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Pawtucket proving to be pipeline for broadcasters

Dan Hoard hopes the Pawtucket play-by-play job will lead him to the big leagues.
Dan Hoard hopes the Pawtucket play-by-play job will lead him to the big leagues. (Pawtucket Red Sox Photo)

For the past several years, Dan Hoard has worked in Cincinnati while his wife, Channel 4 reporter Peg Rusconi, covered her assignments in Boston -- an arrangement, they acknowledged, that could no longer continue when they learned their first baby would arrive this May.

''As good as the Delta service is out of Cincinnati, that wasn't going to work very well," said Hoard, formerly the sports director for WXIX-TV in Cincinnati and host of the Reds' pregame show.

As luck would have it, Hoard scored an East Coast job in March, allowing husband, wife, and future child to establish a base in New England. But Hoard didn't land just any broadcasting job. He's about to start his first season for 790 The Score in Providence as the play-by-play announcer for the Pawtucket Red Sox, a position that's been blessed the last three years.

Like its players often do on the field, the men in the McCoy Stadium press box regularly advance to the big leagues. Former PawSox announcers Gary Cohen (New York Mets, 1989) and Don Orsillo (Boston, 2001) kicked off the process, but the parade started for real in 2004. That year, former Pawtucket radio voice Dave Flemming took over play-by-play duties for the San Francisco Giants. The following year, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays hired PawSox announcer Andy Freed. This past January, Dave Jageler, who called the PawSox for one season after he was hired from 1510 The Zone, was named the radio voice for the Washington Nationals, becoming the third Pawtucket guy in three years to earn the call-up.

''They'd put announcers in the big leagues for two years in a row. My goal was to do play-by-play in pro sports, whether it was baseball or basketball, so it seemed like the logical step," Jageler said of accepting the Pawtucket job. ''I was surprised it only took one year. I guess the magic continues for PawSox broadcasters."

It's a three-year string that Hoard, a 42-year-old native of Jamestown, N.Y., hopes to continue. Hoard, a 1985 Syracuse graduate, began his play-by-play career that year with the Triple A Syracuse Chiefs. He then became the sports director at Syracuse's WTVH-TV, doing the 6 p.m. newscast, dashing away to call Chiefs home games, then returning to the station for the 11 p.m. news.

Hoard moved to Cincinnati in 1996, where he called University of Cincinnati football and basketball games while serving as WXIX sports director and performing fill-in radio and TV duties for the Reds. Hoard's dream, however, is to become a major league announcer, and his limited play-by-play résumé didn't help in his quest when he interviewed for openings.

''The first question they'd ask me was, 'How many games did you fill in for last year?' When I told them somewhere between six and 10, I'd see the enthusiasm drain from their faces," Hoard said. ''I needed to do it again on an everyday basis to realistically have a chance to be hired by a major league team."

Hoard, who'd sit in an empty press box during Reds games and practice play-by-play into his recorder, learned of the Pawtucket opening and sent in both TV and radio audition tapes. For the latter, he chose a Mets game from WFAN that he called several years ago. His partner was Cohen, the former PawSox announcer. Hoard, who had known PawSox president Mike Tamburro and PR man Bill Wanless since his days calling Chiefs games, beat out more than 100 applicants. He plans to live in the Boston area with Rusconi, whom Hoard said will return to work after several months of maternity leave.

''I know this: If I'm good enough to be a major league broadcaster, Pawtucket will get me there," said Hoard, who'll team with third-year PawSox announcer Steve Hyder. ''If I'm not good enough, I'll be OK. At least I went for it and put myself in the best position I could to get one of those jobs. There's nothing wrong with pursuing your dreams, and if a person wants to be a major league announcer, there's no better place to get there from than Pawtucket."

While Hoard was in Fort Myers, Fla., earlier this week, getting to know the Pawtucket coaching staff and players most likely to start the season in Rhode Island, Jageler was en route to Washington. He'll live in an apartment there, while his wife and two children (ages 6 and 2), who reside in Barrington, R.I., will finish the school year and join him in Washington this summer.

As for why the magic microphone has resided at McCoy, Jageler credited the PawSox staff for hiring announcers who are as close to big-league ready as possible. Jageler is part of a five-alum list that he hopes will someday include Hoard.

''The major league broadcasting fraternity is very small," Jageler said. ''It's 65 to 70 guys, and we've got a mini-fraternity with the five PawSox guys. I take a lot of pride in that, and I certainly wish Dan all the best. I know he'll be joining that fraternity very soon."

Some old, some new

NESN brings back familiar faces to its Red Sox broadcasting team, as Orsillo (play-by-play) and Jerry Remy (color) return for their sixth season together. Rejoining host Tom Caron in NESN's new Watertown studio are rotating analysts Dennis Eckersley, Jim Rice, and Gary DiSarcina.

There are two new faces as well. Former Sox infielder Dave McCarty replaces Sam Horn as a studio analyst. McCarty made three appearances for NESN last season. According to NESN spokesman Gary Roy, McCarty, who lives in the Bay Area, will most likely be in Boston for three shifts during the season. Taking Eric Frede's spot of field reporter is Tina Cervasio, a New Jersey native who will conduct pre- and postgame interviews and file in-game reports. Cervasio was weekend sports anchor at New York's WCBS-TV and recently covered the Winter Olympics from Turin for Westwood One.

This will be the first season NESN will carry every game (except national telecasts) in the Boston market, claiming the Friday night dates televised last year on Channel 38.

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