Sep 13, 2013
By Dan Caesar
From : St. Louis Post-Dispatch
From being a professional dog walker, to doing landscaping, to majoring in history at a quaint Illinois college on the Great River Road, Aaron Goldsmith’s rise from obscurity to a big-league broadcasting job has been nothing short of phenomenal.
In 2007 he was broadcasting games of the Gateway Grizzlies, who play in Sauget, his first sportscasting job and pulling in $70 — per month, not game. And although the skyline of downtown St. Louis — where the Cardinals play — can be seen from the Griz’s ballpark, that independent league setting and the majors is a continent away.
But Goldsmith, 30, has beaten long odds and will be coming home to broadcast big-league baseball this weekend as he is in his rookie season and working with longtime Seattle Mariners broadcaster Rick Rizzs in the team’s radio booth. The Mariners and Cards open a three-game series at Busch Stadium tonight.
“It’s going to be pretty unreal,’’ he said this week from Seattle before heading to the city in which he grew up. “For me, the first year around all these ballparks is a lot of fun. But to get back to Busch, even with the new ballpark, I have so many memories there. I went to the first game there, Springfield vs. Memphis. I also was at the first (big-league) game there, sitting outside the gates in a lawn chair listening to the KTRS broadcast because I was a senior in college and couldn’t afford tickets.
“I’ve got a pair of old Busch Stadium seats in my house in Seattle,’’ he said, adding that he bought the first hot dog at the new Busch Stadium, filmed the transaction and sold the dog on eBay for $300.
“For all those reasons and so many more, it’s going to be surreal to be there and actually working up in the broadcast booth.’’
He’s arriving via a highly unconventional path. After going to high school in Town and Country at The Principia, he went to Principia College — a small, liberal arts school in the Illinois hamlet of Elsah, near the Mississippi River between Alton and Grafton that isn’t exactly known as a factory for producing major-league baseball announcers. Making his journey even more twisting is that he majored in history.
“I did not study broadcasting in college, it wasn’t something I knew I wanted to do until very, very late,’’ he said. “It seems like most guys in this profession know they want to be a baseball broadcaster from the time they are 12, or even younger.’’
But even before college he had the inkling he wanted to work in the sports field, having had internships or working on a volunteer basis with the St. Louis Sports Commission and minor-league hockey and basketball teams in the area “to see what I liked and didn’t like.’’
In college he first majored in business, and was considering getting into that aspect of athletics. But he eventually became unsure and change his major.
“I’ve always loved history, I’d taken a lot of history classes as requirements,’’ he said. “You learn how to write, how to read, how to think you learn how to present an argument. I thought I could learn a lot of intangibles that I could use in no matter what I decide to do. I’m really glad I did it, it has served me very well in a number of ways.’’
He spent most of his last year of college not knowing what direction he would head for a career.
“I really wanted to do something with the city, I love St. Louis so much I wanted to be part of revitalizing St. Louis in one way or another but I never could put my thumb on what it was,’’ Goldsmith said. “I kind of had this dark stage during my senior year in college where I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I graduated. Then literally about a month before I graduated I woke up and thought, ‘Radio.’ My mom had always told me since I was in high school that I should work in radio. Like most sons, I ignored everything she said. Then it finally clicked.’’
He enrolled at Broadcast Center, a trade school in St. Louis.
“I went there with the intention of being a sports-talk host, at the time that was the most appealing to me,’’ he said. “Play-by-play wasn’t even on my radar. But my advisor (John Carroll) kept pushing me to apply with the Grizzlies. I kind of kept pushing him off, for whatever reason it wasn’t clicking with me. Finally, he wore me down and I said I’d try this play-by-play stuff.’’
But he said the demonstration recording he sent in to apply for the internship “was atrocious. To this day I’m convinced no one else applied for that job.’’
He was hired by Joe Pott, the team’s main play-by-play broadcaster at the time.
“I do remember him as being raw,’’ Pott said. “But listening to tapes what stuck out to me, part of it was that he was local and we were looking for somebody local to be our intern that summer. But one of the things about Aaron was that he never was shy about working hard. He was willing to put in the hours for essentially no pay. The other thing was asking questions. He was always wanting to know why I did what I did as far as preparing and to go through a season. He was willing to do what it took to get better and keep improving.’’
To prepare for the baseball season, he broadcast some Principia College basketball games into a tape deck that winter before going to work for Pott.
Pott now is the voice of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville athletics.
“He was my first mentor in the business, I owe so much to him,’’ Goldsmith said. “He’s still one of the best baseball play-by-play broadcasters I’ve ever heard.’’
