’re doing,” McClearin said. “You get hired for a reason, and you continue to perform and try to grow what we were doing at the time.”

Catlin continued to serve as a mentor for McClearin during his years away from The Ticket, a venerable radio professional who has helped further build the outlet into a local powerhouse. The station frequently posts stellar ratings each quarter, representing a place where McClearin feels he can grow his brand and show to unrealized heights.

“The goal is to be No. 1 in the ratings in our [demographic] and to continue that,” McClearin said. “That’s something that I think drives me every day. When you’re not No. 1, you want to know, ‘Okay, well why aren’t we No. 1?,’ and when you get to that point, the question then becomes, ‘Okay, well how do we maintain this and continue to go and be better and bigger than what we were the previous month?’”

Before he ultimately returned to The Ticket to work with Lewis in the midday time slot, there was a bit of irony in that he, once again, called Birmingham home. When McClearin’s original program was canceled, he felt as if he had assimilated into the city and found his niche. He was disappointed in the outcome and always thought of the area in a favorable light, which then led to his phone ringing with a call from program director Ryan Haney.

As fortune would have it, Haney asked McClearin if he would be interested in returning to the station to host a solo program as part of a refreshed local lineup. Without hesitation, he conveyed that he would be interested in making a comeback in the locale, a full-circle moment filled with feelings of both satisfaction and gratitude.

“I never thought that I would go back to Alabama, much less work for the same station that, five years prior, had made the decision to let, at the time, Scot Harrison and I go,” McClearin said. “….I never wanted to leave in the first place, [so] I was really, really happy and I’m very fortunate that Ryan believed in me and gave me that opportunity to come back.”

The dynamic of the show differed the second time around in that he was the primary host, yet he also had help from John Saber and Conrad Van Order. Being around the Birmingham audience for a second time gave him more chances to talk about college football, basketball and other sports topics dominating the local and national scene.

Moving from one marketplace more focused on professional teams to one that was dominated by college sports, he furthered his abilities and worked to finish at the top of the ratings.

“I say the things that I actually believe in and I talk about the things that I really do to where, yes, sometimes I think I probably do some weird things and I’m a different type of person, but that’s just my personality and I have my quirks and my eccentricities,” McClearin said. “Again, I think if I present that and that is me, then the audience understands that and I think it comes across that way.”

Just as he thought during his initial stint in Birmingham, McClearin was prepared to stay in the marketplace for the long haul and try to further cement his name in the radio airwaves. Being able to reconnect with the audience and discuss meaningful, impactful topics was validating and worthwhile for him, and he was especially steadfast to the outlet. After all, he never had a particular interest in voyaging to television and still, to this day, concentrates his efforts on growing and maintaining the sports radio format.

“My brain just doesn’t think like that in those three-minute little quips that you do,” McClearin said. “TV is just so much more structured and short than radio, where we can have a 15-minute segment and have a real conversation.”

The only way McClearin was going to leave the station was if The Ticket came along, and sure enough, an opening became available concurrent with Hitzges’ retirement. While he enjoyed his time in Birmingham, he doubled down on his commitment to the Dallas-Fort Worth marketplace for the long run in making this move and conceding a solo program for a new co-host.

“When I got the call and went through the process with Jeff Catlin, [it] was a little bit surreal because it truly is a dream coming true,” McClearin said. “I found out that they’re going to put me with Donovan Lewis is kind of when Norm Hitzges decided to retire and I was going to walk in, [and] it’s really such a new show. Donovan and Norm had had such success for a while.”

As soon as McClearin took the air with Lewis for the first time, he felt an instant connection. Just a few months into the program, both hosts know there is plenty of room for growth and consistent improvement to create enthralling and proprietary content that will amplify cume and serve the community.

“We both are just two people, I think, that really care about the listener [and] what we’re putting together each and every day to make it the best that we can,” McClearin said. “So far, it’s been really easy and it’s been just – as much as I dreamt about this opportunity, it’s even more so than I probably could ever have dreamt.”

