Behind the call: 11 hours with new lead Bats play-by-play voice Nick Curran
Clearing his throat, headset on, he locks his eyes onto the playing surface below with 5,348 in attendance and articulates the first pitch of a matchup pitting the Louisville Bats against the Charlotte Knights. For the newly appointed lead play-by-play voice of the Bats, Nick Curran, this is the culmination of an average workday. As Curran’s voice registers in his listener’s ears, most of them likely aren’t aware that a typical gameday for the man behind the voice begins far before the first pitch and far before even the pregame show — in fact, almost eight hours before fans started filing into this 16-year-old ballpark on the intersection of Preston and Main. On Monday, July 25th, TheBatSignal.com followed Curran every step of the way to experience what goes on behind the call.
7 hours, 50 minutes before first pitch
The Bats haven’t had a day off since the All-Star game on July 13th. For Curran, who has called 11 games in a row (three of those on the road), this means it’s been tough to find time for a proper laundry day — so on this Monday morning, Curran shows up to the ballpark about two hours later than he usually does sporting clean clothes and a refreshed air.
As soon as he takes a seat in his cramped cubicle on the second floor of Louisville Slugger Field, Curran begins scrolling through his Outlook email inbox. The first one he clicks on concerns giveaways throughout next season. Promotions given to fans throughout the 72-game spring and summer slate in Louisville are always set in the previous January, and Curran plays a significant role in this aspect of the ballclub.
The next email Curran deals with has to do with basic logistics: The Bats having an upcoming road trip in which they’ll play in Durham and then take a 10-hour bus ride to Toledo. Curran proceeds to make sure the Bats have a proper shuttle to get them from hotel to ballpark.
7 hours, 25 minutes before first pitch
Curran now spends some time on ticket sales. Wait, what? The play-by-play announcer begins a typical day in the areas of marketing, travel coordination, and ticket/group sales? Yes indeed –the Bats value employees who can deal with a wide range of baseball operations.
For this part of his job, Curran makes calls to groups interested in tickets and lays out the accommodations the Bats provide for groups during their selected game. Curran is one of kind as a lead broadcaster in the International League when it comes to his involvement group sales.
Before he can even return to his desk after printing tickets for group sales, another email pops up from a loyal Bats fan wanting to renew their season tickets for the 2017 season, and Curran types out a quick reply.
5 hours, 30 minutes before first pitch
Finally, Curran gets to deal directly with baseball. After a lunch with fellow staffers, Curran heads down to the clubhouse to speak with Bats manager Delino Deshields. In their brief chat, Curran gets the essentials for the broadcast: what happened in last night’s 5–1 loss, any important transactions, and the Bats lineup for tonight’s game. As he walks further into the clubhouse, Curran spots Bats position player Hernan Iribarren, who is coming off a 15-game hitting streak. To Curran, he is the perfect candidate for an interview that will play in the pregame show during the broadcast.
4 hours, 20 minutes before first pitch
With a recorder in hand that contains roughly 10 minutes of Iribarren audio, Curran makes his way to the press box and his radio booth. As the home announcer, Curran acts as host to the Charlotte Knights play-by-play voice, Matt Swierad. After dropping his recorder at his own workstation, Curran enters Swierad’s booth — which the voice of the Knights will be using for the entire three-game series — to clean the countertop and prepare the trash can. This etiquette is something long-time Bats broadcaster and current Reds broadcaster Jim Kelch taught Curran’s predecessor, Matt Andrews, and it was passed to Curran before Andrews left for Ohio State University on June 29th.
With a new series about to begin and the Bats playing the Knights for the first time all season, Curran’s prep for the broadcast is especially detailed. It all starts with the scorebook, which Curran, seated at his newly-acquired lead seat in the radio booth, fills out while stealing glances at the empty stadium. As he takes a short break from scribbling into the scorebook, Curran opens his computer, clicking the “add tab” button four times: once for Twitter, once for Reds.com, once for BatsBaseball.com, and one last time for a link to player stats.
Progressively moving on through his prep routine, Curran begins entering the profiles of Knights players (picking out specific players to watch), recent Knights wins/losses, and any other relevant trends or information he can find that would be interesting to listeners. After the Knights, Curran completes the same process for the Bats, a team Curran has been calling games for since April 2013. At this point in the season, basic statistics on the Bats players aren’t new, but certain information is sought after, including updated rosters and game notes passed to Curran over his right shoulder via the media relations staff.
