Baseball is shaped and advanced by its innovations, from new ballparks to names to uniforms to theme nights, spotlighted by Ballpark Digest throughout the year and honored now, as we begin our 2017 awards. At the same time, baseball’s strong foundation is rooted in its constants: the game, the field, the familiar voice of the radio broadcaster connecting the team to the community.
Ballpark Digest’s 2017 Broadcaster of the Year is shared this year, presented to two broadcasters who couple their importance for their franchise and community with their talent at sharing the call of the game with their faithful, avid listeners: Howard Kellman, voice of the Indianapolis Indians (Class AAA; International League), and Mick Gillispie, voice of the Tennessee Smokies (Class AA; Southern League).
The 2017 season marked Howard Kellman’s 42nd year as the Voice of the Indians, dating back to April 17th, 1974. It was also the season in which he called his 6,000th game, a 6-5 Indians walk-off win over Louisville on Friday, June 30t, at Victory Field. The following day was declared “Howard Kellman Day” in Indianapolis by mayor Joe Hogsett. In an article on indyindians.com, Mike Lopresti quoted Kellman, “There’s the love of the game of baseball, there’s the love for broadcasting the game of baseball, there’s being around he coaches, players and managers. I also thought the same about the 5,000th game. And I’d like to make the 7,000th game. Every day is still wonderful at the ballpark. I think there’s some reflection and there always will be. The most important thing is being able to do the job on a daily basis. Like the great Hall of Famer Willie Stargell once said, the umpires don’t say work ball, they say play ball. I have fun every day.”
It was the latest memorable moment in a lauded career. Kellman was honored as the state of Indiana’s 2002 Sportscaster of the Year, enshrined in 2009 in the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame, and inducted in 2015 in the Indiana Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame. He has twice been a part of the Triple-A All-Star Game broadcast, in 1989 and 2013, and handled the call for ESPN2’s telecasts of the Triple-A World Series from 2006-2008.
“I am deeply touched to receive this honor,” said Kellman. “Broadcasting for the Indianapolis Indians always has been a labor of love.”
“Howard Kellman, our long-time voice of the Indianapolis Indians, is truly deserving to receive this tremendous honor from Baseball Digest,” said Indianapolis Indians President and General Manager Randy Lewandowski. “Howard has become synonymous with Indians baseball to all our listeners in Indianapolis and throughout Central Indiana. His passion, enthusiasm and dedication have shined through each and every one of the 6,000+ games that Howard has called over his illustrious career.”
Mick Gillispie, a three-time Ballpark Digest Broadcaster of the Year finalist, receives his just due alongside Kellman. Gillispie was hired on as the Voice of the Smokies in 2007 and has been one of the broadcasting backbones of the Southern League ever since, distinguishing himself with his sense of humor and feel for telling a story, and the introduction of elements such as “Bear Trax,” a polished weekly TV series about the Smokies begun in 2016 that recaps on-field highlights, features interviews, and promotes upcoming nights at the ballpark.
“It’s a tremendous honor, especially with the love and respect I have for Kevin Reichard and Ballpark Digest,” said Gillispie. “This is the best award you can win as a Minor League broadcaster. It isn’t about one year, it’s about a body of work. It’s a testament to the Smokies, to our our broadcast; to my staff – a group of people who’ve come into my life and made me better; our organization – who throw to the right base and play the right way; and to all of the fans continuing to listen to the radio, who have stepped up and said, ‘Our team is the Smokies.’
“This year was special. If I could have picked the year to win this award, this was the year.”
“We are extremely happy for Mick,” said Tennessee Smokies President Chris Allen. “This is a great accomplishment that is much deserved. Mick is one of the most distinguished broadcasters in the business, with a steadfast commitment to perfecting his craft. His work ethic, talent, and expertise is sure to propel him through the MiLB/MLB in due time. Until then, we are privileged to call Mick the Voice of the Tennessee Smokies. To be venerated by such a creditable and recognized source is certain to put a star on Mick’s already impressive resume.”
“Mick Gillispie is one of my favorite broadcasters in baseball,” added Len Kasper, TV voice of the Cubs on WGN-TV. “He and I have partnered on Cubs spring training games for MLB.com for the past several years and I have enjoyed his work with the Tennessee Smokies immensely. His play-by-play style is soothing and authoritative and he has become one of minor league baseball’s most popular local voices. He also is one the best ‘scouts’ I know. His eye for future big league talent is impressive. This is a well-deserved and long overdue honor.”
Past Ballpark Digest Broadcaster of the Year winners:
2016: Sean Aronson, St. Paul Saints
2015: Josh Whetzel, Rochester Red Wings
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)