Rich Hollenberg is a man on a mission. Having the chance to live out his dream of making a living talking about sports in a TV studio, Hollenberg knows very well the struggle of succeeding in such a hyper-competitive profession.
With success, for the graduate of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications, comes duty. Now enjoying his ninth season covering the Tampa Bay Rays as a studio host on Bally’s Sports Sun TV, Hollenberg is quietly and selectively doing his part to ensure the industry will have fresh recruits for future assignments.
As a two-time Emmy winner, in addition to his work on Bally’s pre-game and post-game TV shows, and when the baseball season goes into hibernation, next come assignments as a lead voice. on ESPN college basketball broadcasts, Hollenberg is well qualified to teach.
The idea to convey his experiences on sports television for Hollenberg came 20 years ago in a hotel room in Louisville.
“I just finished calling a motocross jump show for ESPN 2,” Hollenberg said earlier this week. “Watching College Game Day (on ESPN), Coach Lou Holtz challenges viewers to write down 100 things you would like to accomplish in life.”
Listening intently to the former Notre Dame and New York Jets football coach make his statement, in his twenties, the first thing Hollenberg put to paper was wanting to be a teacher; a teacher.
Fast forward to 2020, and the pandemic is hitting hard globally.
From a career path he envisioned in retirement, the opportunity to work with aspiring sportswriters presented itself here and now for Hollenberg.
Hollenberg, who teamed with former Rays pitcher Doug Waechter for 8 seasons on Rays TV, sees his role on the show, and for fans, as a traffic cop. Leading game previews and recap discussions with various guests and show members without any interference is his dream job.
“I didn’t see my future with play-by-play. Being the presenter or host of a show is where I felt comfortable,” says Hollenberg who lists childhood favorites (and fellow SU graduates) Marv Albert and Len Berman as Role Models in Sports Broadcasting.
When most of the country shifted to working from home and Zoom Video became the preferred channel for doing business, it was time for Hollenberg to kick-start his teaching skills.
The experience gained as a contributor to MLB Network, NFL Network and Associated Press would now be shared with those looking to join the sports journalism fraternity. Education by Hollenberg begins at richhollenberg.com.
Accepted students benefit from online sessions with Hollenberg. Perhaps the most important result for any student is an eye-catching demo tape for potential employers. Originally, Hollenberg’s course was set at six weeks and has since been extended to eight.
Looking at Hollenberg’s first birthday Break-in and breakthrough course, the professor finds the results of his students gratifying. Much of the communication between Hollenberg and those he accompanies is networking. This paid program comes with nearly three decades of trial and error by the Rays TV host.
Hollenberg prides himself on his contact list and isn’t shy about connecting his students with people he knows can use them.
“It’s about building relationships,” says Hollenberg.
For him, the relationship began on television thousands of miles from his current home in St. Petersburg – in Great Falls, Montana. Working for the local ABC affiliate, Hollenberg remembers his interview in great detail.
“I didn’t fly in for an interview. It was all over the phone. Great Falls was market 172 in broadcasting. I got hired, and my first weekend there, I was sending tapes for other positions. I was so ambitious.”
Identifying and developing the willingness of his students to adapt what they learn and turn their energy into what is hoped to be a memorable first impression with station managers is part of Hollenberg’s teachings.
Combining Hollenberg’s years of working experience in the industry, with one-on-one sessions and group interactivity, newcomers, as well as veterans looking to polish up parts of their game, are ready for missions.
Before the conversations (live or recorded) begin about next year’s MLB rule changes involving a pitch timer, bigger bases and a shift restriction, those considered authorities for their audience need to know how to present their views in the best way.
With 17 regular season games remaining on the Rays’ schedule and hopes that the playoffs will follow, Hollenberg will be sure to direct viewers of Bally’s Sports Sun shows to those who will keep them up to date on who’s doing what and when, at Tropicana Field, and beyond.
No sense of false security is offered to his students or Rays baseball fans by Hollenberg. One game at a time, one show at a time. Just the facts, with a dash of statistical baseball knowledge, this is Hollenberg at his best.