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Other Interviews in Rays Digest's Rays Broadcaster Series:
Kyle Bonn---Charlotte Stone Crabs
Grant McAuley (Part 1)---Charlotte Stone Crabs
Rays Digest: You had an advanced background in sports playing football for Beloit College. At what point did you realize that sports-broadcasting is what you wanted to do with your life rather than pursue a career as a player in professional sports?
Joe Davis: My dad is a hall of fame high school football coach in Michigan, so I was lucky in the respect that I grew up in a house where sports were important. Starting when I was younger than I can even remember, I'd spend a lot of time at practices and with him in coaches' meetings and watching game film. I always had aspirations of playing college football, but, to be honest, I don't ever really remember dreaming of being a pro athlete.
I used to create these imaginary leagues -- I'd come up with the team names and mascots and colors and all the details, then I'd go in the back yard in full gear and play the games. I'd pretend to be every player on both teams, I'd pretend to be the coaches, the refs, the fans, and I'd pretend to be the announcer. That was when I was 4 or 5 years old, probably. By the time I was in middle school, when watching games on TV, I started to pay attention to the announcers. And I continued to imitate them (I'd do play-by-play of all my video games). I think I had a pretty good idea at that point that I wanted to do it for a living.
The clinching factor in my decision to commit to play football at Beloit College was the head coach's promise that I could announce the school's basketball games as a freshman.
Rays Digest: During the off-season you broadcast other sports, specifically basketball and football, and your work has been featured on ESPN among others. What made you choose baseball as your primary sport to broadcast?
Joe Davis: I really agree with the common thought that baseball on the radio is sports broadcasting in its purest form. I grew up a big Cubs fan, watching on WGN with Harry and then Chip Caray as a kid. My desire to do radio baseball in particular came from listening to Cubs radio man Pat Hughes late in high school and throughout college. WGN 720 easily made it up the road to Beloit, and was strong enough that I could hear it from all the way across the lake in Michigan, too. There is nobody in this business better than Pat, so I lucked out getting to listen to him on the call for my favorite team 162 times a summer.
I got my first chance to do baseball during the summer before my senior year of college for the independent Schaumburg Flyers (NW Chicago suburbs) in the Northern League, and absolutely loved it. That being said, I loved doing basketball too (hadn't yet done football since I was still playing). At that point, I knew I wanted to do play-by-play for a living, so my plan was to step through whatever door -- baseball, basketball, football -- opened first. It wound up being baseball (in big part because there are so many more opportunities in baseball than in football/basketball), but all along I knew I wanted to stay well-rounded and continue to do the other sports as well.
So, really, what makes baseball my "primary sport" is that it happens to be the longest season of the three. Baseball is the hardest to be good at, I think, but you're afforded the most opportunities to improve with 140 games a season. I enjoy being with a team and telling that story that writes itself over the course of a summer. I enjoy the intimacy of baseball radio play-by-play, and the challenge of painting a complete picture.
I have a special passion for doing football having grown up around the sport. I think I can bring a perspective to football play-by-play that most guys can't. It's hard to beat the big event feel of a college football Saturday. And with basketball, when you're doing a big game with a great atmosphere, for me, that adrenaline rush is second-to-none.
I guess the point is that I love doing them all equally, and all for different reasons.
Rays Digest: Although you’re considered the “Voice of the Biscuits”, you also handle media relation duties. What sorts of things do you do in that capacity and how do you balance both responsibilities?
Joe Davis: Most minor league broadcasters also serve as media relations directors. And almost all minor league broadcasters would tell you they do the media relations not necessarily because they're passionate about it, but because it's something they have to do in order to fulfill the expectations of the job.
Duties include sending regular press releases, announcing roster changes and ballpark promotions and any other team-related events, putting together daily stat-packs for the media and the field staffs, production of game notes (10-or-so page documents produced daily with storylines and trends and season-long statistical data ranging from the important like Record in 1-Run Games to the superfluous like Record on Tuesdays), making press passes, handling media requests for interviews, serving as the liaison between the players and the media and the organization and the media.
As far as balancing between the two sides of the job, I think that's something guys in these positions are always finding tricks for and fine-tuning. One thing that I do is pump a lot of my broadcast prep into the game notes, kind of killing two birds with one stone. So if you were to look at the front page of our notes, each night you'd find a detailed section on the opposing starting pitcher that I put together during the day as preparation for that night's game. There are several pieces in our notes that I tailor to my own needs for the broadcast, but still try to keep easy to read and understand for everyone else.
With the notes and stat packs and everything being an everyday task, you get into such a routine that it becomes a lot easier to balance.
Rays Digest: You came to the Biscuits in 2010, becoming the youngest Double-A announcer in the country. Are there any tips you can give to aspiring broadcasters? Was there somebody that was your idol in the field growing up and may have influenced your broadcasting style?
Joe Davis: It's a tough field to break into, and an even tougher one to ascend through once you've broken in. If you know it's something you want to do, don't wait setting yourself up to be successful as soon as you leave college. For high school kids, don't feel like you have to go to a "broadcasting school" - I'm sure they're great, but I'm a big believer in going to a school where you can get as many reps as possible.
Once you're in college, do as much as you can. If there aren't the exact opportunities you're looking for, break down some doors and make the opportunities happen yourself. You've really got to have a tunnel vision, an insatiable drive and passion to be great at this to have a shot to succeed. On the same note, it's never too early to start networking. It's easier than ever before to reach out to guys you look up to for advice. Make contact, build and MAINTAIN those relationships.
