IIATMS catches up with Casey Stern, MLB on XM host

IIATMS: Where were you prior? For how long?

  • I worked for MLB.com for six seasons hosting a number of shows as well as most of their major events including the First Year Player Draft, the Hall of Fame Announcement Specials, All-Star Coverage, Postseason and World Series Coverage, and working closely with the Red Sox in ’04 through ’06 and the Mets for four seasons as well. I also worked for MSG in NY for two years hosting post game for the Knicks and Rangers, their MSGNY (Sportscenter-like) flagship show, and working on hockey broadcasts. I continue my relationship with them from time to time. In addition, I have worked as a baseball analyst/journalist for SNY, CN8, and other networks.

IIATMS: What was your first job in media/sports?

  • My first “job” was at ESPN Radio doing a spot on their afternoon drive show back in 2002 where I basically was brought in for twenty minutes and people would call in and try and challenge me to a sports debate. Let’s just say I didn’t lose too often! Ha, in all seriousness it didn’t even pay but it did help push my break that I had gotten on ESPN Dream Job earlier that year – and led to other radio jobs down the road.

IIATMS: Was this your first job out of college?

  • My first job out of college was with the S&P 500. After I left school, I had to step things up for the family and financially I needed to usually marketing and sales skills I had used over the past few years during school to be able to help out. I worked for Standard and Poors, then as a head hunter, and finally in sales for a large insurance broker in Los Angeles, before four years after getting out of school I began to push back for my dream. I wrote for websites and magazines, paid radio stations for air time, and did basically anything I possibly could to get things jump started.

IIATMS: What schooling was essential for landing your dream job?

  • I went to Boston University and then for financial reasons ended up going to a small community college to finish things up. Family has always been my top priority and always will be. Toughing things out the way I did was the right and perfect path for me. I think it made me a stronger, better person and in some ways, a lot of ways, a better suited guy to host and speak to and for even the people at times. I wouldn’t take anything back that I have gone through — it all happens or a reason.

IIATMS: What’s the best part of the job? Worst?

  • Hmmm….the best part of the job has to be when someone tells me that I entertain them and help them through the day. I can’t express in words what it means to me when I hear that because with the struggles we go through in every day life, and those I have faced in my past as well, I know how difficult things can get. Sometimes it is important to have an outlet to be able to vent frustrations through sports, to get behind your team (or at times railroad them) to make yourself feel better, and to laugh. Having fans of my work and what I do, what I put my heart into every day – means everything.
  • The worst part? Tough one. Probably the struggle at times to prove yourself in this industry. I have big goals and “dreams” and I won’t stop until I get there.

IIATMS:. How would you recommend breaking into media/sports?

  • I would probably recommend for a beginner, someone in school, someone who thinks they have what it takes but is looking for a start, etc – that they utilize their own ability to what I always call “push” – That means don’t send resumes out, call people. At times don’t call – just drive there and show up and break the door down. Get in someone’s face and tell them why they need you, why you can do this. Then show them.

 

IIATMS: What’s the pre-show planning look like? How much time, what’s involved, who’s involved?

  • The pre-show planning was kind of described above but I do a ton of work behind the scenes trying to find something different to bring to the table. People who listen to my shows can tell how much I think about them before hand. From funky ideas, to fun questions to spark conversations, to sometimes just pointed arguments on a specific topic, I hope people can tell what literally is hours per day off the air that I spend on my creative side, and with research, trying to format the best show possible for the listener.

IIATMS: How many people involved in the actual production of a radio show?

  • For most shows there is a host, a producer, and an associate producer. Sometimes things as with all jobs need to be “thrown up the chain of command” to get some assistance on putting things together. And in my case… lots of approval. I like going outside the box – sometimes too far :)

IIATMS: You’re a Mets fan from childhood; how do you keep your comments from tilting too heavily towards them?

  • To be honest for those who know me off or on air this is easy for me. If anything I am usually too hard on this organization, I am definitely not a homer let’s put it that way. Are there times I have to be careful and conscious about it? Definitely. But as an on-air host of a show like this it is easy because my opinions drive the show so I can be 110% honest about how I feel. When I was covering the team at MLB.com and hosting a show for them which aired among other places at the stadium itself, it was tricky at times. Admittedly, as everyone does in that instance whether they admit it or not, I had to be guarded at times and make sure that I understood I was being paid to do a job and I had to honor that. But there was a time or two I said some things and heard about it. That’s happened to me more than a handful of times throughout my career from a number of teams. I like to think it’s “Street Cred” – Haha, in all seriousness, I love talking baseball and moreso about other teams than the Mets, because I enjoy showing that all fans should be created equal.

IIATMS: Best caller comment ever?

  • Best caller comment ever. Easy. I often laugh about this with Jim Duquette, who is a good friend of mine in addition to being a co-worker now but many years ago I was doing a show for MLBRadio and a caller called me and asked if he could give me a trade rumor and get my thoughts. It had apparently “just broke” – Normally when this happens a host cringes or gets the claws out because most of these are so ridiculous and so far fetched from ever coming close to actually happening that you usually have to rip the caller…..the guy begins to tell me about “Kazmir for Zambrano” and I said “Carlos?” He said “No, Victor.” I started laughing. Destroyed the guy. Then I found out it was true! Oops.

