|Mike Ventola, image- Jay Floyd|
Currently the Manager of Media Relations for the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Ventola previously called games for five seasons with the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils.
Recently, "Mikey V." took time to answer interview questions for me and offered some insight on his career path, the appeal of broadcasting, his current role with the IronPigs, what he's missing most this year during the baseball hiatus and more.
Read ahead for that full interview.
-Do you recall your earliest memories of sports broadcasting and what about it appealed to you?
I remember when I was a little boy watching Yankees games on TV with my dad and brother. I was enamored with the announcers describing the action (especially listening to games on the radio in the car). I was not good enough to play baseball like my older brother, so I felt this was an avenue for me being involved in sports.
-Growing up with a focus on the Yankees, certainly there are some legendary voices associated with that team. Can you talk about any impressions those individuals may have left on you?
I am New Jersey born but Pennsylvania raised – with that said, being a Yankees fan was mandatory in the Ventola household. I grew up listening to Michael Kay and John Sterling. I really enjoyed their style, especially John Sterling’s home run call: that ball is high, it is far, it is GONE! His home run call has had an affect on me to this day because I have one of my own.
-What were some of your earliest broadcasting gigs and how valuable were those experiences?
I was in college when I first started to broadcast sports. I first started doing public address but transitioned to play-by-play when the university I attended implemented internet webcasts. I did play-by-play for field hockey, soccer, basketball, and lacrosse. I did not start doing baseball play-by-play until my first internship in minor league baseball. What I took away was the ability to make a ton of mistakes, hone my craft and learn how to inject my personality into the broadcast. I learned a lot from my early years behind the microphone.
-When I first met you, you were the most welcoming team staffer (or a close second place to Greg Giombarrese in Lakewood) that I have ever encountered, as a member of the IronPigs crew. Describe your initial role there and how that helped you move forward with future assignments.
Thank you, Jay. Greg G in Lakewood is the Gold Standard, so I would be happy to take second place behind him. Latching on with the IronPigs has brought me on a little bit of a different journey than my prior stops. I am not as present on the radio as I used to be when I was with the Reading Fightin Phils, but I do a lot with the television side of the broadcasts. I am stronger on the Media Relations side now, allowing me to develop stronger relationships with the media and players/coaches. It has opened up doors for me to meet with various people in the area and businesses. I have also been fortunate to do a lot of work for the local cable company that televises all the IronPigs home games.
-Can you share some details about the role of media relations manager/media relations director that fans might not know about?
Outside of being a face and voice of the team you work for; I have to do a lot behind the scenes for the organization. I help come up with creative ideas and implement digital content for our social media pages and website. It’s more than just writing press releases and preparing game notes!
-What would you say is your most memorable game called in the Phils system? Would there be a non-Phils related game that gives that Phils organization game a run for its money?
It is hard to pinpoint one memorable game during my time in the Phillies system. I will say the overall home run chase between Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins in 2016 was truly special. That season started off with the exhibition game at FirstEnergy Stadium between the Phillies prospects and Phillies. It was such a fun season but fell short in the end when they got eliminated by Trenton in the first round of the playoffs. I’ve only called one no-hitter in my career and it was on July 11, 2015 when the Fightins’ played a double-header against Akron at Canal Park. Ryan Merritt for Akron threw a no-hitter in game one against Reading. It was by far the most memorable game I called when seeing an opponent get the best of your team, even if it was seven innings.
-Best parks to call a game in for both the Double-A Eastern League and Triple-A International League? If your answers are the home parks...which road ones stand out for you?
Best park to call a game in the Eastern League – I love Hadlock Field in Portland, Maine. The ballpark is awesome, and they always had good crowds when we went. I don’t travel much in my role with the IronPigs, so I have to say I’ve only been to PNC Field in Moosic, PA (home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders). It is a nice ballpark and always has a good crowd.
-What advice would you share with people that would hope to get into broadcasting? And is there any advice you have been given along the way that really made a difference in your career?
Start now and do not worry about making mistakes. Get as much experience as you possibly can be it through internships or talking into a recorder in your living room. Once you get in the door – build a network. You need people to go to bat for you. A strong network will help you get opportunities down the road. The old saying is true: it is not what you know, but who you know.
-What do you miss most about calling games right now?
As silly as this may sound, but what I miss most about calling games is the roar of the crowd. There is nothing like it when the lights are shining down on the field, the stadium is packed, and crowd is in every moment of the game. It gives me goosebumps. It is what makes baseball so special. A cheer for when the home team does well and a boo when the road team does well. Man, do I miss it.