NILES - Like many area residents, Marc Means will spend a part of his summer taking road trips - visiting various parts of the United States.
However, unlike many travelers whose destinations include lakes, beaches and amusement parks, Means' ventures will take him to places like Oneonta, N.Y., Lowell, Mass. and Aberdeen, Md.
Means, a Hubbard native, is in his second season as the radio play-by-play voice of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. Prior to taking over the radio duties at the start of the 2008 season, he worked for two years behind the public address microphone at Eastwood Field.
Means - who also serves as a Scrappers' account executive - is the lone man in the radio booth for all of games, both home and on the road. Prior to joining the Scrappers, Means worked for WBBW 1240-AM for the past 10 years. In addition to his work as a play-by-play broadcaster, board operator and program produce, Means hosted of a weekly baseball talk show which airs on Saturday afternoons.
After broadcasting the Scrappers' first homestand of the season, which concludes tonight with a game against State College, Means will hop on the team bus, then broadcast games from Williamsport and State College, Pa.
"Having the opportunity to broadcast professional baseball games in my hometown is quite a thrill," Means said. "Even before I was with the organization, I was a big fan of the Scrappers. I'm a baseball junkie. I loved coming out to the ball park to watch games and to see future major league players. Now my job brings me even closer to the action. I'm lucky to be doing something that I love to do."
Though the majority of Scrappers' games begin at 7:05 p.m., Means has already put in a full day of work by the time he calls his first pitch of each contest. During homestands, he generally arrives at Eastwood Field around 8:30 a.m. In addition to tending to his sales work, Means spends his day updating rosters, compiling stats, preparing game notes, interviewing players and coaches and handling media requests.
"For me, the most relaxing part of the day is the actual broadcast," Means said. "There is so much preparation leading up to each game, especially the home games. Once all of that work is complete, it's almost a relief to finally sit in the radio booth and call the game."
While Means insists that Eastwood Field is his favorite place to call a game, he does enjoy baseball life on the road. He added the Scrappers fans, "the most knowledgeable in the entire New York-Penn League."
Among his favorite stops last year were Brooklyn and Staten Island.
"Brooklyn's stadium overlooks Coney Island. You can see the boardwalk from the broadcast booth, which is an open air press box," Means said. "Staten Island is an absolutely amazing venue. It's what you would expect from a Yankees minor league ball park. We played there last year on the Fourth of July. As the game was going on, we were looking out at the Statue of Liberty while the fireworks were being shot off."
Means even found enjoyment in some of the not-so-modern stadiums. Oneonta is host to the oldest venue in the NY-PL. The stadium rarely attracts more than a handful of fans, and the lack of excitement can often pose challenges to those covering the games.
"It's a much different atmosphere than Eastwood Field, but at the same time there's a rich history about a place like Oneonta that makes it special," Means said. "The stadium gives you a feel for what minor league baseball used to be like. Besides that, guys like Babe Ruth and John Elway played there. That's pretty special."
Road trips have also given Means a new perspective of the everyday life of a minor league baseball player. Often times, the Scrappers will conclude a home game, board a team bus around midnight, then take a 10-plus hour trip to begin a road series the following night.
"All of the things you hear about how tough life in the minors is, it's all true," Means said. "There are long road trips and a lot of hours practicing, both home and away. For these players, it's all about baseball, from the time they get up to the time they go to bed. They definitely put in their time trying to reach the big leagues. Until you see it up close, you can't fully appreciate just how hard they work."
In addition to attracting a large local audience, Means has discovered that he is also heard throughout the world, thanks to modern technology. Because all of the Scrappers' games can be heard over the Internet, many of the players' family members follow the team on a nightly basis.
"It's pretty neat to get e-mails from the mother or father of a player who is listening on the other side of the country. For many of them, this is the easiest way to stay in touch and follow their son's career. They definitely appreciate the broadcasts," Means said.
The Scrappers can be heard on WNIO 1390-AM.