He calls a mean game, recites a post-game haiku and manages his team’s broadcast and video deals. For his work behind the mic and behind the scenes, Jay Burnham, the Voice of the Trenton Thunder, is the 2011 Broadcaster of the Year in the annual awards from Ballpark Digest.
In the minors, a broadcaster wears many hats; calling the game action is just the tip of the iceberg.
In Trenton, Director of Broadcasting Jay Burnham not only calls the action, but he puts together the media deals for bringing that game action to fans. This season he negotiated an agreement to broadcast Thunder games on 91.3 WTSR, the student-run radio station at The College of New Jersey. While it certainly was an unusual move to marry pro baseball with the alternative vibe of a college radio station, it worked: the deal expanded the reach of game broadcasts to the entire Thunder market region and raised the profile of the team in the community. He also put together an in-house video broadcast that should also raise the team’s profile next season. Add a post-game blog to the mix – complete with game-summary haiku from Burnham and broadcast partner Hank Fuerst – and you have the definition of a modern multimedia broadcaster.
In recognition of these many accomplishments, Burnham is the 2011 Broadcaster of the Year in the annual Ballpark Digest awards.
“Most people have no idea what work goes into the job of a modern MiLB broadcaster in the rapidly shifting media landscape,” said Kevin Reichard, publisher of Ballpark Digest. “It’s one thing to call the action – and that’s something Burnham excels at -- but it’s another thing to put together the broadcast deals in the first place.”
Besides bringing Thunder news to a wider audience, Burnham achieved some national recognition on an HBO documentary covering Derek Jeter’s pursuit of 3,000 hits. Burnham’s call of Jeter’s time with Trenton on a rehab stint was prominently featured on the documentary, Derek Jeter 3K.
"I am truly honored and humbled to be the recipient of this award, especially since there are any number of broadcasters at all levels that are deserving as well," Burnham said. "I am fortunate to be a part of one of the best organizations in baseball. My broadcast partner Hank Fuerst and I have had an unforgettable season between the new radio station and visits from some of baseball's greatest players past and present, including Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter and Shane Victorino.
"I am sincerely grateful to Will Smith, Kurt Landes, Larry Hawkins, Bill Cook and everyone that has supported me throughout my career," Burnham added.
"Jay Burnham has been a complete professional working for the Thunder," said General Manager Will Smith. "At the Minor League level, broadcaster positions are frequently awarded based on skills other than simply calling the game action. Fortunately for us, Jay has demonstrated his multiple talents this year."
Smith added, "Jay single-handedly found us a new broadcast partner that enables more fans to listen to games, and he continued developing new partnerships within the community and marketplace all season long. He’s had an incredible year and I know there are many more to come."
“It takes a certain mindset to cut through the media clutter these days, especially in a crowded East Coast market,” Reichard said. “Jay’s embrace of new media, combined with his obvious talent in calling a game, makes him our choice for the 2011 Broadcaster of the Year.”
Burnham’s career path included stops in the broadcast booths of the Asheville Tourists and Hagerstown Suns of the South Atlantic League and the Pensacola Pelicans of the American Association. This is his ninth year broadcasting baseball after graduating from North Carolina’s Elon University.
This was perhaps the hardest category to judge, as there's a surplus of high-level talent in baseball broadcast booths. We want to highlight the following broadcasters, in alphabetical order: Sean Aronson (Voice of the St. Paul Saints), Todd Bartley (Voice of the Williamsport Crosscutters), Tim Calderwood (Voice of the Gary SouthShore RailCats), Dave Collins (Voice of the Lancaster Barnstormers), Bill Czaja (Voice of the Rockford RiverHawks), Deene Ehlis (Voice of the Iowa Cubs), Mick Gillispie (Voice of the Tennessee Smokies), Mark Nasser (Voice of the Omaha Storm Chasers), Dave Nitz (Voice of the Sioux City Explorers), J.P. Shadrick (Voice of the Oklahoma City RedHawks), Neil Solondz (Voice of the Durham Bulls) and Josh Wetzel (Voice of the Rochester Red Wings). Also, let's not forget the recipients of past Ballpark Digest awards: Roy Acuff (Voice of the San Antonio Missions), Mike Capps (Voice of the Round Rock Express) and Paul Edmonds (Voice of the Winnipeg Goldeyes).
One more accomplishment to note: Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, the Voice of the Lansing Lugnuts (Low Class A; Midwest League), once again reached back into baseball history and re-created a game broadcast using the modern equivalent of a ticker-tape feed. Aficionados of the broadcast booth remember that team broadcasters didn't travel with the team and took to the home studio to re-create a game broadcast, using a report from a remote ballpark generated via a telegraph. The practice was still widespread in the 1950s and early 1960s; one of the best, the late Nat Albright, achieved notoriety as a road voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers and re-created other games in the 1980s.
ABOUT THE BALLPARK DIGEST AWARDS
Each year Ballpark Digest honors noteworthy accomplishments in the baseball world, whether it be Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, independent baseball, summer-collegiate baseball or college baseball. Readers are asked to submit nominations for awards in specific categories; Ballpark Digest editors then go though the submissions (numbering some 400 pages of documentation last year). The awards cover both individual accomplishments as well as team accomplishments. This is the fourth season for the Ballpark Digest Awards. A complete listing of Ballpark Digest Awards can be found at www.ballparkdigest.com/awards.
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The leading Website covering the culture and business of baseball since its inception in 2002, Ballpark Digest (www.ballparkdigest.com) has been called an “indispensable” guide to baseball and ballparks by The New York Times; it’s been used as a source by publications and Websites ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Epicurious.com. August Publications is a publisher based in Middleton, Wis. Besides Ballpark Digest, August Publications’ leading Websites include SpringTrainingOnline.com, ArenaDigest.com and YellowstoneInsider.com.
Image of Reggie Jackson and Jay Burnham courtesy of the Trenton Thunder.
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