Editors Note: This is the first in what will be on ongoing series all season long. The goal will be to interview all of the broadcasters who spend their summers covering the Rays' affiliate minor league teams. Nobody knows the teams and players in the Rays' organization better than the broadcasters who are with them on a daily basis and we think this series will be both fun and informative.
Rays Digest: First of all, can you give me a little background of how you got into broadcasting? When did you decide that this is what you wanted to do, and how did you approach it? What made you choose baseball over other sports?
Kyle Bonn: Well, I've always been into sports. For a while, like most kids, I didn't know what I wanted to do, but when I started looking for places to go to college, I decided that I should go to school for something specific, since that would give me a leg up on everyone else. Not to say it's a necessity to go to school for a specific trade, skill, or career choice, plenty of kids go not sure what they want to do. But it definitely helped. So that's how I approached it. I wasn't really expecting to get into Syracuse for it, and especially Newhouse, since I didn't really have any prior background in journalism, but they took me and the rest is history.
I chose baseball after college because it's BY FAR the easiest to break into thanks to the extensive minor league system. If you think about it, aside from working for a college and broadcasting all their games, there are 32 NFL jobs, 32 NBA jobs, and 30 MLB jobs, which makes for a very small job pool (especially since once you're in with a professional team at the top level, you're often in for life). The only sport with the extensive minor league system is MLB, and maybe hockey, which I was never really into. So baseball it was. It helps that it's one of my favorite sports, too.
Rays Digest: You went to Syracuse for Broadcast Journalism, which is also where the Rays' on-field broadcaster, Todd Kalas, went. Do you see yourself more as a play-by-play guy or could you see yourself doing something along the on-field lines, or maybe even become a sports anchor at a station?
Kyle Bonn: I have always had my sights set on play-by-play and told myself I would do whatever it took to get there, even if it meant doing other jobs such as beat writing or anchoring or anything else. I would be happy to do any of those jobs if I didn't make it in play-by-play, but so far the game broadcasting thing is going well and I really hope to continue that in the rest of my career. I will admit my ultimate goal is to broadcast in the NFL, since I am most passionate about football. But baseball is a close second, and I'm just a sports nut in general (I've even taken a serious liking to cricket since I've been here in Australia), so I have absolutely no qualms about a career in baseball broadcasting or any other sport this path takes me. But football is my ultimate goal.
Rays Digest: Now, I know you went to Australia this winter to work with the Perth Heat. Can you give me a little insight on what exactly you did with them, and how you got that gig?
Kyle Bonn: I sent an email to a number of different baseball winter leagues, since I didn't want to sit idly and wait for the baseball season to come around again. I know that in this business, the number one factor for people to get jobs is experience, and the number two is who you know. Why not kill two birds with one stone and come to work for a baseball team somewhere fun during the winter? So I sent emails to the Hawaiian winter league, one in Arizona, and to the Australian Baseball League. I got one back from the Perth HEAT, from General Manager Alex Pellerano, who just so happened to have also graduated from Newhouse. So it was a match and before I knew it I was in Australia. I did just about everything here. From doing play-by- play on their awesome video stream, to making highlight packages post-game, to co-hosting their weekly web show "90 Feet of Heat", to making sales calls, to carrying bricks and tables setting up the ballpark. I have gained so much invaluable experience here; it's been an incredible experience. Oh, and I'm also in Australia, which is pretty cool itself.
Rays Digest: Australia must have been a huge experience. How was it compared to baseball in the United States? Are fans similarly passionate?
Kyle Bonn: It pains me to say that baseball here is a bit like soccer in the United States. It's slowly, slowly growing, but overall it's really second-rate to the three big sports here: cricket, rugby, and Australian Rules football. Also detracting from it here is that Australian fans just don't have the cheering power we're used to in the States. While there are always those rowdy (sometimes drunk) fans at games, most people prefer to sit in their seats and take in the game. And that's not just limited to baseball. Having been to a cricket match, soccer match, and having one of my American roommates been to an AFL game, the fans here simply aren't as rowdy or into games as we are. Just part of the culture.
Now, all that being said, the sport is DEFINITELY growing here, and it's an incredibly promising outlook, as long as the monetary backing from Major League Baseball continues. As they say, you have to spend money to make money, and baseball in Australia is definitely still in the "spend money" phase. But from all accounts, it looks very promising, and there are some great young players here in Australia that have shots at doing something special with their careers.
Rays Digest: There were some Rays playing in Australia this year (Darryl George, Todd Glaesmann, Kevin Kiermaier, Ty Morrison, and Mark Thomas), but unfortunately none with the Heat. Do you know anything about these guys and how their careers may pan out? Were there any other players that fans should watch out for in the minors and majors?
Kyle Bonn: I got a chance to see three of those guys in particular here in Australia. The first, who I got to see the most of, is Darryl George. He played for the Melbourne Aces, who we played one series against at our home park (I didn't travel with the team) during the regular season, and two other series against during the postseason (the playoffs, or "finals" as they call them, are funky here, and not just in baseball). He batted towards the bottom of their order, and didn't really do anything special (or anything terrible) with the bat, but it's his glove that impressed me. Being a third baseman, he doesn't really have incredible mobility or range, but when he does get to a baseball, he's an absolute vacuum. I don't remember him making a single error, and his throwing arm is very strong.
I also got to see Glaesmann and Morrison with the Canberra Cavalry. They were the opposite. Those two guys impressed the heck out of everyone at the top of the Cavalry's order. Don't be fooled by where Canberra finished (last) in the standings, either. Not only was there a 4-way tie for 3rd place in the league (out of 6 teams), but the Rays also called back their prospects 2/3 of the way through the season, leaving the Cavalry struggling down the stretch. With those two 'specs at the top of the lineup, the Cavalry had a great order. Glaesmann hit .310 and on-based .385, and while Morrison only ended up with a .245 average, he still on- based .330. With the power hitters like Brian Burgamy behind them, it was fun to watch. I think those two have a bit of an exciting future ahead of them in the Rays system.
Rays Digest: So you got hired to do broadcasts for the Charlotte Stone Crabs home games, similar to the Heat: How did you get the job and are there any other specific duties you know of so far?
Kyle Bonn: I will be the #2 broadcaster behind Grant, and I will be doing all the home games with him. I will get my chance to do plenty of play-by-play, which really attracted me to the position. But the biggest thing I'm excited for is to work with Grant. The guy has been nothing but an absolute legend to me over the last two years chatting with him, and he's helped me in more ways than I can count. I'm pumped to be working for him, as well as to be working in minor league baseball.
Next up in the Rays Digest Broadcaster Series will be Kyle Bonn's partner and mentor, Grant McAuley, who also serves as the Stone Crabs Director of Broadcasting/Media Relations. It's an exceptional interview that you won't want to miss.
Marc Nemcik is a Minor League Correspondent for Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @marcnemcik