Rays Broadcaster Series: Patrick Kinas

Our Rays Broadcaster Series continues with an interview with the new broadcaster for the Durham Bulls - Patrick Kinas. In this exclusive interview, Kinas tells Rays Digest how he got started in broadcasting, the inspiration behind his founding the Triangle Sportcaster Camp, what some of his favorite moments have been in his career and what he is doing to prepare for his new job with the Bulls.

Rays Digest: Many broadcasters choose different paths to get to where they are. You got your M.A. from the prestigious Medill Journalism School at Northwestern. When and how did you discover that broadcasting is what you wanted to do with your life?

Patrick Kinas: If you polled every broadcaster in the business, you'd find our paths into the booth are like DNA. No two stories will be alike. I love reading the stories of the storytellers. To me, they're just as compelling, just much less known. My story can be traced back to a couple of specific moments - that I can remember anyway. When I was 7, knowing I was an enormous Cubs fan - as enormous as a kid 4'5, 85 lbs. can be - my mom bought me a baseball board-dice game called Strat-O-Matic. Well, I would much rather watch and play the game outside, than a board game. So a couple of weeks went by, and the game still had its original wrapping on it, and she was on her way back to the mall 35 miles away to return it when my older brother Doug chased her car down the driveway to get the game, saying that he would teach me how to play. From about that moment on, I spent literally six hours a day in my bedroom rolling the dice, keeping stats, and turned the passive result on the card into an active result. I continued to play this game until I was about 17 and still have all of the yellowing cards.

But to your question on how I discovered that broadcasting was what I wanted to do with my life. I remember that same year, when I was 17, sitting at lunch with my dad in a booth of Pontiac's Pizza Hut and he asked me that question. I didn't have an answer. It hadn't even dawned on me that sportscasting was an actual "job". You mean, people got paid for this? I had already called plenty of games on my local radio station, but never really considered this as a career path. But I really didn't even want to go to college. I wanted to be a pro bowler. A pro tennis player. And Spiderman. The latter was a bit earlier in life. So as my dad and I talked, it became clear that the one thing that I really loved doing was expressing my creativity and talking about sports. Fortunately things worked out, and as the saying goes, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. I've accidentally spilled beer on an executive's tie while interning at WGN, which led directly to my first pro baseball job. At that moment, I was absolutely certain my relationship with my girlfriend at the time would last longer than my broadcasting career. Fortunately, the opposite occurred. I've had a lot of luck in my career, which somehow amazingly, has guided me to Durham.

Rays Digest: Much like Joe Davis, the voice of the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits who we previously featured, you also call other sports. One of your other gigs is broadcasting the North Carolina State University women's basketball team. Would you consider baseball your primary sport and why did you choose it over other sports?

Patrick Kinas: This is always an interesting question, and one that I'm asked frequently. I like to say that my primary sport is whatever is in season. I love all sports, and I love calling all sports, whether it's a college football game before a national TV audience, which I've done, or a TV bowling event with an audience of the guy who oils the lanes and someone at the snack bar selling Cheetos, which I've also done! So yes, my primary sport - right now - is baseball. Ask me again in six months, and I'll have a different answer!

But you're right. We all work a lot. And I use that term "work" loosely. While it IS work, in the final analysis, it's a different breed of work, which is why we all continually strive to pick up more "work" - more games, more sports, more events. In the beginning of a career, it's a nice way to improve your craft, get noticed and feel self-validated. As your career continues, you realize that you don't necessarily have to do it all, and take every assignment that exists. Life gets in the way - in a good way. As my career has evolved, I just really love telling stories, which is why I continue to accept about any assignment that comes about. It doesn't matter if it's women's basketball, college football, tennis, swimming, bowling, track, soccer, lacrosse or any other possible event that is televised. I approach it this way - if it's important enough for the athletes to be playing, it's imperative that I treat it as the most important broadcast in the world. Parents are watching, brothers are watching. Fans of a particular school or team are watching, and for them, they're making a date with you on the broadcast, and you better show up with flowers, candy and a dinner reservation. And all of these coaches and players have stories and backgrounds that have brought them to the moment before you and your audience. The real fun and satisfaction in this job for me is finding those stories, and breathing life into them. But if you take a broadcast for granted, you take your audience for granted, the coaches and players for granted, and that's the moment that you do a major disservice to your industry.

