Among the postseason honors awarded by Ballpark Digest each year, the Broadcaster of the Year award is unique. The broadcaster walks in many worlds: building trust in the clubhouse, handling multiple roles within the front office, and serving as the public face of the organization for the community at large.
“Alex Cohen is more than just a radio broadcaster,” said Ballpark Digest owner and publisher Kevin Reichard. “To use a cliche, he paints a picture of the game. But it’s more than that. He’s a community member, He’s an HGTV star, and he’s an integral part of the Cubs and Minor League Baseball. It’s our honor to honor him this year.”
“We are in a broadcast world where there are so many talented broadcasters and not enough jobs to account for all of those talented broadcasters,” Cohen said. “To have this job with Iowa for the last six years and to be selected as the Broadcaster of the Year in 2023, it’s an incredible honor, it’s a privilege, and it’s something that is really meaningful to me, and I really appreciate it.
“There are so many talented broadcasters that have left the industry because they couldn’t afford it financially or it was taking too much of a toll personally. I have no idea where I’d be without the support of Tessa, my mom and dad, the rest of my family and my close circle of friends, but it definitely wouldn’t be winning this award. Without them and without the fans, there’s no this. I’m forever appreciative for them.”
“We are extremely proud of Alex and pleased that he is getting the recognition he deserves for the great work he does,” said Iowa Cubs President / General Manager Sam Bernabe. “His consistency calling all home and road games each year has allowed Iowa Cubs and Chicago Cubs fans to grow a connection with Alex and recognize him as the voice of the I-Cubs. We are pleased he is getting recognized for the talent we have known about for many years.”
“I’m extremely proud and pleased that Ballpark Digest has selected Alex as their Minor League Baseball Broadcaster of the Year,” said Cubs Vice President / Assistant GM Randy Wehofer. “Our fans know they can count on Alex every game for not only accurate play-by-play, but energy, passion, insight and engagement. He also does a great job moving seamlessly into our TV coverage on Marquee Sports Network and working with multiple partners in those games throughout the year without losing that rapport with our regular listeners on the radio. Alex is also a key part of our organization off the air as an active member of our sales and marketing team and being part of our constant communication with the coaching staff and players. I know all of that work has contributed to making him a better broadcaster and ambassador for our team. For all of these reasons and more, Alex has a bright future and we’re happy to have him as part of our Iowa Cubs family.”
“Congratulations to Alex on this well-deserved honor,” said Nick Steger, Executive Producer for Marquee Sports Network. “Alex brings a unique, engaging style and we have been fortunate to see his work through the Iowa Cubs and Spring Training broadcasts on Marquee, as well as serving as the voice of our High School football coverage. He has a relentless commitment to the craft but more importantly, is a great person to work with.”
Working His Way Up the Ladder
Alex C ohen grew up near Philadelphia, where Harry Kalas supplied the sound of his childhood summers. He attended Indiana University Bloomington, working his way up at WIUX from producer to host to broadcasting softball, tennis, basketball and football beginning in 2008. A year later, he took his first step into pro ball.
“The Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Class AAA; International League) were my first baseball-related internship. Summer of 2009, summer of 2010, unpaid internship,” he said. “I remember my first day going up to Coca-Cola Park in Lehigh Valley, met Jon Schaeffer and Matt Provence, and Jon was like, ‘Listen, like this isn’t going to be the normal duties of the job, but it’s not a good press box food today. Can you get me two chicken sandwiches?’ So that was my first official duty working in Minor League Baseball, getting Jon Schaeffer two chicken sandwiches with no condiments on. Just two plain chicken sandwiches. And I was hooked from that point on.”
Cohen spent the 2011 season in the independent Frontier League, serving as the No. 2 broadcaster assisting Adam Young with the Gateway Grizzlies before returning to the East Coast in the offseason to broadcast NJIT men’s and women’s basketball.