Pott quickly was impressed by Goldsmith’s work ethic.
“He was willing to take the initiative,’’ Pott said. “He’d go down and talk to players and find out stories. I remember him coming up with stories and little pieces of info to use on the air, I’d look over and say, ‘I didn’t even know that, and I’m with these guys every day.’”
ON THE MOVE
Goldsmith called Grizzlies games in 2007, but when 2008 arrived he was in a panic mode. It was time to move on but his pursuit of other positions was unsuccessful until at a very late date he landed an internship to broadcast in the Cape Cod League, which begins play after most other organizations have begun.
“I said ‘yes’ to an unpaid internship all the way across the country,’’ he said. “I was doing landscaping in the days, called game on internet at night.’’
The next year he went up to Double A Portland (Maine) for another internship, which traditionally offer little — if any — pay.
“It was tough, I lost a ton of money,’’ he said. “I went into a significant amount of debt.’’
After that season he had put three years into internships, and had had enough.
“In that offseason going into 2010, it was either it was going to happen or it’s not,’’ he said of landing a paid baseball broadcasting job. “If it doesn’t happen, I’m going to get a suit and tie and a 9-5 job. Heather (Harmon) and I had been dating since my final year in college and I wanted to propose, but couldn’t because I didn’t have any steady employment.’’
GOING TO THE DOGS
While waiting that offseason to see if he would get a real job, he was in St. Louis and looking for an income and found a dog-walking job in the Central West End, serving primarily doctors and lawyers. He was paid $8.50 per half-hour walk, getting about six assignments a day.
“I never had a job that required more attention to detail,’’ he said. “Every house had its own security system with its own code, every dog had its own routine — you’d give it this much water, feed it that many treats, make sure its collar is put on this way, not that way. Some people wanted you to leave music on for the dog, the TV on for the dog. I had notebooks full of all of these little instructions. But I love dogs, it was great.
“It wasn’t a bad job in the fall, but it was miserable in the winter. In the fall it was actually one of the best jobs I ever had. I was a professional dog walker.’’
That offseason he got the call he had been hoping for, an offer for a job in which the only dogs involved in the work are the dog days of summer. He was headed to Frisco, Texas, a Dallas suburb where the Texas Rangers have their Double A affiliate to broadcast games and serve as the team’s media relations director.
He was going to receive a salary, allowing him to take care of some major unfinished business.
“I quickly proposed to Heather after that,’’ he said. “I can remember saying to her while we were in Dallas, ‘We’re probably going to be here five or six years and if things go well maybe I can get a Triple A job. And if I get that, maybe I’ll be there for five or 10 years. Then maybe by the time we’re 40 maybe a big league job will come our way.’’
But after the three long years of internships, things began moving rapidly for Goldsmith. He was in Texas only two years before moving up last season to broadcast the Boston Red Sox’s top affiliate, in Pawtucket, R.I. Then he got the big-league call for this season.
“Wow, here we are,’’ he said. “It’s been a ride I never would have predicted.’’
He now is with his sixth team in seven years of broadcasting.
“It’s a nomadic lifestyle, especially when you’re doing seasonal internships, which is the way the industry has gone,’’ he said. “When you’re young and eager, you’re willing to do just about anything. And I was willing to do just about anything to get behind a microphone, be in a ballpark and do a team. I wasn’t’ very good then and I knew I had a lot to learn, so I couldn’t be picky.’’
He hopes he won’t be needing moving vans again any time soon.
“We are both very excited to now set down some roots, to have a home and a community and know where we hopefully will be for a long time,’’ he said. “When I first go into this business I immediately had dreams of one day calling games for the Cardinals. While that would be an immense honor, I’m thrilled to be broadcasting for the Mariners and my wife and I love calling Seattle home.’’
This weekend he’ll be in his original home town, where his career foundation was poured with the Grizzlies. And even with Goldsmith’s aggressiveness and potential, it still is an eye-opener to Pott that his former student suddenly is in the big time.
“It’s definitely a ‘wow,’ and not ‘wow’ in a bad way,’’ Pott said. “But I didn’t think then that this guy is going to be a major-league broadcaster. When I found out he was hired by the Mariners … I and called him and said, “Man, I’m so proud of you but I’m jealous as hell. I was honest with him, but I felt like a proud parent not only from working with me but what he did after that, the things he did to put himself in the position he is. He was willing to sacrifice and do things he had to do.’’
And here Goldsmith is now.
“Never would I have thought back in that 2007 season — and maybe even ever — that I’d be working on the other side of the river in that ballpark,’’ he said of Busch Stadium. “It’s really something special.’’