The Ticket is in competition with 105.3 The Fan in the Dallas-Fort Worth marketplace, along with other media outlets across various platforms. Whereas the Birmingham market releases its ratings through quarterly diaries, Dallas has monthly figures through PPM, but he makes sure the influx of quantitative data does not command his mindset.

“We can all see the ratings that the two main sports stations here have – they’re very healthy ratings and I think there’s a real hunger,” McClearin said. “A lot of that is football-driven – the Cowboys, nationally, are crazy relevant. All the [networks with] NBC and ABC and FOX and everybody; they always want to put them on because the Cowboys drive the needle. Well, they also drive the needle in Dallas very, very much so.”

Understanding and capitalizing on the reach and relevance of the Cowboys helps these local programs gain further traction. Arriving unprepared equates to marketplace malfeasance.

“Prep is very important to me, and I like to try to come into the pre-show meeting that I have with Donovan and our producer Travis every day with my own ideas, but also, ‘Okay, Donnie, what do you think?,’ and then, ‘Travis, what do you think about that?,’” McClearin said. “From that and our own individual prep, we kind of do the show prep together [to present] the in-depth segments that we roll out.”

The majority of content focuses on the Cowboys since they are the team that exhorts the most interest in the area, but there are plenty of other storylines within the landscape. The Texas Rangers are headed to the Major League Baseball postseason for the first time since 2016, while the Dallas Mavericks organization enters its first full season with superstar guard tandem Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving. Sometimes, sports fans do not want to solely listen to discussions about the teams themselves but rather hear about other pertinent topics in which they may be interested.

“I like to call them, I guess, lifestyle segments because I don’t think anybody, even the most passionate sports fan, only does sports in their life,” McClearin said. “We all have relationships and we have TV shows that we like to watch, and we went to the store and [some] random thing happened. We incorporate that, I think, into the show, and I think that’s The Ticket itself. It’s a very real station that has real conversations with a focus on sports.”

Everything throughout McClearin’s professional journey has centered on reaching this moment, and he wants to maximize the opportunity he has earned by bringing his best to the air on a daily basis.

From the onset, he knew where he wanted to end up and took the necessary steps to get there, even if it meant enduring some difficult setbacks. By taking advantage of every opportunity in his purview, he has made it in front of the microphone, and he has no plans on going anywhere at any time soon.

“I want to continue to grow the audience and have as many people enjoy doing what I love to do as possible,” McClearin said. “I get a lot of motivation from that [and] just the excitement of driving into the station every day and the excitement of when that light comes on and it’s time for the show. It’s like being on stage to me; it’s almost like you just get kind of high off of that feeling, and I love it.”

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3 Questions to Ask Before Booking a Guest

Nobody has more passion for your show than you do. Be very careful who you invite to share that passion.

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In my formative years of sports talk, the legendary Rush Limbaugh was at the absolute height of his popularity. Limbaugh had a very simple formula, nobody could argue against the success of that formula. Each hour was pretty much the same; a monologue or two, a sound bite, a few phone callers, and lengthy reactions to those calls. One thing that was absent was a guest, Limbaugh almost never had a guest on his show.

He was once asked about that and maintained there isn’t a guest that has the same passion for his show as he does so, why hand the show over to someone without that passion? It is an intriguing and thought-provoking strategy.

Each show has a unique approach to guests; the type that work, the length of the interview, the times they should be on. There is no cookie-cutter approach that works for every show in every market. I do think a strategy for a show as it relates to guests is absolutely crucial. Scheduling them without first answering a few “whys” would be a critical mistake. We only get so much time with each listener, few things can run them off like a bad one.

More on the “whys” in a moment but I first need to address what I believe to be a misconception. I often hear that a show is good because “it gets great guests”. That may be a plus for the listener but I refuse to believe it is what makes a show great.

Ultimately, a show is great because the entire production is entertaining. Guests are only part of what makes a show entertaining. Even two in an hour on a show still leaves the hosts having to fill the majority of the time. If they aren’t entertaining hosts, there isn’t a guest alive that makes the show good. All of that gets me to the “Whys”.

Why is this guest on?

