Brendan Shick | Freelance Film, Broadcast, & Digital Media

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The Road to the Big Leagues: Players, Broadcasters, and the Stories They Share

Feb 28 2013 by Brendan Shick Add Your Thoughts

37 days until Opening Day and my return to work in the ever exciting sports broadcast industry.

I figure this means I should acknowledge the start of Spring Training last Saturday.

It’s Like a Call-up, Only Not Quite

Working in MiLB certainly has unique perks, but one rewarding part is seeing a player get his first call-up to the show – and while a Spring Training invitation doesn’t technically count as an MLB call-up it’s still a big deal for the players.

Frankly, now that I’ve done a couple tours of duty in the same league, there’s a lot of names I recognize making their first appearance on a bigger stage. We’re talking guys who much of the world is just now learning about, but who I’ve been tracking since they were playing class-A baseball, or before.

Nick Castellanos is one name that comes to mind. He’s now listed as the Detroit Tigers No. 1 prospect, and was once rumored to be Miguel Cabrera’s replacement at 3B during the World Baseball Classic.

Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

I still remember the game in which Castellanos tied the West Michigan Whitecaps (Class-A, Detroit Tigers) single season hit record, previously held by local hitting streak-legend, Robert Fick. Twas a special moment.

Unfortunately, the Whitecaps beat the Fort Wayne TinCaps (Class-A, San Diego Padres) quite handily in that game forcing an overly epic do-or-die (i.e. – winner clinches the league’s final playoff spot) final game of the season the following day.

All was well though, as Fort Wayne brought out ace pitcher Keyvius Sampson, who I half-expected at San Diego’s spring training this year, to successfully close out the regular season the next day.

There’s a Story Behind Every Destination

Looking at the players’ journeys to the big leagues might seem a little off topic for this blog, but there is a corollary I’d like to share.

Regardless of whether you’re a player, someone behind-the-scenes, or choose a career in an entirely different industry – there’s a story behind how you made yourself what you are. Here’s one of those stories. My own:

Some Personal Backstory

My first forays into broadcast television were news-based. I grew up in the era when high school broadcast programs could barely afford a weekly newscast on the school’s closed-circuit television channel.

Grand Rapids Community Media Center Public Access logoWe had rare opportunities to get on ‘real television’ (in a top-40 market) through programs like FOX17 Student News and local public access. Although I did an internship filming PSAs and broadcasting Indy concerts, having zero sport teams at my high school meant it was mostly all news (not real news at that) all the time.

Likewise, at my collegiate alma mater, the broadcasting program revolved almost entirely around news gathering (for television) and music (for radio) – and although this is not uncommon, I knew I ultimately wanted to helm a career in something more demanding – episodic tv, film production, spot production, or similar.

Sports Broadcast Joins the Radar…

One of my first exposures to the realities of the world of live sports television came when a professor exposed me to the work of Tom Guilmette, a freelance director of photography and camera operator for NESN’s broadcasts of Boston Red Sox games (check out his website for some great insight into both these careers).

This was a sort of gestalt switch for me. I realized that:

  1. Being in sports broadcast is not only a sustainable career, it can be quite lucrative in the right cities.
  2. It can actually be a surprisingly difficult job at times, which was something I’d been looking for as a lifelong overachiever then stuck in televised news.
  3. The obscure work schedules such a career entails means you can build a parallel career on the side – allowing you to also dabble in other things that you love doing.

…And Eventually Becomes Part of a Lifestyle

HTV News set

It was shortly after this that I chose to start consistently shooting highlights for HTV Sports – unfortunately, these were generally looked down upon as the easy-out, fun stories to cover in the HTV newsroom, but that was okay in the short-term.

I opted for these stories when I could up until I moved into the role of the show’s director and my duties changed entirely. It was hard at times to convince my colleagues that my goal here was to launch myself into a more difficult career path: live sports.

And, if you’re already a reader of this blog, you’ll know that’s exactly one of the things I’ve done since those olden days.


Stay tuned. I’m hoping to expand the number of baseball related posts (bookmark that link to stay posted) and share more tips about my work as the summer progresses.

Brendan Shick

Brendan Shick is a freelance DP, gaffer, and sports broadcaster serving primarily the Chicago, IL; Pittsburgh, PA; Grand Rapids, MI; and Fort Wayne, IN, regions. You can find out more by following this blog, his recent work on Vimeo, or by connecting with him on Twitter or LinkedIn. Brendan is also an occasional contributor to the Project Updates feed for one of his most recent films, To Turn Back Time.

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