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Adam Wainwright is Focused on FOX Sports, MLB Network and Music

“I love getting on stage, and walking on stage with a big crowd is the closest thing there is to running onto the field to pitch a big game.”

Derek Futterman

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Adam Wainwright
Courtesy: FOX Sports

Over the last decade, Major League Baseball has found new ways to highlight the personalities of its athletes as fans develop a deeper connection to the sport. Whether that is actualized through digital content, Q&A sessions or accessibility to sabermetrics, the league has steadily augmented its presence in the modern media ecosystem. Adam Wainwright in particular was no stranger to in-game interviews on national broadcasts during his 18-year major-league career, all spent with the St. Louis Cardinals, obliging to requests to have him on the air and fulfilling his obligations.

“[Networks] would always reach out, ‘Hey, can we get Adam in the top of the third or the bottom of the fourth’ or whatever it was, and I did a lot of those things, and each time I did one as the years went on, the people almost inevitably would say, ‘Alright, looking forward to your broadcasting career when you get done with [playing].’ They’re the ones that kind of made me start thinking about it, but I do love it.”

At the conclusion of last season, Wainwright officially retired from the sport having started 478 games and garnering more than 2,200 strikeouts. Widely recognized as being among the pantheon of Cardinals players in franchise history, he took his talents and applied them in the broadcast booth as a full-time game analyst for FOX Sports.

Whereas some athletes enter the role without previous experience or a trial run, he was building off a portfolio that he had accumulated starting four seasons earlier. Wainwright was on the call for the 2020 NLDS between the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves alongside play-by-play announcer Adam Amin and analyst A.J. Pierzynski. As he ventured into the enterprise, he found himself able to apply his unique knowledge to the broadcast.

“I think the main thing is on-field experience,” Wainwright said. “There’s a certain thing that you watch for as a player that maybe someone who didn’t do that doesn’t look for or a certain tell that leads you to think about what’s about to happen or a guy’s reaction in the box as a pitcher. It took me years – it took me five or six years probably in the big leagues at least to be able to read a hitter really well.”

Wainwright followed a similar schedule over the ensuing seasons, appearing on ALDS broadcasts on two of the next three years, including last season between the Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins. Signing with FOX Sports upon his retirement made sense to him in that he was growing as a broadcaster and had enjoyed being part of its baseball coverage.

“Experience wise, when I have worked with them, everything has been great,” Wainwright said. “I have loved the producers and the people that are in the truck and all the little ins and outs of the game – they’ve taught me so much about it – and I’ve loved the partners that I’ve worked with.”

Wainwright, Amin and Pierzynski are headed to London to call the MLB International Series game between the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday afternoon with coverage beginning at 12:30 p.m. EST on FOX. Being selected for the game assignment and making the trip across the Atlantic is something he considers an honor, and he looks forward to delivering his analysis of the action live from London Stadium.

“I played there last year with the Cardinals in the Cardinals-Cubs game, and I know what it’s like pitching on that field and what the mound is and the field’s all about and how the ball flies, and so I like that I’m bringing that,” Wainwright explained, “but I also like that I’ve got a couple of old shoes next to me that can help me when things aren’t just right.”

Preventing subjectivity on the national broadcasts is an aspect of the job within his cognizance every time he steps behind the microphone. While it can be beneficial to have someone recently removed from playing who faced many of the active hitters, it also poses a potential challenge in offering critiques. During a game two years ago, Wainwright was granted the chance to visit the radio booth at American Family Field and call half an inning of a game with Milwaukee Brewers radio announcer Bob Uecker, a beloved presence with an enduring legacy.

“I said, ‘How is it that you keep such a great relationship with the player and the employer?,’” Wainwright asked, “and he said, ‘Adam, you never tear down the player. If you want to criticize the play, criticize the play, not the player.’”