4 hours, 5 minutes before first pitch
While Curran digs for interesting information regarding both teams to share during his upcoming broadcast, the stadium — previously empty and silent — gains some life as the Bats pitching staff walks from the west dugout out to left field for some stretching. There won’t be batting practice today due to rain. This is unfortunate for Curran, who typically uses batting practice to get a feel for the players’ attitudes and share some face-to-face moments, but the pitchers’ stretching cues him to migrate to the control room located to the right of his booth and turn on music for the players.
3 hours, 30 minutes before the game
With country music playing in his booth, Curran stops jotting down tidbits about the big pitching matchup between two MLB rehabbers, Homer Bailey and Carlos Rodon, to answer a question about advice he’d give to aspiring announcers. Curran shares a piece of wisdom he received from his predecessor Andrews a few years earlier: “Don’t let anybody outwork you. You may run into people with a better voice, but don’t let them outwork you.” That advice led Curran to find an internship through a well-placed contact, which brought him down a career path that included a stint with Bellarmine University basketball and, eventually, the Bats.
“It’s nuts [that I have this job],” Curran says. “I can’t believe it.” Given the constant rate of games and intense workload, Curran hasn’t had much time to let his June 30th promotion to lead broadcaster sink in, but expects it to really hit home once the season is over.
1 hour before first pitch
30 minutes before he hits the air, Curran finds a bit of time to finally eat the catered food that was awaiting his attention in the press box. This night’s meal was brought in by Wild Rita’s restaurant, and in return, Curran will mention the meal in the ever-present portion of his broadcast that thanks whichever local restaurant provided dinner for that night.
35 minutes before first pitch
When the door closes in the radio booth, Curran’s attitude changes from laid-back and preparatory to businesslike as he turns on his mic and connects with the control room back at the KRD studios. Five minutes later, all of his work throughout the day comes to the surface when Curran welcomes fans to Louisville Slugger Field and the beginning of the thirty-minute pregame show.
20 minutes before first pitch
While fans at the stadium listen to the National Anthem, those tuning in via radio hear the Hernan Iribarren interview from earlier in the day. When Iribarren’s interview and the National Anthem end around the same time, Curran sits back in his chair, locked and loaded for nine innings of baseball. The final 10 minutes is dedicated to breaking down the pitching matchups, starting lineups and, finally, at 7:04 p.m., the first pitch is thrown.
It doesn’t take long from Curran’s calm voice to rise as Jesse Winker reaches on an infield error, scoring the first run of the game in the first inning. However, in the third, Curran’s voice turns from the excitement of Homer Bailey’s strong start to a tinge of disappointment as the Knights tie the game on a bloop single and later take the lead in the fourth.
In the bottom of the fourth, Curran’s considerable skill is tested as Chris Berset hits a towering fly ball to left field that at first appears to be a double, but is ruled a home run. At this point, Curran has the same thoughts of all attendees at the ballpark but is one of a select few who must articulate this confusion on-air.
The biggest test of the night arrives in the bottom half of the sixth inning during Bats batter Jermaine Curtis’ at-bat. Unlike Berset’s home run call, Curran knew Curtis’ ball left the ballpark, everyone did… until they didn’t. While Curran had to quickly locate Curtis’ stats, Knights manager Julio Vinas had already launched into an argument with the third base umpire and Curran had to quickly adjust, describing each and every arm motion from Vinas. He then couldn’t pay much attention to the field, as the TV screen to his right showed a replay in which Curran watched Curtis’ ball not leave the ballpark, instead bouncing off the top of the left field fence. All said and done, the play featured a home run, a blown call on the home run, the ejection of Vinas, and confusion from everyone except from the man behind the mic.
At 9:50, Curran made his final call of the Bats victory, the 12th Bats win he has called since he taking over as lead broadcaster at the end of June. As high-fives were exchanged by the Bats on the field after a 2 hour, 46-minute game, Curran’s night was still not quite over.
With the box score fresh off the printer in hand, Curran finishes filling out the scorebook he began filling out seven hours ago. On the postgame show, Curran recaps the game, previews the next night’s game, and plays the audio of his play of the game: Chris Berset’s home run. To cap off the show, Curran fills in the listeners on what is happening around the International League as well as Major League Baseball.
At 10:08 p.m., Curran takes off the headset he put on almost four hours earlier and closes his computer and scorebook. Before he leaves for the night, Curran remembers what Jim Kelch told Matt Andrews and what Andrews passed down to him, so he takes out the trash from both radio booths and then heads home at 10:20.
Curran’s day is over. Tonight, there are no more tickets to sell or games to call, but tomorrow he gets to do it all over again — as well as everything else that goes on behind the call.