During one of the Highlanders’ road trips, Cohen started thinking about the upcoming baseball season. “I couldn’t sleep,” he said. “I sent 250 emails in the span of five hours to every Minor League Baseball team. I got ten emails back. I got five interviews. I got one job offer. And it was the No. 1 job for the Huntsville Stars (Class AA; Southern League).
“Took that job, moved down to Huntsville, Alabama, January 15, 2012. They told me you can do all home games and you have to sell $10,000 worth of advertising by April 3 to be able to go on the road. I sold $10,200. You know, I’m a real overachiever.
Cohen worked two years in his first Minor League Baseball lead job, the position ending after Huntsville was sold. The Stars relocated to Biloxi and Alex Cohen moved out to Oakland, serving as the Broadcast/Media Relations assistant for the Athletics’ radio booth of Ken Korach and Vince Cotroneo.
The Aussie Approach
That was nothing compared to the travel in store for him at season’s conclusion. Recommended to the Melbourne Aces by outgoing broadcaster Craig Durham, Cohen interviewed, was hired, and flew Down Under within the whirlwind time frame of two weeks.
“Broadcasting baseball in Australia was so different because you go out there, and let’s say a guy grounds into a 6-4-3 double play,” Cohen said. “Well, the majority of the listeners, they don’t know what a 6-4-3 double play is. So that really makes you think and break down broadcasting to the smallest form. And that made me realize that even our listeners here, Iowa Cubs listeners, don’t know what a 6-4-3 double play is. They might just be listening to hear their grandson’s name said. Just understanding that not every baseball listener is like me, that there are baseball listeners that need to know Baseball 101, and it’s our job to find the common denominator between the rabid fan and the beginner listener. I think that really helped me when I was in Australia, learning that and applying that to my broadcasts now.”
Stops in Idaho Falls and Bowling Green, Ky., followed, before the Cubs brought Cohen aboard. “Been here since December 14, 2017, where I used to live out of my 2012 Jeep Patriot,” he recalled. “Went from a one-bedroom apartment to a two-bedroom apartment; fostering a dog to adopting a dog; to buying a house, to having that process shown on HGTV, and getting eviscerated on social media about it; to having a girlfriend, then a fiancée, and now a wife. So things have changed a lot.”
With the Cubs, Alex Cohen’s voice is widespread and valued: He can be heard on Marquee calling Chicago Cubs games in spring and Iowa Cubs games during the season. He has significant sales responsibilities alongside his broadcast responsibilities. And he is in charge of handling the team’s travel.
“It doesn’t just start March 29,” he said. “It starts November 1 when you’re booking flights and especially when travel parties are growing. Teams are adding coaches, and strength and conditioning coaches, and nutritionists. At the beginning of my Iowa Cubs job in 2018, we were booking tickets for 34 people. Now we’re booking tickets for 41 people. Finding planes that fly from Des Moines that are big enough to accommodate a 40-person traveling party, that’s pretty difficult.
“I never considered myself a spreadsheets guy. That’s now changed.”
Considering how much he has had to travel already, who better than Alex Cohen to be the Iowa Cubs’ Travelin’ Man? He has gone from Philly to Bloomington to Jersey to Huntsville to Oakland to Melbourne to Idaho Falls to Bowling Green to Des Moines, with a special stop along the way to call the 2019 Premier 12 Tournament in Taiwan in a qualifying event for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
And yet, when considering the best broadcast advice he has heard, Cohen tied together a thought from Cotroneo (“Smile! If you’re not having fun broadcasting, they’re not having fun listening to you”) with a nugget learned from Mike Ferrin: “Be where your feet are. If you’re not enjoying where you are, then you’re more than likely not going to get the opportunities to be where you want to be.”
The opportunities, like the miles traveled, have been plentiful and enjoyable for our 2023 Broadcaster of the Year, as enjoyable as an Alex Cohen broadcast.
Past Ballpark Digest Broadcaster of the Year winners:
2022 (MiLB): Adam Marco, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders
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