In a recent contest between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, Wainwright watched as Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt committed an error that prevented him from making a routine catch. Even though Wainwright played for the Cardinals, he had to address the matter for purposes of the broadcast and grant an objective viewpoint. In the moment, he thought about what Uecker told him prior to critiquing Goldschmidt’s footwork.

“I felt like that was fair to the play because it should have been made differently, but it was also fair to the player who usually, typically does a great job of it,” Wainwright said, “but I tried to put in a spin that wouldn’t be so hurtful to him but also it would tell the truth.”

A benefit to working within the MLB on FOX property is that he gets to travel around the country for games, trips he sometimes treats like a mini-vacation. For now, he does not foresee himself taking on local broadcasting responsibilities, specifying that he would need to spend a majority of the time back in St. Louis, thus making it difficult on his loved ones.

“Right now where my family is, I would never commit to something like that at this moment,” Wainwright said. “I just have too much going on. I got to make sure these kids know that their dad’s there for them – I missed a lot of stuff as a player – and so now I got to make sure I’m there for them.”

Being present for his family, which includes volunteering as an assistant on three baseball teams, has had residual effects on Wainwright’s broadcasting abilities as it pertains to synthesizing and articulating complex topics. There is a considerable amount of nuance embedded in pitching, and his aptitude to understand and execute it as a player is part of what has made him shine in the broadcast booth.

“You can’t talk to somebody who’s a 10-year veteran in the big leagues the same way as you talk to a 10-year-old,” Wainwright said, “and I think as an analyst, I have to remember that there are lots of different age groups; there’s lots of different baseball knowledge out there.”

Being situated within his formative years as a broadcaster, Wainwright acknowledges there are instances when he speaks too much or not enough. Even so, he tries to be himself and demonstrate his authentic personality to the viewers without elements of fabrication or duplicity. Moreover, he receives feedback about the broadcast from Amin, which has facilitated the progress of honing his craft.

“Between innings, if I could have done something different, he always offers up like, ‘Hey man, talk more about this,’ or, ‘Hey, when we come back, I want you to hit this,’ or if I know I messed something up, he’s always very encouraging,” Wainwright said. “And I’m a words of affirmation person, and he’s very, very good about that and always building me up, never tearing me down.”

Outside of his work with FOX Sports, Wainwright also provides studio analysis for MLB Network and has appeared across several of its programs. Having a chance to witness the production value behind the broadcasts and all that goes into presenting award-winning studio coverage of the sport has proved interesting. Wainwright is contributing to MLB Network coverage throughout the year as he continues to cultivate opportunities to work in the sports media business.

Appearing in the broadcast booth and the studio are far from the only activities in which Wainwright takes part as a retired player. In addition to philanthropic efforts for which he was honored as the winner of the 2020 Roberto Clemente Award, he is a skilled country music artist. Wainwright released his first album this past April and demonstrated his talent last season performing the national anthem at Busch Stadium on Opening Day.

“I love performing,” Wainwright said. “I love getting on stage, and walking on stage with a big crowd is the closest thing there is to running onto the field to pitch a big game. It is remarkably similar – the jitters that kind of go into it beforehand and the preparation for a lead singer to be out there is very similar to a starting pitcher. You can’t mess that up or the game’s over, and so it’s very similar on the stage.”

Over the last week, Wainwright had a three-day stretch in which he traveled around on a tour bus to take part in a variety of broadcasting and performance obligations. The journey began with a headline concert at Hammons Field in Springfield, Mo., the largest non-baseball event in the history of the ballpark. Wainwright then traveled to Chicago, Ill. to call a game at Wrigley Field between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds that night. After the game concluded, he slept on the bus and arrived in Madison, Ill. the next morning where he initiated and performed at the Enjoy Illinois 300 race within the NASCAR Cup Series.

“I felt like kind of a rockstar just traveling around and waking up on the tour bus and going to sleep late, and it was a lot of fun,” Wainwright said. “I was glad when I got home for sure.”

