Tag Archives: major league baseball

Be Like “The New Voice Of Baseball”

This has been a tough baseball playoff season for New York Mets fans like me. Our team was expected to compete for a World Series championship, but a disappointing first-round loss to the San Diego Padres left us having to wait until next year…again.

One person who will be there no matter which teams make it when the World Series opens this weekend is Joe Davis. Even if you’re a rabid baseball fan like me, that name may not ring a bell. Joe Davis is the successor to Joe Buck as FOX’s lead baseball announcer and he will be handling the play-by-play duties when the Astros and Phillies face each other in this year’s Fall Classic.

Fox Sports Major League Baseball play-by-play announcer Joe Davis (Photo credit: Fox Sports)

Davis was previously the television voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but has now moved up to the national stage, which began when he called the All-Star Game this past year. That marked the first time in 20 years that Buck didn’t handle All-Star Game play-by-play responsibilities; while many missed not hearing Buck call the game, most reviews of Davis’s work were positive.

Here’s the crazy part: Joe Davis is only 34 years old. He was 28 when he started calling Dodgers games on TV and by age 29, he replaced the legendary Vin Scully on a permanent basis.

So, how does someone so young achieve so much success in the competitive world of sports broadcasting? In Davis’s case, I believe it comes down to (1) preparation, (2) self-critique, and (3) studying storytelling.

Back in July, prior to the All-Star Game, the New York Times published an in-depth profile of Joe Davis entitled “Meet the New Voice of Baseball.” The Times claimed that “…nobody, at any age, has prepared more diligently for the chance…” that awaited Davis.

Davis does his homework, including spending time taking notes on what other sports broadcasters do well and don’t do as well. He also records and then reviews his broadcasts—a habit he started while in college, spending evenings listening to his play-by-play calls instead of chugging beers with his friends—so that he can learn from mistakes he makes while being careful to avoid beating himself over them. Perhaps most impressively, Davis transcribes some of his broadcasts so that he can study his words and think about ways to make them more concise.

My favorite part of learning more about Joe Davis is that he has read books on story structure. Storytelling separates the great sportscasters from the rest; Davis’s effort to hone his ability to tell compelling stories is part of the commitment he made to himself early in life to pursue this career path.

Doing play-by-play on a national television baseball broadcast is quite different from hosting a live radio show, voice tracking, or hosting a podcast. I believe, however, that every radio, streaming, and podcasting personality can benefit from emulating Joe Davis. Here’s how:

  1. Find other people who excel at what you do and study them closely. There’s a big difference between admiring someone and identifying what makes them especially good at their craft.


  1. Don’t view your job as done when your air shift is over, or your podcast is “in the can.” Record and listen to what you said and how you said it and consider ways to do it better the next time. Even if you work in an environment where no one is available to aircheck you, there’s no excuse for not doing it yourself.


  1. Recognize that storytelling is an art and a skill and commit to getting better at it. I suggest reading two or three books on the subject; Will Storr’s The Science of Storytelling: Why Stories Make Us Human and How to Tell Them Better is a good place to start.

For years, the mantra for athletes was “Be Like Mike.” If you’re on the air, hosting podcasts, or delivering any form of audio entertainment, I think it’s a good idea to “Be Like Joe.”




Was the Field Of Dreams Game a Success?

I love baseball. I follow my beloved New York Mets religiously (and appreciate your condolences!) and I play softball three days a week every spring and fall.

I also love Field Of Dreams. It’s an all-time favorite movie of mine that I’ve probably seen at least 50 times. In 2012, I added an extra day to an Iowa business trip just so that I could spend an afternoon playing ball on the field in Dyersville where the movie was filmed.

Me, at the Iowa site where Field Of Dreams was filmed

So when Major League Baseball announced that the White Sox and Yankees were going to play a regular season game at the site, I was hooked. Even if the game featured a match-up of teams I don’t care about and hate, respectively, the spectacle of a real major league game in an Iowa cornfield was irresistible to me.

By all accounts, the game—which took place less than two weeks ago and was broadcast nationally on FOX—was a smashing success. The FOX broadcast was widely lauded for its beautiful production values, the game itself featured a thrilling ending, and the 5.9 million people who watched it represented the biggest audience for a Major League Baseball regular season game in 16 years. The positive vibes from the event were so strong that MLB has announced that they will do it again during the 2022 season.

So why do I think there’s a problem?

It’s no secret that interest in baseball is on the decline. Participation at the youth level is down and the audience for games is getting older. Major League Baseball has been eclipsed by the NFL as America’s favorite sports league, while MMA, soccer, and eSports are generating far more interest among young people.

You may be familiar with the Pareto principle, which states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of the consequences come from 20% of the causes. Many businesses experience this by generating about 80% of their revenue or profits from 20% of their customers.

In radio, Nielsen Audio has repeatedly demonstrated how roughly two-thirds of the Time Spent Listening to a station comes from less than a third of its Cume audience. This has led to a focus on P1 listeners, those who listen to a station more than any other. Nielsen provides tools to stations that show how—in almost every case—stations generate most of their listening from P1s.

As a result, radio stations—and many other media outlets—correctly pay close attention to the tastes and perceptions of their P1s. However, when a brand becomes too focused on what its P1s think and want, it could miss changes that are going on with lighter and/or non-users and can end up super serving an increasingly smaller segment of the broader marketplace. Therefore, research should be carefully constructed and properly analyzed so that brands gain insights into what their core users want and perceive and how that compares with what is happening beyond their core users.

Major League Baseball’s Field Of Dreams game was perhaps the ultimate P1-focused event. For a rabid baseball fan like me—a 55-year-old white guy—it was awesome. However, I fear that it did nothing—and perhaps even hurt—the game’s ability to attract a younger, more ethnically-diverse audience. My 22-year-old son was home visiting with my wife and me when the game aired, and to my dismay, I learned that he had never even seen Field Of Dreams! (I guess this shouldn’t be too surprising, given that the 1989 film came out before he was born; fortunately, I was able to correct this omission in his movie-watching experience before his visit with us was over.)

I should be clear that I don’t think the Field Of Dreams game is necessarily a bad thing. While I fear it could reinforce attributes that prevent baseball’s lighter and non-users from consuming the game more, it could work if it is balanced with other events and efforts designed to appeal beyond baseball’s P1 audience. One way Major League Baseball is doing this is by staging games between its teams at the Little League World Series each summer, which strikes me as an excellent way to engage younger fans.

Does your radio station, podcast, or streaming service have a clear picture of what its core users want and what the broader marketplace wants? If not, you can find yourself in one of two undesirable situations—catering to an increasingly smaller group of core users or being so broad in your approach that you fail to develop a core group of heavy users. Brands that can balance the ability to attract a broad audience while also engendering loyalty from a core group of heavy users are the ones that repeatedly hit home runs.