The all-but-certain move of the Tucson Sidewinders may soon have play-by-play announcer Ryan Radtke packing his bags. The team's No. 1 radio sportscaster has been a steady presence in the Old Pueblo in what is generally a nomadic industry.
Radtke has lived in Tucson since 1995, when he began his schooling at the UA. He's been a fixture of local sports radio for nearly a decade and has spent five years with the Sidewinders, the last two as their top play-by-play voice.
"My goal my whole life has been to do baseball every single day," Radtke said. "Like the players I cover, my goal is to get to the major leagues. That's not an easy thing to do. I've had a great situation in Tucson over the last five years, but if it comes down to moving this team to Reno (Nev.), and if they offer me a chance to stay with the ball club, it's definitely something I would be interested in."
Radtke has seen the so-so and the sublime. When he started doing color commentary alongside Brett Dolan (now a broadcaster with the Houston Astros), the Arizona Diamondbacks' Triple-A hub sputtered through numerous mediocre campaigns. But last year, Radtke's first solo season behind the mic, the Sidewinders were the best team at that level (and probably better than some major league teams), winning the Pacific Coast League and Triple A championships.
But good or bad, there was one Sidewinders constant: a lack of fan support. It was next to nil. The 'Winders have continuously been at or near the bottom rung in PCL attendance. If/when the move to Reno happens, there's a strong likelihood that environment will change dramatically.
"If this thing comes together, it would be an attractive situation," Radtke said. "The prospect of a brand-new stadium in a market that's clamoring for baseball could be a situation like Sacramento (Calif.) or Round Rock (Texas) has--a ballpark that is outstanding with people there every night who are passionate about the team. Everybody would love to work in a situation like that.
"All of us in the PCL now are a little jealous of the guys at Round Rock and Sacramento and Memphis (Tenn.) and the fact they get to work in those ballparks with 8,000 to 9,000 fans in the stands every night. That's a tremendous situation. That's why we always look forward to going on those road trips. If a situation like that presented itself in Reno, that would be a great place to work."
Assuming Radtke doesn't get the call to the majors--that's a question of when, not if--prior to a Reno move, it could actually be a benefit in another way: A native of the Bay Area, Radtke would be much closer to his family.
"The last time I was in Reno, I think I was 11 years old. I have talked to some people who have spent a lot of time in Reno and had good things to say about it, and it would be closer to home. Again, if that situation presents itself, it could be a tremendous opportunity," said Radtke, who added that he has felt good about the family-friendly focus of the new ownership group in his brief dealings with them."
SUBURBAN NEWSPAPERS RATCHET UP COMPETITIONWhether one wants to refer to it as a feud, there's certainly a difference of opinion between the two major competing Marana-area newspapers.
In recent editorials, the Explorer--which focuses a great deal on Marana and Oro Valley--was less than pleased with what it viewed as the town of Marana's warm reception for the new Marana Weekly News.
"What was troubling for us, if you look at our editorial a few weeks ago, was not that competition was coming, but the huge verbal smooch that Mayor (Ed) Honea laid on them in his State of the Town speech," said Explorer editor Walt Nett. "The Explorer has a lengthy track record of supporting key town issues, both editorially and financially, and we felt we'd been kicked to the curb. Admittedly, there were probably some harsh feelings lingering from our public-records lawsuit (which the Explorer won). Since then, I think we're all talking to each other on more positive terms."
The Marana newcomer is certainly making its presence felt. It prints in the neighborhood of 30,000 issues weekly, and that blanket approach is getting it noticed.
"I welcome the competition," said Nett. "It's the best service to the First Amendment I can think of. It's like Satchel Paige's line about, 'Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you.' That's great inspiration, but when there's nobody chasing you, it loses its effectiveness very quickly."
CITADEL PURCHASE OF ABC HELPS TUCSON TAP INTO TOP BRASSCitadel Broadcasting finalized its long-in-the-works purchase of ABC Radio last week. Before the sale, Citadel operated radio interests in medium markets, including Tucson, where it owns five stations. Prior to the deal, Citadel's highest-market radio interest was No. 31 (Tucson is the No. 61 market). Now Citadel is invested in properties in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas.
"With the ABC acquisition, we've more than doubled our revenue and become a major-market player," said Citadel Tucson general manager Ken Kowalcek. "We're the highest revenue pure radio company in the country. The Los Angeles market, where we now own two stations, will do $1.2 billion in radio revenue. Tucson will do about $55 million. Where we've come to now is light years from where we were."
Kowalcek says the benefits to Tucson will come in terms of access to radio resources.
"The thing about being a company that has more markets as opposed to being privately held or small-market is you have more people to talk to who want to share their gold," Kowalcek said. "With a market like that, you have access to some of the best brains in the business. You have highly skilled people in big markets who can give you advice.
"Operating stations in L.A. and Tucson are dramatically different, but it's still radio. The more brains you can get in a room, the better ideas you can come up with."