Rochester Red Wings broadcaster Josh Whetzel Stays on the Call

Josh Whetzel has been calling minor league baseball games for nearly 25 years. Beginning in 1995 with the now-defunct Albany (Ga.) Polecats, Whetzel has steadily climbed his way up the minor league ladder, including stints with the Kinston Indians and Binghamton Mets before joining the Rochester Red Wings in 2003.

Rochester Red Wings broadcaster Josh WhetzelLike most everyone else in the minors, Whetzel, a native of Parsons, Kan., keeps his sights set on making it to the majors. Though a career in the minors can be a grind — whether as a player, executive or broadcaster — Whetzel considers himself fortunate to be calling games in the International League.

What follows is my conversation with Whetzel about his path through minors and what it takes to make it as a broadcaster in baseball. The transcript has been edited in spots for length and clarity.

Can you describe what a day in the life of a minor league broadcaster is like?

It kind of varies a lot depending on the guy and his job description. Quite frankly, I have a few less responsibilities than probably a lot of the other minor league broadcasters, which is fine by me. It gives me more time to focus on trying to come up with stuff to talk about in the games.

My previous jobs, I was more involved in the PR stuff and putting together game notes and that sort of thing. In this particular job with the Red Wings, I don’t have to do as much of the PR stuff and I am not involved with the game notes, and so basically I spend all day getting ready for the broadcast, scouring the internet for tidbits of information that I am going to use in the game that night.

I know a little bit about your backstory, that you survived cancer at a young age and in some ways that helped lead you into a career as a broadcaster. Can you shed some light on that experience? 

By the time I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to get into sports broadcasting, but I’m not the sort of person who is good at asking people for stuff, so I didn’t necessarily know how to get a job in radio. I was helping the local sports announcer in my hometown do stats for high school games and that sort of thing. And when I got diagnosed with cancer when I was going into my senior year of high school, some classmates of mine knew that I was a huge baseball fan, and specifically a Dodgers fan. So they contacted an outfit called the Dream Factory, which is kind of like Make-A-Wish, and organized a trip to Los Angeles for me to see the Dodgers.

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Rochester Steps up to the Plate Again with Return of Hit Promotion

Dan Mason wasn’t sure what to expect last August when the Rochester Red Wings hosted their first “Plates Night,” a tribute to a local popular delicacy creatively called the Garbage Plate. Sure, the Red Wings general manager was familiar with the success of other franchises adopting the moniker of favorite foods — see Tacos in Fresno and Bacon in Lehigh Valley — and he hoped for a similar response in Rochester when the team swapped their Red Wings name for a dish created a century ago.

The response, it turned out, went beyond Mason’s expectations. It was one for the books. The Red Wings, or rather the Plates, welcomed the fifth-largest crowd in Frontier Field history on Aug. 10 — 13,281 fans to be exact, just shy of the record 13,723 set in 1997 for an exhibition against the Baltimore Orioles.

Rochester Red Wings specialty Plates jerseys.
More than a meal: Rochester Red Wings will wear “Plates” jerseys for Thursday home games.

“People love their Garbage Plates,” Mason said yesterday of the dish made famous at Nick Tahou Hots restaurant that consists of home fries topped with macaroni salad, two hamburger patties or hot dogs, hot sauce, onions, ketchup and mustard. “It’s something people in Rochester are very proud of.”

So, it is certainly no surprise that Plates Night is playing a prominent role on the Red Wings’ promotional schedule this season. In fact, Rochester will be donning their Plates jerseys for every Thursday home game, beginning this evening with “Plates Opening Night.” While Mason doesn’t expect the team to make a run at the attendance record again tonight, particularly on a school night when temperatures are still a bit chilly, he does have high hopes for a packed promotion.

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