Although Wainwright feels he may have overcommitted this summer, he is enjoying his time on the stage this summer, whether that be commentating on baseball, touring as a musician, engaging in philanthropy or spending time with his family. Akin to an athlete, he is staying grounded in the present moment focusing on the tasks at hand and will evaluate everything once the season comes to a close.

“I’d like for my music side to take off a little bit for sure, and I’d like to be known as a great broadcaster, but right now I’m not worried about any of it,” Wainwright said. “I’m just having fun where I’m at.”

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Barrett Media Hires Jeff Lynn to Spearhead Music Radio Coverage

“Adding Jeff to our editorial team to spearhead our music radio coverage is important for building brand identity and trust across the industry.”

Jason Barrett

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Barrett Media is expanding its content focus starting on Monday July 15, 2024. I announced these plans on May 6, 2024. Since then, I’ve had many conversations to identify the right person to bring our vision to life. Music radio will be our first addition. Coverage of tech and podcasting will come next.

Making sure we’ve got our finger on the pulse of the music radio business is the first step. With over 11,000 stations nationwide playing music, and entertaining listeners, there’s no shortage of stories to tell. I maintain that coverage of the music radio industry isn’t sufficient. We’re not going to solve every problem and nail every story but we’re going to work our tails off to try and make things better.

So, how can you help us? Email [email protected] so we’re aware of your success, career related news, and how to reach you for future feature stories. Sharing our content on social media and telling folks about the website once it’s live is another easy way to offer support.

To avoid any confusion, we will not be writing daily news on artists and record label activity. It’s why I’ve continued to mention ‘music radio’ each time I promote this expansion. We’re looking to focus our coverage on broadcasters, brands, companies, ratings, content, etc.. Artists and music labels may become part of our coverage down the road, but that’s not our immediate focus.

Which leads me to today’s announcement regarding our Editor. I spoke with a lot of smart, talented people for this role. Adding someone with management experience, who has a passion to write, a can-do attitude, a love for the industry, and relationships across formats is very important. I’ve found that person, and hope you’ll join me in welcoming Jeff Lynn as Barrett Media’s first ever Music Radio Editor.

Jeff’s experience in the music radio business spans nearly 25 years. He’s been a program director for iHeart, Townsquare Media, NRG Media, and Rubber City Radio Group. Those opportunities led him to Milwaukee/Madison, WI, Cleveland/Akron, OH, Des Moines/Quad Cities, IA and Omaha, NE. All Access then hired him in 2022 to leave the programing world and serve as a Country Format Editor, and manager of the outlet’s Nashville Record promotions. He remained in that role until August 2023 when the outlet shut down.

“I am honored to join the team at Barrett Media to guide the brand’s Music Radio coverage”, said Jeff Lynn. “Radio has been a lifelong passion and pursuit of mine. To be able to tell stories of the great work being done by radio pros and broadcast groups is very exciting. They are stories that need to be told. I can’t wait to get started.”

Jeff Lynn with Jelly Roll

I added Ron Harrell, Robby Bridges, and Kevin Robinson as columnists two weeks ago. Bob Lawrence and Keith Berman then joined us this past Monday. We’re quickly assembling a talented stable of writers, and with Jeff on board as our Editor, we’re almost ready for prime time. The only thing left to do is hire a few features reporters. I’m planning to finalize those decisions next week.

Building this brand and making it a daily destination for music radio professionals will take time. It starts with adding talented people, covering the news, and creating interesting content consistently. If we do things right, I’m confident the industry’s support will follow. Time will tell if my instincts are right or wrong.

Jeff begins his new role with Barrett Media on July 1st. Adding him to our editorial team to spearhead our music radio coverage is important for both building brand identity and trust across the industry. I’m eager to work with him, and hope you’ll take a moment to say hello and offer your congratulations. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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Greg Hill is Turning the Tables in Morning Drive on WEEI

“I think this business is slowly moving farther and farther away from dollars being dependent on being the #1 station or where you’re ranked when it comes to Nielsen.”

