Not every big league call-up results in an at-bat or a chance to take the mound in front of 50,000 fans.
Some happen off the field, in a different kind of spotlight, with a distinct pressure not related to hitting a fastball or fielding a ball with a 115-mph exit velocity. Even in places where thousands of call-ups have occurred over decades of professional baseball, those types of promotions are rare. Here, they were nonexistent, until Thursday.
For the first time since professional baseball returned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 1989, one of the franchise’s play-by-play broadcasters got the news he is headed to the majors.
FOX Sports Ohio announced Thursday that John Sadak, the former voice of the RailRiders, will be the network’s television play-by-play announcer for the Cincinnati Reds, starting this season.
Sadak’s career in baseball is long, working at Class A Wilmington before landing the RailRiders gig from 2013 through 2017. He worked several games with the Mets radio broadcast team on WCBS in New York City, as well. But, he knows getting a full-time job behind a major league mic takes patience, time and a fair share of good fortune.
Especially in a place like Cincinnati, where the Reds are woven into the community fabric for 139 years. Especially considering he had no previous professional contacts that call the Reds organization home.
“It’s incredible,” Sadak said Thursday night. “To get any major league job is a significant accomplishment and a mathematical improbability that borders on impossibility. And then, the odds that it would be a team that literally started professional baseball, that has as treasured and layered and rich a legacy and tradition as just about any other team in pro sport is mind-boggling.
“To be basically flying blind and stumble into the iceberg of awesome job opportunities is pretty crazy.”
In a press release, the network also announced Sadak will be a regular contributor to Reds pre- and post-game shows, while providing fans behind-the-scenes access via social media.
During his time with the RailRiders, Ballpark Digest named Sadak as its 2013 Broadcaster of the Year, and Baseball America later named him one of the top broadcasting prospects in the minor leagues. Since leaving the RailRiders after the 2017 season, Sadak called college football, NFL and college basketball games on television and radio for CBS and Westwood One. Most recently, he called the Florida-LSU men’s basketball game Jan. 2 on CBS, his national television debut, and had the radio call of the Buffalo Bills’ wild-card round win over Indianapolis a week later.
Randy Stephens, senior vice president and general manager of FOX Sports Ohio, said in the press release that Sadak possessed “everything we look for in a play-by-play broadcaster” and possessed “an iconic announcer’s voice.”
“Watching Reds games is fun and entertaining,” Reds president and chief operating officer Phil Castellini said in a statement. “John loves baseball, and his excitement for the game comes through every call. His knowledge, experience and warmth will resonate with our fans, and we look forward to welcoming John into our Reds family.”
Joining a new home wouldn’t be possible, Sadak said, without his work in places like PNC Field. Not just because of all the games he got to call alongside colleagues like Darren Headrick, Andrew Kappes and Aaron Berlin, honing his craft. It was also the lessons he learned from the game itself that sweetened the appreciation of his accomplishment.
“It’s the repetitions and doing that that make you better in every way. And I don’t just mean as a play-by-play announcer,” Sadak said. “Minor league baseball, I think, is a training ground for life. Baseball greatest strength is how much of a corollary it is to life itself; You could do all the right things and fail, you could do all the wrong things into a great moment. But it’s the steady everyday nature, where if you do the right things every day, then you will be successful.”
Donnie Collins has been a member of The Times-Tribune sports staff for nearly 20 years and has been the Penn State football beat writer for Times-Shamrock Newspapers since 2004. The Penn State Football Blog covers Nittany Lions, Big Ten and big-time college football news from Beaver Stadium to the practice field, the bowl game to National Letter of Intent Signing Day. Contact: email@example.com; 570-348-9100 x5368; @DonnieCollinsTT