Our next stop on the 2022 Ballpark Digest Awards season tour: The 2022 Ballpark Digest Broadcaster of the Year is Adam Marco, Voice of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Triple-A; International League).
“To steal a line from Seinfeld, I was speechless. I was without speech,” Marco said. “This is a tremendous honor… I truly appreciate it. It’s unbelievable to be in this category to begin with, to know the industry that we’ve got, to know the voices, the personalities, and to be even in consideration is an honor because I have so much respect for the people around me, the people that I’ve learned from, the people that I run into at the ballpark on a daily basis. Just to be in that conversation is honor enough, but to ascend to this point of the list is unbelievable, almost surreal for me.”
“Broadcaster of the Year is one of the most important industry awards we present. Broadcasters are the public face of every baseball team, so we take our decision very seriously,” said Ballpark Digest publisher Kevin Reichard. “Adam Marco is one of the best in the business. He calls a great game, but beyond that he’s an integral part of the RailRiders’ success in many ways not seen by fans. We’re honored to recognize his accomplishments.”
“If I had Adam’s skillset, I would have a much easier time articulating just how deserving he is of the award,” said Katie Beekman, general manager of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. “His unwavering dedication to his craft and his quick wit and vast knowledge of the game make him the perfect candidate for this award. The RailRiders are so proud of his accomplishments, and we hope to enjoy his talents for many years to come.”
Marco’s track to the RailRiders began at Mercyhurst University in Erie, where he served as student station manager at WMCE, the campus radio station. “I was one of those, ‘Out of high school, I’m going to be a serious journalist,’ he recalled. “And now here we are twenty years later, and I’m a baseball broadcaster.
“Three days into my freshman year, my work study was the radio station. I walked in, I think I had the 8-10 Friday night shift that nobody wanted, and I had five minutes of training and they said, alright that’s it, go. Wait–what? I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s three days in.” By his sophomore year, Marco was student station manager, a position he also held as a senior.
Upon graduating, Marco was hired on for the midnight-to-6-a.m. shift at Froggy in Meadville, PA, spinning country music under the Froggy-themed on-air DJ name “Jumpin’ Jack Splash.” He showed off the same learning curve that had vaulted him forward in college, moving to classic rock (“Adam Cadabra”), mastering production, and becoming the production manager for a multi-station cluster.
Through it all, there was a steady diet of sports assignments. “Like a lot of broadcasters trying to cut their teeth, it was ‘Have voice, will travel.’ Wherever somebody would pay me $40, maybe, to go broadcast a game, the tax form at the end of the year never added up, vs. the gas and the amount of time spent. But the experience of going back to Erie and doing a high school football game, or some weekends doing a high school game on Friday night, a college football game Saturday, a high school game on Saturday night. Hockey/basketball season, I was doing four, five games a week easily, sometimes two a day. Anybody that was going to say, yeah, we’d like you to do this! And here’s a small check.”
But Marco, who had spent the 2002 season engineering the games for the Carolina League’s Kinston Indians, wanted to turn to baseball full-time. An opportunity arrived at the 2006 Baseball Winter Meetings. “I interviewed with the Williamsport CrossCutters with Gabe Sinicropi….That first baseball job was promotions. It was, ‘You’re going to be a promotions intern and maybe we’ll let you broadcast the games if we get a radio deal.’ ” Williamsport landed that radio contract, and Marco became the lead voice of an MiLB team. “It was 38 road games,” he said, “and when the team was home, I was the promotions intern.” When the season ended, “I was a 27-year-old intern making maybe $500 a month with no job, credit cards, a car loan, student loan debt, everything that everybody has. That was me at the end of the 2007 season, trying to figure out what’s next.”
What was next was a ticket to the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, hired by the Oklahoma City RedHawks to work as their No. 2 broadcaster under Jim Byers. Marco fulfilled the role from 2008-2009, the era in which OKC hosted the Bricktown Showdown to decide the Triple-A National Championship. Empowered, he returned to his home region, hired as the new lead broadcaster–and more–for the Charleston-based West Virginia Power. For eight years, the Pittsburgh native called games for the Pirates-affiliated Power (though, as he admitted, “I didn’t like the Pirates in the 1980s; I was a Dodgers fan”).
After eight years with the Power, Adam Marco went hopping back up to Triple-A, returning to the Scranton region to replace the departing John Sadak as the new voice of the RailRiders. He has been the Yankees’ Triple-A broadcaster ever since, embracing his role at PNC Field.
“I learned very early on,” Marco said, “that you become the historian, de facto or not, whether you have somebody in your community that knows the history of the franchise, knows the organization. The first day that you’re there as a broadcaster, that is now your job. That is a role you have to assume. And it is tremendous to have people behind me to learn from, to talk to, to have these conversations with, it’s historian, it’s having conversations with fans and they go back to an era that is long before my time and having that conversation.
