This is the 12th in a series of articles about summer internships for students in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — They say champions are made in the offseason. It’s a mantra Brandon Pelter believes in and why, hours before game time, he is at the stadium studying statistics and interviewing players so that the evening’s play-by-play is better than the last.
The junior broadcast journalism major is spending his summer in Massachusetts as the play-by-play announcer for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, the reigning champions of the collegiate summer Cape Cod Baseball League. For more than a month now, Pelter has been calling Red Sox games from the booth. Thanks to his preparation, when it’s time for the first pitch, he is seamlessly sharing statistics and stark observations with fans listening in.
“No matter what Brandon does on air … talk show, broadcast, play-by-by, analysis … he makes sure he puts in the time behind the scenes,” said Brian Tripp, a Penn State Sports Network broadcaster and Pelter’s former supervisor. “He is dedicated and always willing to learn more about the craft.”
Pelter repeats the word “opportunity” regularly when talking about his career. Like a strategic coach, he sees it at every turn. As a freshman in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, he joined CommRadio as soon as he arrived on campus. Within two weeks, he was broadcasting live from a Penn State men’s soccer game. He still has the game recorded on his laptop, but a bit reluctant to listen to it.
“If I listened back to it now, I would laugh at myself,” Pelter said. “It was an eye-opening experience and made me realize I had a lot more work to do.”
Adding to the challenge of calling that match was the evening’s opponent. The Nittany Lions were playing Loyola Marymount University, a team also called the Lions. “That tripped me up a lot,” he said.
Since then, Pelter has called many more Penn State sporting events, including football, basketball and wrestling. His work calling women’s soccer, softball and wrestling has also been featured on the Big Ten Network’s Student U Productions, which airs student-produced events on the network’s channel and mobile apps.
“Student U is a great program,” Pelter said. “Not many college students get a chance to do things for TV in the live setting. It really allowed me to work on my radio and TV, and get a feel for both.”
Highlights of his first two years at Penn State include providing the play-by-play for both the NCAA Wrestling Championships in New York’s Madison Square Garden and the second half of the Big Ten football championship game in Indianapolis for CommRadio.
“It was incredible,” Pelter said about Penn State’s 21-point comeback in the game versus Wisconsin. “Never had I seen a comeback that crazy.”
But new situations and never-seen-before plays don’t have to be on the biggest stage. Pelter said he sees something new in every game he covers. It’s an unpredictability that Tripp says sportscasters have to be ready for — and a skill he saw in Pelter from day one.
“There are so many pieces coming at you during an event. You have to see what’s happening on the field, take what you prepared and apply it to the situation,” Tripp said. “You never know what’s going to happen, so to be able to rely on recall, you have to be naturally gifted. You can practice and practice, but some people just have it and that’s what I see in Brandon.”
Pelter isn’t sure when his love for sports started. He played and coached baseball while in high school in Somers, New York. Pelter’s brother graduated from Penn State in 2012, and with big-time sports and a distinguished journalism program, the University caught his eye.
“It all started with CommRadio when I visited. From day one, I got involved,” Pelter said. “I saw play-by-play as a unique and awesome opportunity to stay around sports and make it a lifetime.”
With the Red Sox, Pelter saw an opportunity to be the live play-by-play announcer for one team for an entire season. Most major- and minor-league teams have full-time announcers, so to have that role as an intern was extra special. Better yet, the Red Sox are one of the most successful teams in Cape Cod League history and playing for their league-record fourth consecutive championship this season.
“It’s a very serious league,” he said. “The players have a lot to prove and a lot of great prospects come through here. Players get on the radar of major league teams here.”
Pelter equates the league to single-A baseball. The games are free and fans have a chance to see young prospects early on their way to becoming stars. Red Sox alumni include major league all-stars Buster Posey, Craig Biggio and Justin Turner, among others.
“The players give it their all and play their hearts out,” he said. On June 21, the Red Sox scored nine runs in the eighth inning to beat the Chatham Anglers, 11-8. Pelter was there to call the comeback. “It was a spectacular game,” he said. “These guys play with something to prove.”
Every time he gets behind the microphone, Pelter has something to prove as well. Whether it’s collegiate wrestling or summer league baseball, he wants to prove to his listeners that he is informed and ready for anything. With six games a week, Pelter spends about five to six hours preparing for each game. He says you can tell when the announcer is not prepared.
“It’s easy to sit on the couch and listen and think, 'That job is easy,'” he said. “Yes, it’s a dream job, but you either get it done or you don’t. … I’m trying to do my best at being as prepared as possible and always put on a good broadcast.”