Derek Futterman

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Greg Hill
Courtesy: Audacy

Earlier in the week, the Boston Celtics secured their 18th NBA championship. Across a variety of sports radio stations, especially those in the Boston-Manchester designated market area, the triumph was a subject of discussion on Tuesday morning. Within morning drive on WEEI, host Greg Hill provided his thoughts on the team and its achievement.

Akin to the Celtics, Hill aims to position his weekday program to thrive and sustain success. After working in the industry for many years, some professionals can exhibit a sense of apathy, but for Hill, it is quite the opposite, exhibiting congeniality and authenticity to the audience as a whole amid this quest.

Although Hill broadcasts on a sports talk station, the morning show spans beyond comprehensive sports discussion while implementing a variety of other topics into its daily discussion. In fact, Hill defines the breadth of topics into two distinctive categories, one of which is sports while the other covers an assortment of miscellaneous subjects mentioned on the show.

“I think it’s more beneficial if you are a radio person and you know what you think works when it comes to doing radio,” Hill said. “If you can find a way to keep the audience entertained and engaged and try, if you can, to present content that’s different than [what] they might find somewhere else, then that’s more important than necessarily a vast X’s and O’s knowledge when it comes to sports from my perspective.”

Sports teams in the city of Boston have established a tradition of grandeur and excellence, making a habit of remaining in contention for championships every year. In fact, the Celtics championship ended the city’s title drought that spanned just over five years. During that time, the media ecosystem has changed with a prioritization on digital distribution in addition to more niche content offerings. As a long-tenured radio host, Hill has been able to successfully adapt by optimizing the idiosyncrasies of the medium while also being open to innovation.

“The old adage about, and I think it still remains a unique advantage when it comes to this medium, is that when you wake up in the morning, you want to know, ‘What happened? What happened last night?,’ and you want to hear people give you their slant on it,” Hill said. “My function, I think, is to give everybody the opportunity to share their opinions on stuff.”

While Hill has become a respected sports radio host, he initially started working in another sector of the industry. During his time as a middle school student, he worked a paper route and saved his money to buy two turntables and several 45-rpm records. Hill would then go to the garage of his parents’ house and host a radio show with no audience, working to master the craft in his nascence. As he grew older, he started to bring his records to his high school radio station and take the air.

The passion and verve he possessed for the medium, along with his talent in the craft, helped him land a job at WAAF as a promotion coordinator. As he began to showcase his abilities, he earned chances to go on the air over the weekends and overnight. Morning show host Drew Lane later asked Hill if he wanted to do sports on the program, and he continued to grow from there.

When Hill was named the host of the new Hill-Man Morning Show on WAAF a few years later, he needed to find a way to stand out in the marketplace. After all, he was facing competition from Charles Laquidara on WBCN and a variety of other media outlets, and it took time for the program to eventually break through. Hill took the opposite approach of other stations in the area to render the show distinct from those on other media outlets.

“WBCN at the time was an older-targeted station, so we targeted the station towards Men 18-34 and figured that we could grow as they grew,” Hill said. “So we were just going out attending every single possible event where somebody might be, going out before concerts and shaking hands, and doing all that stuff that I think you have to do in order to try to get people to try your show and try your station.”

Hill’s program catapulted to the top of the marketplace, and he signed a lifetime contract after 26 years on the air to stay at WAAF. In signing the deal, he never thought he would work anywhere else, but things changed three years later when Gerry Callahan hosted his last show in morning drive on WEEI. Then-Entercom announced that it was adding Hill to the daypart to host a new morning drive program and retained co-host Danielle Murr in the process, commencing a new era for the outlet. Shortly thereafter, WAAF was sold to the Educational Media Foundation and re-formatted with contemporary Christian programming.