Rays Digest: In 2009 you founded the Triangle Sportscaster Camp which allows high school and college students to go through three days of broadcasting training. What is the experience like at the camp, and what inspired you to create such a program?

Patrick Kinas: This camp is something that I'm really proud of, and not for the reasons you're probably thinking. When I began scratching out the idea of the camp, I just started thinking about all of the things that I would have wanted had something like this existed when I was a kid. I will always remember my parents telling me that they would support my career choice of sports broadcasting, but that they had no idea how they could help, so they would just cheerlead. My oldest brother wanted to be a lawyer, so they knew to send him to law school. My middle is a CFO, and they knew to send him to business school. My sister is a pharmacist, and they funneled her to pharmacy school. I wanted to be a sportscaster. They said good luck and pass the ketchup. So I thought that building a camp like this for kids like me might help to bridge the gap on how they can assist their kids with their interest in the industry.

I'm really fortunate to have so many good friends and great sportscasters in the region who are willing to give up a day of their time to come talk to the kids who are contemplating a career in this industry. It's a very intense, three-day effort to provide the kids with real-life examples of what our field is truly like - outside of the perceived glamor of it all. They hear the unvarnished truth about how challenging it is, how hard it is, and spend time developing the skeleton of their careers. They write copy, they call highlights on camera, they interview, they get a sense of how important "time" is. They call play-by-play. They have a chance to interact with some of their favorite sportscasters the see on TV and hear on radio. They get critiqued by these same sportscasters. They learn about how critical sales are to the being a success in the field. They really have a three-day experience that is just as important for them to determine if they want to pursue a career in the field as it is to determine if it's NOT what they want to pursue. When they hear Duke Blue Devils voice Bob Harris talk about his career selling shoes before he lucked into the Blue Devils radio job, or hear about NC State voice Gary Hahn talking about working with David Letterman in college, decades before landing the Wolfpack job, it reinforces to the kids that you just don't say you want to be a broadcaster, and wind up on ESPN next month. In the three years thus far, we've had over 40 boys AND girls attend, some more than once, and several now are calling games for their high schools, colleges, and wooden bat leagues, while others have earned TV and radio internships. Lastly, the night before the camp starts, I'm about to have a breakdown because of all the things that have to happen to make it a success for them. But when it's all over, you realize it's all worth it. The kids are really incredibly special and in some cases, very talented, and that's what makes it all worthwhile.

Rays Digest: One special thing you have done is break the Guinness Book of World Records mark for marathon bowling while raising money for the September 11th fund. How important is it to you to be an active part of the community and influence lives through your work off the field?

Patrick Kinas: I wish I had more time to involve myself more in the community. Raleigh-Durham is a really wonderful place, yet there are so many people here who could use a little extra help. I am the president of Northwestern's Alumni Association here in the Triangle, as well as coordinator of a youth tennis league for one of the Triangle communities. I spend my holidays serving at homeless shelters when my schedule allows, and it's an amazing experience, and a very humbling time. The struggle with working in this business is that you just don't have a great deal of free time to devote to any one project, which is a pretty lame excuse. We do spend a lot of time prepping for the next game, which is usually in a few day's time, so we can always find easy obstacles as to why we can't go serve, or help someone shop, etc. In the end, we're not going to be judged by how many games we broadcast. We'll be judged by how many lives we've impacted positively. I have a long way to go in that department, but I'll keep trying to do better.

