The best radio personalities are painters. They’re every bit as creative and passionate about what they do as artists and musicians. Their tools are their words and voices. And their canvass is your brain.
For the past four years, Savannah Sand Gnats broadcaster Toby Hyde has been using every tool he’s sharpened over 10 years in broadcasting to bring our minor league baseball team into full color on WBMQ AM 630.
“I think the really good baseball broadcasters are always describing what’s going on and then giving you context through statistical information to tell you what’s going on,” Hyde says. “They just keep describing the action.”
The throws, hits and slides. A baseball game can get routine. But radio is ratings-driven. And people don’t listen to the routine. So, call in the tricks of the trade. For example, Hyde has lots of ways to say “he throws.”
“He chucks,” “underhands” or “eases.” Just say that last word out loud to yourself a couple of times and see how good it feels. Hyde describes this talent (and keeping the words true to the action) as Sports Announcing 101.
As for the more advanced skills of calling games, he talks fondly of his two mentors from his childhood, Bob Murphy and Gary Cohen. They teamed up for New York Mets radio broadcasts back in the 80’s and 90’s.
“I still think about them when I’m on the air,” Hyde says. “Those broadcasts were so rich in terms of description but also honesty.”
And the truth sometimes bats poorly on the air. It’s one thing to be excited when the home team is playing well. It’s another to ignore one of their miserable mistakes. Hyde hates when announcers do that. And some things aren’t expressed in words.
“You’re not screaming,” Hyde says. “But you’re conveying excitement through the tone and pacing of your voice.”
Hyde grew up in the Big Apple and every year his family would shuffle off to a summer house without television. He followed the Mets action over the radio and started calling games himself at college station KZSU at Stanford University.
His road to Savannah took him through radio jobs California. He began writing for the Mets blog network in 2008. And so when a former boss of his began managing the Mets-affiliated Sand Gnats, a move to the South was natural.
“Most people don’t make careers in minor league baseball, either on the field or in the broadcast booth,” Hyde says. “This is people working to achieve some kind of dream of theirs.”
His dream apparently includes copious note-making, statistical research and interviewing. I talked with him up in the press box high above the stands at historic Grayson Stadium. His area was covered and taped with game notes.
“I am by nature a quantitative person. I like when someone says something and then it’s testable,” Hyde says. “If a player says to me, ‘Such and such has helped me cut down on my strike-outs,’ then I’m going to go look at the numbers and say, ‘All right, is he striking out less than he did last year?’ Sometimes he is, sometimes he isn’t.”
And if blogging about the Mets and calling the Sand Gnats weren’t enough, he also calls Savannah State University football and baseball. He writes freelance for the local daily. And, like me, he has a podcast! It’s called Mostly Mets. In today’s hard-scrabble media business, creative people have to wear many hats.
“I do have many hats, actually!” Hyde says. “My girlfriend would like me to get rid of some of those hats.”
So, enjoy the baseball while the baseball’s happening, either in the stands or on the radio. The season ends in just over a month.
I recorded this interview in the press box at Grayson Stadium before a game that rain eventually would cancel. The interview is about 18 minutes long.