The Dream Job: From Hackley’s King Field to Yankee Stadium

From Hackley Review, Summer 2010
Tune in to 1050, ESPN Radio, to hear Hackley alumnus, Ryan Ruocco ’04, following in the footsteps of broadcasters Chris Berman ’73 and Keith Olbermann ’75, as he climbs the ranks of ESPN and the YES Network.
Tune in to 1050, ESPN Radio, to hear Hackley alumnus, Ryan Ruocco ’04, following in the footsteps of broadcasters Chris Berman ’73 and Keith Olbermann ’75, as he climbs the ranks of ESPN and the YES Network.


From an early age Ryan realized that he wanted to be a professional sports announcer. Reflecting on his early years, Ryan said, “I think just growing up being a sports fan and knowing I wanted to work in sports [led me to my current job.] Somehow, I always, for whatever reason, would pay attention to the announcers when I was little. If you look in my fifth grade yearbook, it says ‘I want to be a pro sports announcer’ when it says what you [want to] do. Even though my old dream was always to play, I kind of always knew it was an announcer that I wanted to be.”


Ryan’s Varsity Baseball Coach Steven Frolo said, “Once he left Hackley and realized that he was not going to play 2nd base for the Yankees, this was the next best career choice to make.”Another aspect of his childhood fascination with sports was his father, “Part of the reason for that [becoming a broadcaster] was my dad and I watching games would pay attention to the announcers and comment on them.”


Although Ryan’s father also works in sports, Ryan does not think that was his main drive to become a broadcaster, “I’d say my mom or dad, and my sister Ashley as well, are the biggest influences I have in any aspects of my personality, any of my passions, or any of my, you know, my interests, or just who I am because I have unbelievable parents, and we’re really close. But I don’t think his job was the fuel for me getting into this [broadcasting], because he doesn’t really do broadcasting, he does more labor relations stuff.”


Throughout his high school years, he learned many lessons that help him in his current job. Ryan recalls his Sophomore English teacher Mike Stanitski whose vocabulary and writing lessons help him now. “He taught me how to write, really, and that has become such a useful tool for so many aspects of what I do,” said Ryan, “whether it’s preparing to do standup, where I have to write something out and then memorize it; writing the highlights; or just learning how to write for how you speak.”


One more thing Ryan brought with him from Hackley is the Hackley dress code. Ryan shared some important advice, “Especially when you’re young, you’ve got to try to be as professional as you can in every way possible,” he said. “Attire, interaction with other people in the business, interaction with athletes if you’re covering sports, and in the way you approach different issues.” When asked if his respect towards professional attire came from years of Hackley dress code, he admitted collared shirts were the bane of his existence. “When I got to college the first thing I was looking forward to was to roll out of bed and go to class in sweatpants and a hoodie every day.”


After Hackley, Ryan attended Loyola University for a year. In his last couple of months at Loyola he did start working for the local campus radio station, and it was there that he realized radio sports announcing was something he truly had a passion for, but he had already decided to transfer. His decision to transfer to Fordham University came from a desire to be closer to home and from the knowledge of Fordham’s professional radio station WFUV. “[WFUV’s Executive Producer for Sports] Bob Aherns did a great job of demonstrating to me the long lineage of outstanding broadcasters that come from Fordham and the incredible opportunities that would be offered me there,” said Ryan, “if I proved I was worthy, both in work ethic and talent.” He also expressed excitement at the prospect of working in the Yankees Club House, which he described as “the most hallowed ground in the world for me.”


While working for WFUV Ryan gained experience in the field before he left college. “Most people who want to get into this business are leaving college with no years of professional radio experience, just looking to get that first opportunity,” said Ryan. “A lot of them can’t do it in New York, and have to go through a lot more loops, but I think WFUV really accelerated the curve for me.” Ryan got to report for the Nets and Yankees, do play-by-play work for Fordham teams, and continue learning from Mr. Ahrens and older students.


Another perk of working at WFUV was their system of workshops. “We would have one [workshop] a week, and different people from the business, not always announcers but it could be executives, could be salespeople, whatever, but people involved in the business, and a lot of times they would listen to our tapes and critique them.” Ryan gave names such as Knicks Television play-by-play announcer Mike Breen and NFL Announcer Bob Papa, “when you have people who are legitimately in the business who say you can do it, you start to believe it even more,” said Ryan.


Now Ryan has multiple jobs. He is hosting a show called the Lead-off Spot from 5-6 AM on 1050 ESPN; he does updates during 1050’s “Mike and Mike” in the Morning from 6-9 AM; he is the stadium scoreboard host when the Yankees play home games; he hosts Yankees On-Demand by AT&T, where he is able to do features with players on and off the field; and he does some independent play-by-play work. “I am tired, no doubt, because I get up every day for the Lead-off Spot at 3:05,” said Ryan. “But every time I want to complain, I remind myself that I’m doing what I love.”


One of Ryan’s mentors who has really helped him learn that lesson of appreciation is Michael Kay. Ryan said, “He taught me how to always keep a positive demeanor, even if the hours are bothering you or whatever, always remember you’re doing what you love, so enjoy it. He has become one of my best friends.”


Not only had Michael Kay helped Ryan behind the scenes, he also helps him on air by going “out of his way, on air, to bring me up, to praise me, completely unnecessarily, never asking for anything in return, so I call him Obi-Wan.”


But one of the most important lessons that Ryan has learned during his career is to always try to be yourself on the air. “It’s very important to not try to be someone else in this business,” said Ryan. “Then you come off as fake and everything you say or do will be contrived or at least perceived as much, and you won’t be yourself, and eventually you’re always going to have to be especially when you’re talking for a long period of time, it’s hard to put on an act for a long time.”


While being yourself on air is important, it is almost as important to be professional, in attire and demeanor. “If you can show that level of professionalism,” said Ryan. “You know, a kind of a nice, steady, calm, and even keel, that’s going to have a more profound effect on people listening.”


By Randi K.’12 and Marc B.’12


Randi and Marc are members of the Dial staff. This piece is an expanded version of an article written for the Dial.