Rays Digest: Broadcasters often have specific events that become cherished memories and the highlights of their careers. Is there a specific moment that sticks out to you when you look back at almost 15 years as a play-by-play announcer?

Patrick Kinas: My specific moments aren't going to be of a certain instance, but more personal things that I remember to this stage. As I close in on my first Triple-A broadcast, I think about every first game I had with my previous teams. In Clinton, Iowa, my dad and brother were in attendance, both proudly listening. After it was over, I remember my dad being so proud, and my brother asking where I was during the game. I pointed up to the press box and said "I was right there!" He said that wasn't what he meant... he didn't hear his brother on the air. Meaning my personality. I talked fast. I only talked about stats. And really, I wasn't any good. So that was the time when I began to think about being myself on the air, and not a product of anything else. I had to be true to who I was, and if the audience liked it great, and if they didn't, oh well. My first game with Kane County, I opened on the road at Fort Wayne, and I remember after the first 1/2 inning, I heard this loud pounding on my booth's door. I went back to open the door and found the home radio guy who was banging his head against the door. It was his first game too, and he said he was upset with himself that he had made mistakes in that inning. I told him if I pounded my head for all the mistakes I'd made, I'd be permanently concussed. He didn't laugh. My first game with Carolina was also on the road, and I remember getting to Pringles Park, walking in the clubhouse searching for my equipment. I couldn't find it. Looked everywhere. Wasn't a prank. No one had any idea. Not in the training room. Not in the coaches' office. Not on the bus. First Double-A game, 13 hours from home and I lost the equipment. I run to the press box and go into the home radio booth in a state of panic to make a phone call, and the broadcaster tells me - no worries. Your bags are in your booth. The clubbie brings them up. Walked into my booth completely embarrassed. Saw my bags. And a can of Pringles on the counter. Welcome to Double-A.

A couple of random moments I remember - a mascot fight breaking out in the darkness between Kane County and Lansing in the Midwest League Championship Game 5. Power outage in the middle of the decisive game. Mascots were there to entertain. Things got elevated. Next thing you know, they're chasing each other through the stands and brawling on the field. Fans thought it was a skit. I remember walking into the TV booth at the Superdome for my first college football telecast. Right on the 50-yard line. Trouble was, I was about 4 miles from the field. I think there were players on the field. Hard to tell. Pretty harrowing. One moment with Carolina that I will not forget is when I got an email during a broadcast from the wife of my college advisor, who helped me more in this field than anyone else has. Helped me gain an internship at WGN. Helped me become the PxP guy my freshman year in undergrad. Helped me overcome a really bad breakup. He was my rock. The email I got during the game was from his wife out west. Jimm had died a few hours earlier. That was the only time I had cried during a broadcast.

Rays Digest: You previously broadcasted for the Double-A Carolina Mudcats, who have since moved to Pensacola and were instantly replaced by a Single-A team with the same name. What made you choose the move to the Bulls, and could you envision yourself leaving North Carolina for a major league job?

Patrick Kinas: Coming to the Bulls was a perfect storm for me. I took a pretty big gamble turning down a Triple-A job in Oklahoma City last January, knowing that the Mudcats were moving down to High-A. I contemplated going to Oklahoma, but it was a pretty one-dimensional job for my liking, and my gut was just telling me that it wasn't right for me. So many people would've jumped at that job, and for some reason, I turned it down. I'm sure plenty of people thought I was nuts, and there's some credence to that! There was no reason to believe that anything would open up at the end of last season, especially here in the Triangle, but when my really good friend Neil Solondz took the job with Tampa Bay, I was thrilled to be asked to join the Bulls. The Bulls are the most renown Triple-A team in the country, run so efficiently, with an awesome fan base, unparalleled members in the front office, a major local TV presence, opportunities on the MLB Network and a product that sponsors can be extremely proud of representing. It's truly amazing. They have no idea how fortunate I feel to be the new voice of the Bulls.