“The Red Barons started in 1989. I was 10 years old. So speaking to player history of 1989, you very quickly get involved in that. You very quickly have to know about not just that era, but the SWB Yankees era and players of that first 2007 season. With our case here, we had the stadium built as the team came from Maine.
“Oddly enough,” he pointed out, “it was a team in Charleston, West Virginia, that went to Maine that came here.” So in essence, Adam Marco and the RailRiders are riding the same rail–though Marco’s track brought him through Oklahoma City rather than Maine.
Meanwhile, the skills that served him at the start of his journey are the same ones that serve him now. He produces all of the radio commercials for the RailRiders, as he did for the Power, skills that were first developed at Mercyhurst and honed while spinning country and classic rock tunes. His head for promotion, jumpstarted by Gabe Sinicropi back in December 2006 at the Swan and Dolphin in Orlando and assigned to him in Williamsport, has elevated his contributions. For four years, Marco created the promotional schedule in West Virginia. Today it is the RailRiders who are reaping the benefits, based in Marco’s philosophy of “finding the right mix of entertainment, the right mix of giveaways, the right mix of things that bring people back to the ballpark. It’s unconventional for a lot of broadcasters to focus on that aspect of it… I take great pride in it. I take pride in finding out what the next big thing is that might draw people here.”
This past season, that meant developing the Nestor Cortes dual bobblehead and bobble-leg. “That was a fun one to do,” Marco said. “The leg addition to a bobblehead, I actually have to credit the West Virginia Power because they did the Dancing Outlaw bobblehead before I joined them. It was Jesco White, famous for dancing, and they did a jig leg kick. So let’s put that on a pitcher who never uses the same motion twice. Then you add in Bronxie the Turtle on the base, which was the playoff mascot last year – I can’t take credit for that, that was Jordan Steiner from our office was a big Bronxie fan – so how do we work it in? Adding the leg kick, the bobble-leg, in with the turtle made for our best giveaway probably in the last couple of years.”
Bringing the bobble-leg concept from Charleston to Moosic was not the only idea Marco packed with him when he joined the RailRiders. As broadcaster for a Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate, he was included in a weekly feature created by the Pirates’ flagship station, contributing sixty seconds to a farmwide look at the system. Upon becoming a broadcaster for a Yankees affiliate, he set up a similar weekly feature for fans of the Bronx Bombers, coordinating and putting together a pregame feature for Sunday broadcasts. “I know there’s a couple of organizations that do it and I think it’s a tremendous asset… You know, you can go to the website, you can read our game recaps. ‘5-3.’ ‘6-2.’ ‘We went 3-2. ‘We didn’t play all week,’ if you’re Tampa, something like that. This is a chance to tell those stories in a short-form version.
“For us, it’s learning about the next wave of New York Yankees in a short form. It’s learning about what’s happening in Tampa or Hudson Valley. Who’s a name we’re going to hear this year, a name we’re going to hear years from now. For the lower level affiliates–and we all share these reports, cut them Saturday night or Sunday morning–for them, it’s here one of our players and how they’re excelling or, in some cases, accelerating themselves to the Majors. So we heard all about Anthony Volpe when he was with Somerset or Hudson Valley, and now we’re talking about Anthony Volpe so they know what’s going on… It’s a joy to do, it’s a joy to listen to, to hear about some players that maybe we’ll hear from, maybe we won’t, but knowing what’s going on at the other levels… People like wins. People love the stories.”
Those stories range far beyond the players. Marco wrote a blog named “Minor League Kerouac” in the mid-2010s to chronicle his excursions and eating experiences, all part of a personal goal to bring road trips to life for fans: visits to the cultural touchpoints, sites rich in heritage, and the best that each region has to offer when it comes to local cuisine. He has searched for the finest wings in Buffalo and the finest burger in the International League, all the better to report back to his faithful listeners in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and beyond.
In understanding how much Marco means to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, consider all of the ways that his works strengthens connections: connecting the levels of the Yankees organization through his production work, connecting (and reconnecting) fans to the RailRiders through promotional innovation, connecting listeners to the broadcast through his road trip anecdotes and game-calling, and connecting the generations through his understanding of the importance of being team historian.
It is for all of these reasons that Adam Marco steps to the forefront as 2022 Ballpark Digest Broadcaster of the Year.
We’ve embedded our chat with Adam earlier in the article. You can also download the audio version of interview wherever you listed to podcasts:
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Past Ballpark Digest Broadcaster of the Year winners:
2021 (MLB): Melanie Newman, Baltimore Orioles
2021 (MiLB): Sam Levitt, Amarillo Sod Poodles
2019 (MLB): Marty Brennaman, Cincinnati Reds
2019 (MiLB): Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, Lansing Lugnuts
2018 (MLB): Pat Hughes, Chicago Cubs
2018 (MiLB): Tim Heiman, Binghamton Rumble Ponies
2017: Mick Gillispie, Tennessee Smokies; Howard Kellman, Indianapolis Indians
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)
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