Q&A with Flying Squirrels broadcaster Anthony Oppermann

Anthony Oppermann is one half of the broadcasting team of the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Oppermann handles pre- and post- game duties as well as in-game broadcast for home contests. He can also be heard on SportsRadio 910 talking Squirrels baseball with Wes McIlroy.

Anthony Oppermann is one half of the broadcasting team of the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Oppermann handles pre- and post- game duties as well as in-game broadcast for home contests. He can also be heard on SportsRadio 910 talking Squirrels baseball with Wes McIlroy.

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Q Starting with a little bit about yourself…. How did you get into calling games? How did you get the gig in Richmond?

A I grew up listening to Houston Astros games on the radio. I spent my childhood in rural Texas and we didn’t have cable. When the Astros would open the season at home, we had a tradition where Mom would make chili dogs and the family would listen to the game on the radio. Milo Hamilton, who is a Hall of Fame broadcaster, was the guy I grew up listening to. He had an incredible voice but also had a knack of making every game sound so exciting. No matter what the score was, it also felt like a big deal when he came on the radio. Ever since then, I was hooked on radio and how someone could use their voice to make you feel genuine emotion, like you were actually there, for an event you couldn’t even see. It is definitely an art and so few people are good at it. I’m far from being good, and I continue to admire the guys who are.

My path to Richmond has been an winding road like so many in minor league baseball. What led me here was an opportunity I took in Reading in February 2009. I was working with the Potomac Nationals in Woodbridge, VA. I had just missed out on getting a gig in Tulsa, OK, when I got a phone call from a guy I worked for in Daytona Beach, FL, Matt Provence. He told me about the opening in Reading and said that if I was interested, he’d put in a word for me. I told him I was, and two days later, I got a phone call from the GM of the R-Phils, Scott Hunsicker. I ended up going to Reading for a face-to-face interview on Presidents Day and got offered the job. It was only seasonal meaning I would only get paid for games I worked during the season and that once the season was over, I needed to find another job. Combine that with the fact that I would not have any benefits and would be living in a hotel while I was there, and it was going to be a pretty significant lifestyle change. I trusted Scott and the people I met in Reading, so I decided that it was worth the gamble. I spent the 2009 season as the “Voice of the R-Phils” and toward the end of the year, had a conversation with Chuck Domino, who at the time was the President of the team. We talked about Richmond and that conversation in the seating bowl of FirstEnergy Stadium led to the opportunity with the Flying Squirrels.

QUnlike your partner in crime Jon Laaser, you have the luxury of not traveling with the team. So while Laaser is stuck in Bowie or Altoona, where are you spending your Richmond evenings?

A Well, I still host the Flying Squirrels Pre Game Warm Up and Flying Squirrels Post Game Wrap even when the team is on the road, so I spend my evenings in the studio of Sports Radio 910, listening to Laze, keeping score and tracking pitches while also monitoring other games across the Eastern League for the Post Game Show. Fortunately, in addition to listening to Laze, we’ve got some really good guys as producers of our broadcasts to help keep me company. It’s an unusual set up and not many guys in my position do that. Even though I don’t get paid any extra to do it, I want to be on the radio. I knew coming in that Jon was going to be the guy. He and I have been friends since our days in the Carolina League together, and it was made clear to me what the deal was going to be. Hosting the pre and post game shows was my chance to keep some sort of an on-air presence and a chance to practice and get better on the air. Monday through Friday I’m usually at The Diamond from 8:30 AM until around 5:00 PM. I run out and pick something up for dinner and then I’m at the station from 6:00 PM to usually 11:00 PM. I’ll wake up in the morning around 6:45 or 7:00 AM and go to the gym if I’ve got it in me and repeat the cycle the next day.

On the rare event I do have a day off during the season, I enjoy spending time at the condo I live in at Rocketts Landing. The rooftop deck of 210 Rock or the deck that overlooks the James River are pretty nice places to spend an evening and are a welcome reprieve from the day-to-day grind that is the baseball season.

QIn what ways have you seen that Season 2 in Richmond is better than Season 1?

A Everything is tighter this year. We were able to formulate a better plan going into the offseason and I think that put us in position to do the little things better this season. For example, you’ll notice little things like all of the Flying Squirrels signage from menu boards to the logos on the sides of Suites 6 and 7 all have a similar theme – red background with a black boarder. I just think it is a more concentrated energy as opposed to last season when we still figuring out how to best do things. We were also able to expand our operation a lot more, especially in Food and Beverage where I think those guys have done a really good job. With all of that said, I think there is a lot of room for improvement and there are so many things that we can continue to get better at. I could give you a lengthy list of things I know I want to be better at and do differently, and I know I’m not the only person on our staff that feels that way. If fans have enjoyed the experience at The Diamond the last two seasons, they should really be excited about the potential of the organization moving forward.

QThe team is currently packed with a number of strong prospects and it is being reflected in the results on the field? Will this be the team we see heading into the final stretch or are the Giants likely to make more moves?

A You never know what to expect in minor league baseball in terms of personal and who will be on the team and for how long. In 2009, Madison Bumgarner was the ace of the Flying Squirrels’ predecessor, the Connecticut Defenders. The Defenders made the playoffs and the Giants wanted Bumgarner to pitch the first playoff game for the club. Well, there was an injury at the big league level and the Giants ended up calling up Bumgarner a day or two before he was supposed to make that playoff start. Moral of the story, the minor leagues exist to help the Major League club win. With that said, now that the trade deadline has passed, I don’t see any major moves occurring that would dramatically alter the present line up. I do think that the Giants want to see this Richmond club win. I think everyone involved is excited to see how the city would respond to a postseason run. It could definitely be a lot of fun.

QDo rivalries exist in MiLB? If so, who is Richmond’s rival?

A Rivalries do exist in minor league baseball, but because teams change from year to year, they are developed and formed throughout the course of the season. I would say that Bowie and Harrisburg are the Flying Squirrels’ two biggest rivals currently. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these are the two clubs that Richmond has played the most this season. They games are always competitive and usually the final score is pretty close. Throw in all of the extra inning games the Squirrels have played against the Baysox and the doubleheaders the team has played against the Senators and that adds a little to it as well. Considering that those are the two teams Richmond is battling to get into the playoffs, it should be interesting. With that said, I don’t think there is any bad blood between the Flying Squirrels and those two teams.

QCan Richmond win the Eastern League championship? Who or what are their biggest concerns?

A Just like the Major Leagues, the key to winning a championship in the minors is pitching. The Flying Squirrels boast the best pitching staff in the Eastern League, so as long as that stays intact, this team has a really good chance. I would argue that as of today (August 2nd) this team is the most complete team in the league. Obviously, that can change and another team could get hot, but there is no doubt that Richmond should be a contender as it goes through the final weeks of the season.



photo by garyknight

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In the hopes of experiencing the perfect meal, Matt “The Marinara” Sadler searches the foothills of Manakin, the barrios of Chesterfield, and the corners of Oregon Hill only to realize that he is easily satisfied.

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