“I never thought [W]AAF would go away,” Hill said. “It was a legendary rock station, and I still to this day will flip by that station and hear Christian rock music and sit there in silence for a couple of minutes for that great radio station, but being the same company and the same market manager at the time [in] Mark Hannon, when that opportunity came up [to] try something different and to make a change, I was really excited about it.”

In moving formats, Hill and his colleagues evaluated the program and determined how they could grow their audience on WEEI while staying true to the essence of the show. The program, however, was going up against Toucher & Rich, the hit morning show on 98.5 The Sports Hub, and others.

“I think this business is slowly moving farther and farther away from dollars being dependent on being the #1 station or where you’re ranked when it comes to Nielsen,” Hill said. “To me, the most important thing is that we’re doing what we should do to get partners for the radio station on the business side of things and delivering results for them.”

Hill is cognizant of the success of 98.5 The Sports Hub but articulated that the ranking does not matter to those spending money on radio. Instead, he claims that it is about the level of engagement and patronization of the product that facilitates interest in the brand.

“From a differentiator point of view, we’re up against, on the sports side of things, an incredible radio station that has done an amazing job of being #1 in this market for a long time with really compelling personalities,” Hill said. “I think it’s incumbent upon us to try to find ways to be different when it comes to our choice on content and the way in which we present it, and then outwork them when it comes to going out and meeting people who might listen to the show.”

Whereas Hill was originally a solo host during his early days on WAAF, he is now joined by Jermaine Wiggins and Courtney Cox, both of whom bring unique aspects that enhance the program. Wiggins, a former tight end for the New England Patriots, provides his knowledge of football and the perspective of a professional athlete. Cox is the youngest person on the program and has a unique approach from her time covering sports at NESN while embracing the humor and repartee on the show. Show producer Chris Curtis, who worked with Hill at WAAF, also contributes to the conversation as well and has helped maintain synergy.

“Whether it’s the co-hosts on the show or callers, I love when they are having fun at my expense, and I think that self-deprecating humor to me is the best,” shared Hill. “If we have a show in which I end up being the punchline or end up, whether it’s my age or lack of technological skill or my frugality – whatever it is – that to me is my favorite part of what we do and that personality coming through, I guess.”

Hill uses his platform to benefit the community through The Greg Hill Foundation, a nonprofit organization he founded to provide families affected by tragedy with immediate needs. He created the foundation in 2010 to celebrate two decades on the air at WAAF before the advent of crowdfunding in a quest to give back. The foundation has donated over $20 million to more than 9,000 beneficiaries during its 14 years.

“We’re lucky in radio because we have this incredible tradition of public service, and I think everybody in radio feels this obligation – this great obligation to use the airwaves to help others,” Hill said. “We’re granted the incredible platform in which we can actually get people to respond when help is needed, and so I wanted to be able to use that microphone and the radio station on those days to be able to help the beneficiaries in our area who needed it.”

Hill recently signed a multiyear contract extension with Audacy-owned WEEI to continue hosting The Greg Hill Show. Part of what compelled him to remain at the station was working with Ken Laird, the brand manager of the outlet who used to be his producer at WAAF. Moreover, he has known Audacy Boston market manager Mike Thomas for over two decades as he leads the cluster of stations in an environment with many entities looking to garner shares of attention.

“To be able to have the opportunity to work with those guys, know what they are, what I need them to do to keep them happy and to have the opportunity for us to, from a team perspective, that we have one clear mission in mind, and that is to be No. 1,” Hill said. “No. 1 in revenue and No. 1 when it comes to ratings, so to be able to sit there and go, ‘Alright, since I came here five years ago, we definitely have some wins, but there’s still a lot that we have to do,’ and to be able to do it with them together was way more interesting to me than any other opportunity.”

Even though Hill has worked in the sports media business for many years, he remains energized by the prospect of achieving goals and having the privilege to host his radio program. In the past, he has stated that he would like to slow down in his career, yet he is unsure what he would do without working in radio.

