Baseball broadcaster heads home

Glenn Geffner - Baseball broadcaster heads home, pictured with A. Dawson.

Glenn Geffner started announcing World Series games to himself in his bedroom at around age eight. About three
decades later, he did it on the radio as a play-by-play man for the 2007 Boston Red Sox.

In the years ahead, Geffner (BSJ90) hopes to do the same for the Miami Marlins, where he came full circle to work starting in 2008. “I had grown up in South Florida without a baseball team, dreaming that one day we would have one,” he says. “I saw the opportunity to be part of building something here.”

Geffner’s path to the broadcast booth, which also has included stops with the San Diego Padres and the minor league Rochester (N.Y.) Red Wings, first gained traction at Northwestern, where he announced football, basketball and baseball games for WNUR-FM. There, he realized he could turn broadcasting into a career.

Geffner began in Rochester as an unpaid intern and made ends meet by doubling as the team’s mascot, R.W. Homer, essentially a giant baseball with a hat, arms and legs, for $25 per appearance plus regular humiliation at the hands of young fans. “What the kids came to learn is that once R.W. got knocked off his feet, he was going to have a hard time getting back up,” he laughs.

He moved on to a full-time public relations job with the Red Wings and then became a broadcaster, a pattern that would repeat both in San Diego and Boston. He worked with Hall of Fame broadcaster Jerry Coleman in San Diego and with Joe Castligione in Boston. Now, Geffner is alongside Hall of Famer Dave Van Horne. 

Geffner has many fond memories of both his earlier Major League stops, getting to know legendary players such as the late Tony Gw ynn, and watching the Red Sox as they went from heartbreak in 2003, losing the American League Championship Series to the New York Yankees, to World Series championships in 2004 and 2007. “That’s something you never forget — what it meant to the city and the state and region,” Geffner says of the 2004 victory, the team’s first World Series win in 86 years.

Castiglione can’t say enough about how much he enjoyed working with Geffner. “He was so well-prepared,” Castiglione says. “And he had personality — he was a lot of fun to be with.”

The return to South Florida has meant a somewhat less allconsuming lifestyle. “Particularly the years we were there, the Red Sox were so big, it was hard to ever leave your job behind,” Geffner says. “In Miami, I’m able to do that more. You want to devote every minute you can to your family.”

But he still ranks finding work-life balance as the toughest thing in his profession. For seven or eight months out of the year, even when he’s home, he barely sees his three children, ages five to 14, aside from waking up early to see them off to school. “There’s so much homework — and I’m one who over-prepares,” says Geffner, whose work is broadcast throughout Florida on the Miami Marlins Radio Network. “I’m lucky I’ve had a very understanding wife who knew
what she was getting into.”

His favorite part of the job is undoubtedly the game. He didn’t want to settle for broadcasting just any sport. “Now every night for three hours, I get to watch a ballgame,” he says. “It’s so different than any other sport because it’s every single day. You’re part of the soundtrack of people’s summers.”

Even when the team has a night game, Geffner’s typical day starts in the morning. He researches the starting pitchers and hitters on both teams, even though teams provide notes to the media. “If I make a mistake, I want it to be my mistake,” he says.

Geffner gets to the ballpark at least four hours before game time, sets up in the booth and then goes down to the clubhouse and onto the field during batting practice. He views his role as a blend of journalism and public relations. He aims to strike a balance between telling it like it is and maintaining his credibility, he says. And, of course, he tries to remain positive, support the team as best he can and help sell tickets.

His Medill education pays off on multiple levels. “At the end of the day, I’m a storyteller,” he says. “That’s where the Medill experience comes in handy. How do you tell a story in an interesting way? And check your facts. You don’t want to get the Medill ‘F.’ If you make a mistake, you’ll hear about it on Twitter.”

Geffner regularly mentors current WNUR sportscasters. His main piece of advice: Broadcast is not something you can learn from a textbook. “There’s a lot you don’t hear until you go back and listen to yourself on tape,” he says. “You may say, ‘I’ve got to slow down,’ or ‘there’s too much dead air’ or ‘I use this expression too much.’ ”

More than anything, Geffner says, pay your dues and stop worrying about the next move. “You’ve got to throw yourself into whatever you’re doing at that moment. Like a player, you never know when you’re being scouted.”