I'm also fortunate to have a very proactive and understanding duo of Bulls GM Mike Birling and VP George Habel. They couldn't be prouder of Neil and his accomplishments, and effectively trailblazing the Bulls' path to the major leagues. They would be ecstatic if something like that were to occur again. Maybe it will. Maybe it won't. So many things have to fall into place for that to happen. Everyone of us working in this field makes sacrifices to reach whatever our goals are. I'm no different. I'm just going to truly enjoy my time with the Bulls, do my best in the office and do my best on the air to bring the game to the eyes and ears of everyone listening. It's undeniably the best job in Triple-A.

Rays Digest: You had the honor of calling games for the Mudcats while AL Batting Champion Miguel Cabrera was in the Florida Marlins organization. What is it like calling plays for guys that you know could eventually become potential superstars, and do you often get the feeling for certain players that they could become something special?

Patrick Kinas: Miguel was a pretty quiet kid when he was on the Mudcats in 2003. It was a special team, one that went on to win the only championship I've ever been a part of. Dontrelle Wills was on that team as well for the first month, dominating every time out. With Cabrera, though, even to this day, he has been the only player that when I saw play, I honestly said on the air - that he would be in the Hall of Fame if he stayed healthy. He was that good. Every time he came up with the game on the line, he won it. Every time. How this kid, barely 20, could be so much better, hit with so much power, throw so hard, and do it all with a quiet smile on his face that almost said he was embarrassed by what he had done. I was blessed to watch him play the entire half and then the first couple of games of the 2nd half at West Tenn while the Marlins were testing him out in left field. It was just a matter of time before he went up - all the way up. In the 2nd game of the half, he hit into a 5th inning double play to end the inning, and manger Tracy Woodson pulled him when he got back into the dugout. Miguel thought he was pulled because he didn't run hard to first base. Woodson told him he was pulling him because he was going to the big leagues. The next night, we were still in West Tenn, and there was Miguel in a Marlins uniform hitting a go-homer in his first major league game. The baseball world was stunned. We, in Jackson, Tennessee, were not. He was extraordinary.

Rays Digest: You are getting ready to enter your first season as the voice of the Bulls. What have you done so far to prepare for your new role?

Patrick Kinas: To be completely honest, I've been so focused on the sponsorship side of the Bulls the last couple of months, that I've only felt tiny moments of anxiousness ahead of April 5th. Today, I actually just started to clean out the home radio booth. I have been in there a total of three times so far. I took bags of equipment, reference books, Northwestern pennants and other items that have followed me from booth to booth over the years to make my new digs feel like home. But truthfully, I've only had a couple of "oh wow" moments the last few weeks. One was when I was called by our media relations director to ask for my birthdate. When I curiously asked why, he told me that he needed it for the flight manifests. Ah. The flight manifests. Goodbye 14-hour bus rides to Pearl, MS. Love the flight manifests. The others are now where friends and family are now making plans to visit me in all of these new cities in the IL. I haven't had a game as close to my central IL home in 12 years. Until we play in Indianapolis in May. All of my family and a lot of friends will be there for that. I'm sure there will be a moment where it does hit me fully. I know it's coming. I'm just not sure when.

Rays Digest: Has there been a specific player that has jumped out at you in your research to prepare for your new job with the Bulls?

Patrick Kinas: Learning a new organization is a pretty steep challenge. This will be my 7th major league organization, so when you go through this, the learning curve is a little bit steeper. Lots of new people to know, scouts to meet, front office members with whom you begin cultivating relationships. Fortunately, I'm fairly familiar with the Rays organization thanks to Orlando & Montgomery's presence in the Southern League, so I have a relationship already with Charlie Montoyo and Neil Allen and have met a number of their players the past few years. But I'll leave you with a similar thought to what I said earlier. The broadcast will be about all of the players and their paths and the how's and why's of us intersecting beginning on April 5th. Unraveling these stories is what keeps us coming back year after year.


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