Former Westfield State sports play-by-play announcer Mike Drew '16, is spending his summer working as a play-by-play announcer for the Saint Paul (Minn.) Saints in the American Association, the best independent professional baseball league in America – what's likely the first step of a burgeoning career in sports broadcasting.
Saint Paul is widely regarded as the best independent team in America – with an ownership group that includes both comedian Bill Murray, and Mike Veeck (the son of former White Sox owner and MLB hall-of-famer Bill Veeck, and is part of ownership of several minor-league franchises), and a who's-who of baseball alumni that includes former Boston Red Sox players J.D. Drew, who started his pro career in St. Paul, and Kevin Millar, who both started his pro career with the Saints, then came out of retirement to hit a home run in his only at-bat in Saint Paul.
"Since day one Mike has hit the ground running and has handled everything thrown at him," said Saints Vice President, Director of Broadcasting/Media Relations, Sean Aronson. "He's always looking for ways to get better, not just on the broadcasting side, but in all facets of the industry. This is just the first step on what I believe will be a very successful career for Mike."
Drew says the best part of the job has been "the amount of responsibility that I have, in terms of play-by-play, Sean will do first and last three innings, I have 4-5-6. I have 3.5 innings to do as I see fit, and they trust me to do that. That's been really fun," said Drew, who also handles a number of media relations duties for the Saints.
"The biggest thing I've learned so far is that there is a difference between thinking you're prepared and actually being prepared. I watch what Sean does – he's 1 million percent St. Paul Saints baseball – he's as all-in as all-in can be. Digging the extra mile on people for the story, not just the stat line, come up with something more, something that adds to viewer or listener's experience. "
"The first 4-5 games thought I was fully prepared," said Drew. "Then I realized how much more I had to do and what was expected with a team like this. You can never over prepare! Better to have and not need than the other way around."
Drew came to Westfield State as an undergraduate with his sights set on a career in sports broadcasting.
"I moved into dorm my freshman year, and knew what I wanted to do," said Drew. "I always wanted to be broadcaster, and I walked down to athletics to barge in and tell them 'I want to broadcast your games.' And for four years I had a chance to be the guy who did everything … by the time I left I had over 300 games of tape already, and made me feel like I had an advantage. By the time I got to Syracuse (for graduate school), I didn't feel intimidated, because I had already had the chance to do so much at Westfield State. I don't know how many other places would have given me the chance to do that. Without that, who knows what happens."
Drew's booming tenor of a voice belies his physique, and his well-paced delivery and casual humor is mixed in to every broadcast, and plays perfectly with the pace of a baseball game, though he's comfortable calling a variety of sports.
Drew called baseball, basketball, hockey and football games for the Owls, sometimes announcing three games in a day. One of his favorite memories at Westfield State was calling the 2016 MASCAC women's basketball championship game, where the Owls beat Framingham State.
"Being able to watch the women's basketball team at the beginning of the great run that it has turned into, was really, really fun," said Drew. "Having done the Bridgewater [MASCAC Championship game in 2015] that was a heartbreaker, to the following season where 'the system' ran roughshod over the league and it was a crazy wild game – to watch that team and players we knew really well do it, was probably the best singular moment that any of our teams had."
Drew went on to earn a master's degree broadcast and digital journalism with sports communications emphasis in August 2017 from the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University, which has traditionally been a cradle of the who's who in American sports casting including NBC's Mike Tirico, the Knicks Marv Albert, MLB-TV's Bob Costas, Ian Eagle and Sean McDonough, who is back with the Boston Red Sox broadcasts this season.
"The grad program pretty much confirmed everything that I had learned by doing Westfield games for four years – and just how hard and competitive the field of broadcasting is. At Syracuse there were 200 guys like me. That should be intimidating but it wasn't because of Westfield State, which had prepared me for that."
Drew also gave a tip of the cap to Mark St. Jean and Alex Smisky in the communications department at Westfield, who had given Mike access and instruction in the TV studio and with equipment to expand on his course work.
"For as great of an education as I got from all the communications classes, a lot of what I did was 'extra' and outside-the-box for the average student, and they went out of their way to make time to help me out and I can't say enough about that."
Drew said he applied for literally hundreds of jobs in broadcasting to get "maybe 15 interviews that could be considered serious" - including one at a small digital network in which he overheard a conversation between executives about how they were going to keep the lights on for the next few months. Needless to say, Mike passed on that job before accepting the job in Saint Paul, a 22-hour drive from his hometown of Danvers, Mass.
"It was time to jump into something, and everything I had heard about St. Paul was top-notch and first-class, and I am so glad to take the risk to come out here 22 hours away to this job, and I feel like it's really setting me up for the future," said Drew. "It's a really good opportunity. I feel like I made right decision to bet on myself, it was time to trust myself and my Westfield State background and know that I can do this."
Mike will be on the air all summer long with the Saints. He's looking forward to the chance to call the league's home run derby, as the Saints host the league's all-star game, and seeing former Sox outfielder Daniel Nava come through town next week. You can listen and watch on line at: http:/saintsbaseball.com