Finally, I think it's important (and this applies to whatever industry you're going into) to be an expert on your field. Pay close attention to when jobs open up, why they open up, and study the backgrounds and strategies of the guys that get them.
I guess I kind of answered the second part of the question already... Pat Hughes is the baseball radio guy that I listened to the most and developed my style around. As I've listened to more and more guys, I've taken a lot of things and applied to my own style. I know he's a polarizing figure, but I'm a huge Joe Buck fan. I agree with the people that think he needs to use more excitement, but nobody is smoother, nobody is better at captioning on TV, and nobody has as good of a big-game tone as him. (I'm sure I've just scared away a few potential Biscuits radio listeners!)
|"The Voice of the Biscuits" Joe Davis hard at work in the booth and on the mic. |
Rays Digest: In the minor leagues you see players come and go and the entire roster turns over from year-to-year. Is there any specific player who has impressed you? Who would that player be on the current roster?
In 2011, without question, it was Matt Moore. After he had settled in with a couple of decent starts to begin the year, it became almost unfair. He was on his own level for most of the year, and it was an absolute blast to be a part of. I enjoyed talking with the broadcasters in the league that have been here for awhile, and hearing them compare him to the best ever to come through the league. I think the consensus was that there was nobody better. The people that saw both him and David Price pitch in Montgomery say it's no contest -- Moore was more dominant (and I don't think Price lost a single decision in his short time here).
A couple of under the radar guys I like -- one is Kyeong Kang. He started 2011 in Double-A basically because of injuries (Matulia, Salem, Montero were all supposed to begin in Montgomery but stayed in extended when camp broke), and wound up going from a reserve to one of the key guys in the lineup. One of the most impressive notes on his season -- he set career highs in homers (11) and walks. Those are two that don't necessarily go hand-in-hand. He's told me the key to the successful season for him was simply having fun, and regaining his perspective that baseball is a game.
The other guy is Cole Figueroa. He'll give you great ABs, he's a career .300 hitter, he's got surprising pop for a little guy, and is solid in the field at 2B, SS, and 3B. No tools will pop out at you, but Cole does just about everything well.
Rays Digest: Hak-Ju Lee has received a lot of attention in the Rays system as an up-and-coming player and he was called up to the Biscuits during the end of last season. How would you evaluate him as a player? What is he like off the field?
Joe Davis: Hak-Ju hit .190 in his month in Montgomery, and looked over-matched against Double-A pitching. But that's not uncommon for a guy in his first taste of Double-A (especially when it’s a 20 year-old at the tail end of a long season). He's a proven minor league hitter, and I fully expect him to put together good offensive numbers.
His defense is as-advertised. He's a ton of fun to watch in the field -- one of those guys that gets to balls that, off the bat, you're sure are hits. There's no doubt he's a major league shortstop defensively right now.
Off-the-field, I didn't get to know him that well with him getting to Montgomery so late in the season. I can tell you that he and Kyeong Kang are inseparable, he smiles a lot, and his teammates enjoy him.
Rays Digest: What was the experience like calling Matt Moore’s no-hitter, the first in Biscuits history, against the Mobile BayBears? What other games that you have called stick out in your mind?
Joe Davis: It was easily the highlight of my baseball broadcasting career. One of my best friends, Wayne Randazzo, was doing the game on BayBears radio. Honest to God, about an hour before the game, he says to me "Matt Moore's going to throw a no-hitter." First inning, he sits them down in order in about 10 pitches, striking out Paul Goldschmidt on a changeup. Wayne just looked at me and smiled and nodded -- after one half-inning, you could tell there was something extra special going on.
As the game wore on, I started to get nervous. By the time the 7th rolled around, I was so nervous for Matt and for all the fielders and for my own sake, too. As a broadcaster, those are the moments you live for; calling a no-hitter is kind of a bucket list thing for a baseball broadcaster. I just wanted so badly to be clean with my call and to do the moment justice. Hopefully I did.
As far as the question of whether or not to mention the no-hitter... On the radio, you've got to throw all the superstitions about jinxes out the window -- it's important to continue to remind the listener (keeping in mind new people are tuning in all the time) exactly what is going on. I couldn't be afraid to talk explicitly about the fact that a no-hitter was going on.
Another game that sticks out in my mind is an early-August game at Carolina last year. The Biscuits scored a franchise-record 10 runs in the 6th, and that included a go-ahead grand slam from Cole Figueroa that came on the first pitch after Carolina brought a new guy in. That was a lot of fun.
Joe Davis Calls the Last Inning of Matt Moore's 2011 No-hitter for Biscuits
Rays Digest: Who is one player that Rays fans should watch out for in the coming years, both off and on the field?
Joe Davis: This one is easy. Stephen Vogt. The guy can flat-out hit. He looks like a 1940's slugger -- basic stance, bare-handed. He doesn't have a position that he's great at, but he offsets that with his versatility. He can catch, he can play first, he can play left. He fits that utility mold that Joe Maddon loves to have at his disposal.
As good as he is on the field, he's even better off it. I've not been doing this for very long, but in my short time I've not met a more down-to-earth, humble, kind person. I know his teammates would agree - he's a great leader and a great friend to all those guys. He and his wife Alyssa just had their first baby this past fall, and I know he'll be a great dad, too. He was always the guy that'd stay after games on Boy Scout nights to address all the kids and then sign autographs, and you could tell how much he enjoyed spending time with the kids.
It's been exciting to see him have a good spring and turn some heads in big league camp. His shot is coming.
To learn more about Davis and listen to more of his broadcasting, visit hearjoedavis.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @JoeDavisPXP
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