IIATMS: Worst caller comment ever?

  • Isn’t that also the Worst Caller comment ever? Haha, hmmm…this is tough. I can’t really recall any bad ones that stick out to me specifically. I have gotten a bunch over the years where people will call me and try and get into conversations about race or pulling “the race card” and I hate those calls because I try and be naive enough to actually believe that as sports fans we are past that at this point.

 

IIATMS: Funniest/Best behind-the-scenes moment?

  • I have had a number of behind the scenes “moments” but I will give you one that comes to mind off the bat. It was in 2004 when I was with MLB.com. Among other things at the time, I was hosting a show for the Sox website and I was with the team down the stretch and throughout their amazing postseason run. Still and will always be the most special thing I have ever covered during my career. Being in the clubhouse for all of that was just incredible. That said, I wasn’t there for the celebration when they beat the Yankees in game seven of the ALCS. I was sent with my camera man back to Boston to be there in case they beat the Bombers as it would have been a moment for that city that had to be captured. After the game, during the mayhem outside of the Cask ‘N Flagon/Fenway Park I was on air doing a hit in front of the crazy crowd, getting pushed and knocked around and jumped on — it was like covering some riot for CNN. In any case on camera to my right was a guy freaking out holding a boom box (must have been listening to the game outside the park) – In the middle of my “stand up” or “report” this guy gets pushed and his stereo slams into my mic and then into my face smashing me in the mouth chipping my tooth and making me have to pretend it “was cool” so I could finish the report. Ah, professionalism.

IIATMS: Dealing with callers: how do you handle the stupid ones without laughing at them?

  • Sometimes it is so tough that I actually do laugh – but for the most part I am usually nice to callers and will kill them with kindness explaining why what they said is absolutely ridiculous. However, if they get angry and fire back thinking they’re still right – that’s when I take the cuffs off and those who have heard me do this in the past can attest that I can really make someone uncomfortable in that spot. I’ll never forget during high school I was the Mock Trial lawyer (finished second in the state btw – woohoo) and even though it wasn’t even real – I made the girl cry in Cross Examination during the semi-finals. I am a real pain in the you-know-what when I’m pissed and think I know what Im talking about.

IIATMS: Best perk of being in the media/sports?

  • No brainer. Being there for these moments. Being in the winning locker room for all these World Series and seeing these millionaires turn into little kids, sitting behind Scott Kazmir and Ian Kinsler and watching Josh Hamilton’s amazing Derby performance, and so many others – it is just really surreal to be honest.

IIATMS: Most overrated part?

  • The most overrated part is the meeting of the players and getting to know the players to be honest. I am friendly with some and I know many – but that’s not what I got into this business for. That’s what everyone asks about. But it isn’t what I do this for, nor what I care most about. I care about the fans.

IIATMS: Ever have a major story (sports or otherwise) break while you were on the air? What happened?

  • This has happened several times. One of the recent ones has to be that I was on air when Alex Rodriguez got outed for steroid use. It turned into a fiesty three hours. Honestly, sounds bad probably but I cherrish and LOVE those moments. That’s what I do this for. To be able to help relay the story, break it down, and at first glance go through my thought processes with my listeners and to get theirs – that’s what it’s all about.

IIATMS: You regularly interact with listeners via social networking sites like Facebook (though you avoid Twitter). How has this medium changed the way you run a show?

  • This is an easy one for me because I probably utilize this more than any host I know and to be honest, I think they’re making a giant mistake. Working for MLB.com for years and truly understanding the grandeur of the internet and its use for baseball probably helps but I think this really stems from and ties into what makes me who I am as a host – good or bad – right or wrong – and that’s that I was one of you. And still am. I called radio stations to talk about my teams growing up, I read story after story, watched Sportscenter 45 times, I did all of that. So when I was working on Wall Street for example I was always sneaking away from my work to read stories bout baseball or to listen to the radio to hear from other fans and get their thoughts. I put myself in those shoes again – and with facebook and really with the show in general – I try and give the listeners what I used to think I deserved.

IIATMS: Do you aspire to working for a team in play-by-play broadcasting? Media relations?

  • Good question and one I am asked often by people in this business who i have worked with who currently do it themselves. To be honest I don’t know about Play-by-Play. I think I would love it and I am sure with hard work and determination that I could do it. But there is something so special to me about connecting with people talking sports that I might not be able to leave that. Media Relations on the other hand – interesting – ironically enough based on my personality and my past in the business world I probably could – but no I’m too opinionated for that. Come on, can you have your number one P.R. guy blasting the team in the media cafeteria because he thinks they need a new manager? Probably not!

 

A big thank you to Casey for taking some time out of his holiday break to shed some insight into the media side of covering MLB.

IIATMS overlord and founder. ESPN contributor. Purveyor of luscious reality.