Josh Whetzel is many things; among them, a native Kansan, a cancer survivor, a Dodger fan since childhood, and broadcaster at the University of Buffalo. To that list, we add the following: The longtime Voice of the Rochester Red Wings is Ballpark Digest’s 2015 Broadcaster of the Year.
“Josh’s work, examined either by the microcosm of one game at a time or over the entire course of his career to date, deserves both recognition and acclaim,” said Kevin Reichard, Ballpark Digest publisher. “He has ingrained himself in the great tradition of baseball in Rochester.”
“In Rochester we have a longstanding tradition of cultivating tremendous broadcasters and we are extremely fortunate to have Josh Whetzel, a major league talent, calling our games and carrying on that tradition of excellence in broadcasting,” said Red Wings general manager Dan Mason. “His preparation, knowledge of the game, distinctive voice, humor and incredible ability to paint a picture of the scene at the ballpark and tell a story make him one of the best broadcasters in baseball. I know our fans and staff wholeheartedly agree with Ballpark Digest’s selection of Josh as their Broadcaster of the Year, an award he truly deserves and has earned.”
“I’m thrilled to receive this honor from the folks at Ballpark Digest,” said Whetzel. “There are so many talented broadcasters across all levels of Minor League Baseball so I’m very surprised and appreciative to join the list of previous winners. I really thank Ballpark Digest for the consideration.”
Whetzel grew up in Parsons, Kansas, amid a family of Dodgers fans. “I realized at an early age that I likely wasn’t going to play point guard for the Kansas Jayhawks or shortstop for the Los Angeles Dodgers,” he said. “I had a passion for sports and also was always interested in broadcasting whether it was sports on the radio or television news. Going into sports broadcasting was obviously a way to combine them both.”
After triumphing past lung cancer, discovered while in high school, Whetzel embarked upon the field of broadcasting. He debuted at a station in his native Parsons, Kansas, and soon was jumping up the ladder. “After graduating from the University of Kansas, I worked as a news/sports director at a radio station in Liberal, KS, where I also called all of the play-by-play for a summer college wooden bat team, the Liberal Bee Jays. With the tape from that job, I landed my first baseball gig with the Albany Polecats in the South Atlantic League. I spent one year there before moving to the Carolina League where I spent four years with the Kinston Indians. From 2000-2002, I worked for the Binghamton Mets and was there when I landed the job in Rochester.”
“I’ve been very fortunate over the years,” added Whetzel, “to work for a string of general managers, from Mike Kardamis in Albany to my current GM Dan Mason, who really place a value on the radio broadcast.”
His broadcast philosophy, helping him establish such a strong connection with his audience, lies in baseball’s great storytelling tradition. “I love the quote ‘The shortest distance between two people is a good story,’ so I try to come up with interesting anecdotes about the participants involved that maybe the fans/listeners can’t get anywhere else. Then the key becomes relating the story of the game to the listener in an informing and entertaining way while doing it in a conversational manner. Sometimes that’s easier said than done!”
During the season itself, Whetzel finds great reward in a number of different facets of his position. “I enjoy all the day-to-day preparation that I go through for each broadcast and the structure that provides me during the season,” he said. “I enjoy hanging out around the cage during batting practice and interacting with the players and coaches and finding out more about them and how they play the game. I love chatting with scouts and learning from their insights into the game. Seeing players in action who eventually become Major League stars is always a thrill.
“The biggest thing is, though, that I am still just a huge fan of the game of baseball. And getting to describe our games every day to Red Wings fans is very gratifying.”
Red Wings fans, and other baseball fans fortunate enough to tune in, would describe the feeling as mutual.
Images courtesy Rochester Red Wings.
PREVIOUS 2015 AWARD WINNERS:
Best New Logos/Branding: Daytona Tortugas
Best New Ballpark: CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints
Past winners of Ballpark Digest Broadcaster of the Year honors:
2014: Steve Klauke, Salt Lake Bees
2013: John Sadak, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders
2012: Donny Baarns, Visalia Rawhide
2011: Jay Burnham, Trenton Thunder
2010: No award
2009: Mike Capps, Round Rock Express
2008: Paul Edmonds, Winnipeg Goldeyes (now voice of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets)