Q+A: John Sadak
by Eldon Khorshidi | @eldonadam
Earlier this week, IF Client John Sadak (pictured top right) was named Ballpark Digest’s Broadcaster of the Year, recognized for his work as the voice of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, a Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees. The award encompassed all broadcasters in every level outside of Major League Baseball. Today, we caught up with John to discuss winning the award, his experience in the industry, some play-by-play techniques and more.
First off, congratulations on being named Broadcaster of the Year. That’s pretty amazing.
John Sadak: Thanks so much. I’m extremely humbled and grateful to receive this award. It’s representative of a lot of hard work, not only in terms of myself but with regards to the people I work with.
How did you find out you had been chosen for the award?
JS: It came to me as a big surprise, actually. I was submitted for this award last year at my prior job, and I finished as the runner-up. So to be honest, I did not think I would be a candidate this year by virtue of how I finished last year. And I didn’t even apply this year—I didn’t put anything together for it. My boss did it for me, and I didn’t know anything about it until I got the congratulatory email. So that was pretty neat, and I think it had a lot to do with the package my boss put together. I think it’s a culmination of years more than it is representative of 2013 itself. I do believe it’s a mass effort to a lot of people that have given me different chances along the way, and the exposure of being at the Triple-A level helps dramatically, and working for a Yankees affiliate enhances it all the more. I’m humbled by it because there are a lot of great announcers out there.
What are some play-by-play tips, or fundamentals, that you try to use or work on everyday?
JS: I think the two biggest things, by far, are a) you have to listen to yourself, which a lot of announcers don’t like to do because we know and we hear a lot of our flaws constantly, and it’s like nails on a chalkboard to listen to yourself, and b) you need to send your material out to as many people as possible, so you can improve. Send your stuff to people in all different realms of the industry—and also not in the industry—to get their perspective and honest thoughts of your performance . Yes, you should get your tape to decision-makers, but you should also share it with other announcers that you respect. Hear their take. Give it to an average fan, or someone who doesn’t have an invested stake in the industry. You’d be surprised by the things they notice that you don’t.
Tell us a little about your broadcasting journey up to this point.
JS: Coming out of college, I was a producer and studio host with the Lakewood BlueClaws, which essentially is my hometown minor league team. They are the Philadelphia Phillies’ Single-A team. At the same time I was working at Major League Baseball as a freelance logger at Yankee Stadium. I then did some Division II work in Atlanta. Then I did some work as a play-by-play announcer in Delaware, and then that offseason a guy with the Yankees that I met when I was logging for MLB, called me and said he wanted to create a job for me in the Yankees broadcast department. I started that in 2005, and at first it was more behind the scenes. So a year later, I went back to Wilmington as the lead announcer—covering guys like Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz—and stayed there for a few years, picking up freelance work on the side.
Things just kind of grew from there, and last October the RailRiders called and I took the job.
As a fan of the game, how is it to see guys like Ellsbury and Buchholz before they “made it” to the big leagues. You saw them in their developmental stage, per se. How was that?
JS: It was very cool. It changes your perspective on the sport, honestly. I grew up a die-hard fan of teams, but I would say the longer I’ve been in the industry—and I think this is the case with most announcers—you start rooting more for people than you do for teams. Because in today’s world of trades and free agency, players are changing teams all the time. So when you come across good people, you want to root for them because the jersey becomes almost irrelevant.
You’ve covered a plethora of sports—baseball, football, basketball and others. Which is your favorite to cover?
JS: I would say it’s often whatever sport that I am in the early stage of doing. I’m always excited about my work, but I think there’s a little bit of an extra itch when the season is getting underway. Every sport is also different, which makes it fun. Baseball is more casual and rhythmic. Basketball is highly explosive, and there’s tons of action. And football is probably America’s sport at this point, and people are really attached to their teams, so it raises the stakes as well. I would say whatever season is next is probably the one I’m most kicked up for. But like I said, I love to do it all.