There must be a reason to hand part of your show over to a guest. They must be extremely entertaining, covering a topic that is of great interest to your audience, or be someone you know beyond a shadow of a doubt your audience loves.

If you can get at least two of those three, you have a winner.

Otherwise, it feels like a segment filler and I think most audience members can spot a segment filler from miles away. I get it, I’ve done small market shows solo before and felt like I was the only one listening. I know the appeal of having someone to help fill a segment.

The truth is, it does more harm than good if it isn’t entertaining.

Why does this guest want to be on?

Every guest you have on has an ulterior motive. It is part of the transaction: They scratch your back and they get something out of it. The more they feel they get out of it, the more likely they are to give you a better interview.

Having someone who understands the value of a spot on your show will exponentially increase the interest and effort of that guest in their given segment. Simply put, if they’re not into it, the segment isn’t going to work.

I’ve seen shows chase the “big name guest” and the big name has very little interest in the interview. It shows. We once had a former athlete turned analyst on our show who was doing the interview on speakerphone while he was packing for a trip. He could not have been less interested in doing the interview and I still don’t know why he agreed. It was a show killer.

I don’t care how big the name is, if the big name just goes through the motions, it will be a failure.

Why is this YOUR guest?

Most topics you’ll discuss on a show have numerous possibilities tied to them. Rarely is there only one guest that can discuss that topic. Try finding the person who has the best chemistry with your show. Show chemistry matters when selecting hosts, I think it should matter just as much when selecting guests. It is likely your show has a unique personality of its own, lean into that when you are selecting guests.

As an example, my show is far more likely to discuss a player’s haircut rather than his NextGen Stats. When we have someone on, it is important to us that they understand that and isn’t thrown off by it. That is an understanding of the chemistry of the show and the importance of that to the audience. I think every booking has to be viewed through that prism.

Ultimately, I have always believed having no guest is far better than having a bad guest. If people are consuming your show, they already value your opinion and insight, don’t lend that audience trust to someone who will not value it to some extent. Rush Limbaugh may have taken it to extremes, he was good at that, and he was also correct in his assessment.

Nobody has more passion for your show than you do. Be very careful who you invite to share that passion.

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Gregg Giannotti is Living the Dream at WFAN

“I don’t take it for granted. I appreciate every show, every hour and every minute.”

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Gregg Giannotti
Courtesy: Audacy

When Gregg Giannotti was hired as an intern at WFAN in 2005, he had big dreams. His ultimate objective was to not just one day get on the air at the legendary all-sports radio station, but to occupy a portion of WFAN’s prime real estate. 

In radio industry terms that means morning drive, middays, or afternoon drive and the Long Island native would embark on a career path that has taken him to the co-host chair of the Boomer & Gio morning show on WFAN and simulcast on CBS Sports Network.

“You never really know if it’s going to happen,” said Giannotti. “When it does happen, it’s sort of a shock and it took me at least six months to a year to realize that I was actually doing it and then you want to make sure that you keep doing it because this business is very fickle.”

After graduating from the WFAN newsroom, Giannotti became a full-time employee in 2007, becoming a board op and then a producer, most notably for Joe & Evan, hosted by Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts. In 2008, he had his first opportunity to host a show on WFAN and then in 2010, he left New York to help launch 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh. After six months as the evening host, Giannotti was promoted to host the morning show, a program that became the top-rated sports show in town. 

After five years in Pittsburgh, Gregg Giannotti returned home to New York to co-host the morning show with Brian Jones on CBS Sports Radio, and then in 2017 he moved down the hall on the 10th floor of 345 Hudson Street in New York City when he was named to replace Craig Carton as co-host of WFAN’s morning show.

“The fact that now I’m sitting here in year six with Boomer and it’s so comfortable, it feels so good and we all trust one another and we all really enjoy seeing each other,” said Giannotti.  “After the tumultuous way that everything started, the cliché is that it’s a dream come true but it really is. This is all I ever wanted to do.”

And he’s doing it with people who have had a big impact on his life and his career.

The legendary Eddie Scozzare, who hired Giannotti as an intern, serves as Boomer & Gio’s board op and is best known for his ability to play the appropriate “drops” at just the right time.