“That being said, I’ve been getting up at the crack of dawn for 30-something years, and I’m definitely feeling it more than I used to,” Hill said. “But sometimes I think it would be fun to go and do one more radio show where I play seven great songs an hour, as long as I get to pick whatever I play and there’s no research and there’s no computer programming the music. I sometimes think about that, but I just love doing this.”

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If Jim Rome is Willing to Innovate, So Can You

Jim Rome is 59 years old and has been at this for 35 years. And if he finds value in embracing new platforms, you, your hosts, and your stations should be able to do it, too.

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Photo of Jim Rome and a logo for the X platform

Jim Rome is 59 years old. He’s been in the sports talk radio game since before I was born. And earlier this year, his show left CBS Sports Network to begin a live simulcast on the Elon Musk-owned X platform.

And it has exposed him and his show to a much wider, and frankly much younger, audience in the short time since the simulcast began.

If you search X, you’ll see either “I didn’t know Jim Rome was still around” or “I’ve never heard of Jim Rome, but I saw his show on here,” posts.

Now, that doesn’t mean he’s abandoning terrestrial radio. In fact, he recently chastised a caller for talking poorly about “scratchy AM radio”, which elicited a strong defense of the medium from the sports talk legend.

But I can’t help but think that if — at this stage in both his life and his career — Jim Rome is willing to try new things, so can you, your show, or your station.

To be frank, Rome has every reason to coast. Rest on his laurels. Simply collect a paycheck and call it a day until his contract is up. But that’s not what he’s doing. He’s innovating. He’s taking chances. I’m sure it’s a much safer feeling — especially for someone about to reach 60 (you look great by the way, Jim) — to stick to a familiar simulcast on cable TV. For damn near 40 years, that’s been the dominant player in the space. But it isn’t 1992 anymore.

Listening to Rome describe the new simulcast makes either one of two things true: Either he doesn’t truly understand what he’s doing, or he believes that his audience is potentially too old to understand streaming. Because he talks about the new venture like he’s trying to explain it to a five-year-old, but at least he’s out here attempting it.

Listening to many shows or stations around the country has at times led me to have a cynical view of the industry. Lipservice is often paid when you hear leaders say “We’re in the content business, not the radio business,” but then only put their content on the radio. Or in podcast form, in three-hour blocks with the live traffic reports still included in the audio to really cement home the fact that the producer couldn’t be bothered to even attempt to edit it before publishing.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some stations that have fantastic radio, podcast, digital video, and social media strategies. Others excel at live events.

But many — you could argue too many — are resting on their laurels, taking a “this is good enough,” approach to the format and its content, and hoping that nothing ever changes.

The problem is the world changes every single day. And if you don’t keep up, you’ll be left behind. If the biggest and best stations in the industry fall behind, the entire format falls behind. And I don’t want to see that happen.

If you don’t have a digital video strategy in 2024, I have one quick question: Why not? I was a Program Director in market #228, and we had a digital video strategy.

If you don’t have a podcast strategy in 2024 that’s better than “just put up the entire show from today”, I have one quick question: Why not?

“Why not?” is likely the question Jim Rome asked when he was presented with the opportunity to move his show from the safe haven that was CBS Sports Network and bring it to a wider, younger, and more accessible audience on social media. Now, was it a risk? Absolutely.

But that’s the point. Be willing to take the chance. Be willing to try something different. Experiment. Learn. I can empathize with those who are frozen by the fear of failing. It’s a completely valid worry. But not growing, not chasing every revenue and content avenue possible, and not learning something new is a bigger risk, in my book.

I’m not here to suggest you take an ax to everything you’ve done on your show, your station, or your cluster, but I will strongly advocate for expanding your horizons and attempting to meet your audience wherever they may be. And even if that audience might be in places you’re unfamiliar with, familiarize yourself. Do I get the impression Jim Rome was super familiar with live video streams on X before taking his show there? No. But he was willing to take a chance, knowing that it might benefit in the long run.

I hope you operate in the same spirit.

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