If you had asked Chris Garagiola ’15 as a first-year student where he pictured himself after college, odds are he would not have mentioned working as a lead broadcaster for a minor league baseball team in Pensacola, Fla.
To get to where he is today, Chris has had to adapt his skills and move around the world, but it all became worth it when he got the call offering him the job as the lead broadcaster of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Double-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.
“I was driving to San Antonio from Arizona,” Chris recalls when he received the call. “I can’t describe the emotion. That was such a weight lifted off my shoulders.”
Chris came to Trinity from Arizona, looking to play baseball at a collegiate level. After two years of intense practices and long hours spent on the field, he was ready for a change and began searching for a new passion. The communication lab caught his eye, and he asked professors how he could get involved. Soon, he was broadcasting football games with a single camera.
In part, Chris’s commitment to follow his passion for broadcasting was fostered at Trinity. He was introduced to professors and faculty, who, he says, “really gave me a sense of belief and who very frequently encouraged me to pursue this at a time in my life when I was filled with a lot of self-doubt.” He says that Trinity’s intimate environment was perfect for an introduction to broadcasting: “I had access the second I wanted it. Here I had teachers, I had mentors, I had friends that even when I struggled, they told me it was okay and just to keep going.”
After a generous donation that allowed the University to purchase more equipment, the Tiger Network was born, which broadcasts events on campus, such as home athletic games, lectures, and commencements, live and on-demand for a worldwide audience. Chris was the first broadcaster for the Tiger Network and has seen it grow since then—it now employs dozens of student interns. He describes the Tiger Network as the “perfect opportunity for students who might be interested in production or broadcasting to get legitimate hands-on experience.” The Tiger Network was a great place for Chris to simulate the real-world environment of sports broadcasting and make mistakes in a safe space.
Chris graduated with a degree in communication and a strong passion for broadcasting when his whirlwind career path began. He landed a public relations internship with the Cincinnati Reds (MLB), and was told by his boss if he got his work done in time, he could sit in the radio booth and watch the game from there. He took the opportunity to observe some of the best broadcasters in the game during his months in Cincinnati.
Having heard about internships offered in the minor leagues that combine PR and broadcasting work, Chris applied and accepted a position at the former Cincinnati Reds’ Double-A affiliate, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, in Pensacola, Fla. He worked the 2017 season under his predecessor, Tommy Thrall, soaking up everything he could from the experienced broadcaster. Chris now laughs about the poor quality of his broadcasts from his early months in Pensacola. After working the off-season for the Melbourne Aces in Australia, he returned to the Wahoos for a second season (2018) working as a media relations trainee. This past season, Thrall was offered a MLB contract, and Chris got the call to replace him.
“This job was what I dreamed of,” he says. “I can’t wait to get started. I’d be lying to say I wasn’t nervous a little bit because I’ll be the lead. I am just excited to get started, and I hope I will be there for many years.” In his new position, he will broadcast all 140 games of the season, including away games. The biggest challenge he will face will be trying to make sure the caliber of the broadcast lives up to Thrall’s. “I respect the hell out of him,” Chris explains.
Chris acknowledges that broadcasting runs in his family, which will follow his career forever. His grandfather, Joe Garagiola Sr., was one of the best broadcasters in MLB history and devoted 58 years to announcing the sport. “By the time I could remember things, every time I told someone my last name, they would ask ‘Oh, are you related?,’ and I did not really come to appreciate what that meant until much later,” Chris says.
Despite the connection, Chris explains he discovered his passion for broadcasting without the influence of his grandfather. “I would not honestly say that I got into broadcasting because of him,” he says. “I got started in high school when a game would be on and it would be muted, and I would just riff and see how long I could go.” He had fun making his friends laugh.
Before Garagiola Sr.’s passing, Chris got the chance to tell his grandfather his career goals, and “he got really excited.” He adds that he is glad his grandfather was spared from hearing his early broadcasts.
“Wherever he is, if he is able to tune in, I think he would be very proud of the progress I’ve made,” Chris says. “Every year it is the same goal. It’s just, look at what you’ve done, and identify how you can get better by the end of this year.”
Leaving Trinity with the belief that a career in broadcasting was ambitious, but possible, gave Chris the grit to fight through a year in Ohio where he did not broadcast “a single thing” and the confidence to move halfway around the world and broadcast for a completely different league. Now he is ready to be the voice of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos and take that next step forward. When asked his goals for this upcoming season, Chris explains that “one of the things I will learn this year is my style. I know to take it seriously, prepare beforehand, respect the game and the people in the game, and try to have fun doing it. I hope towards the end I will figure out my voice and that it is centered around being myself.”