Morning show update anchor Jerry Recco, who will also fill in as host when Giannotti and/or Boomer are off, trained Gio in the newsroom during his internship.

Giannotti has always been a big fan of producer Al Dukes who has enjoyed a storied career and is a student of radio.

And then, of course, there’s his co-host, former NFL MVP and fellow native Long Islander Boomer Esiason.

When Gregg Giannotti joined the WFAN morning show, he had big shoes to fill in replacing Carton, whose arrest and prison sentence sent shockwaves through the station and the industry.

Boomer & Carton was a successful show for a decade and radio listeners can be creatures of habit. The audience loved the show and then, all of a sudden, there was someone new sitting next to Boomer.

When Giannotti took up residence in that chair vacated by Carton, he knew he had a huge responsibility.

“It was up to me to make sure that the audience didn’t leave and wanted to be a part of what we were doing,” said Giannotti. “You go from that day in 2017 where no one knew what their future was going to be and things were scary for a lot of people and their opportunities. You couldn’t have written a better script for the comeback story for Craig and how Boomer & Carton turned into Boomer & Gio and the radio station didn’t skip a beat in morning drive.”

Giannotti has been a smashing success because, as many people in the industry will tell you, he “gets it”. He has a clear understanding of what should go into a show, particularly a morning show, and that means knowing who your audience is.

Growing up on Long Island listening to WFAN certainly gave Giannotti a leg up on others who may have aspired to work at the nation’s first all-sports radio station.

“I grew up as one of those guys who would get in the car and have a miserable commute and put on WFAN,” said Giannotti. “What you try to do is to understand what your audience wants, what they’re expecting out of you, and in morning drive, you want to entertain. There’s a lot of times where you have to know the spot that you’re in and understand who you are and who your audience is.”

Being entertaining during a morning show is vitally important to being a success. The discussion is not always about sports and there are times during the year when the sports world, especially locally, could be going through a slow period. That’s when a morning show has to spend some time on pop culture, radio station drama, and politics and doing whatever needs to be done to keep the listeners engaged.

Gregg Giannotti was clearly born with the gift of gab and the ability to entertain, a trait that began in fourth grade when he started making fun of his teachers and doing something that he has been known for throughout his career…doing impressions.

“There’s an ability to entertain that I think some people have and some people don’t,” said Giannotti. “There’s an ability that some people are born with that can do it and some can’t.”

Clearly, Giannotti is in the category of those who can.

His long list of impersonations includes long-time legendary WFAN host Joe Benigno.

“Benigno is probably the easiest one,” said Giannotti. “It always gets a laugh and I think it’s the most authentic and the one that sounds the best so it’s definitely at the very top.”

Giannotti also gets everyone laughing with his impersonations of former WFAN hosts Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo but at the top of the list now is a New York sports executive.

“My favorite, if I could just pick one, is when I do the Sean Marks, the GM of the Brooklyn Nets, and his Australian/New Zealand accent when he treats (WFAN host) Evan Roberts like a little kid,” said Giannotti.

There are different paths to being a success in the radio industry. With technology today, there are those who go down the road of being a YouTube sensation or hosting a podcast in order to get noticed.  For Gregg Giannotti, the choice was to leave New York for Pittsburgh and work his way back home.

He will always cherish his five years at 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh.

“It was the best thing that I ever could have done because I took that risk,” said Giannotti. “I really needed that in my career to get me to where I am now because it was essentially like going to college to learn how to deal with all of the major things you have to deal with when you’re doing big-time drive time radio. It was perfect. I could have stayed there if things didn’t work out the way they did with my wife being from there. I had dreams of getting back to New York that I couldn’t let die.” 

And those dreams have indeed come true for Gregg Giannotti with the success of Boomer & Gio on WFAN.

“I don’t take it for granted,” said Giannotti. “I appreciate every show, every hour, and every minute.”

To succeed, you have to dream big and follow the correct career path. You also have to have the talent to entertain. Gregg Giannotti has certainly checked all of those boxes and the results speak for themselves.

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