During his last season as the radio voice of the South Atlantic League Asheville Tourists, Thunder broadcaster Jay Burnham happened to meet a hard-working, clear-voiced guy fresh out of Western Kentucky University named Hank Fuerst.
Burnham, in fact, asked if Fuerst was interested in working in Asheville, but Fuerst, who had an opportunity to work with Bowling Green Hot Rods voice Tom Gauthier, declined the opportunity to move to the town made famous by The Biltmore. Fuerst worked for former Thunder general manager Brad Taylor’s team for the last two seasons.
“My last year in Asheville (2009), I asked Hank if he would move, but he declined at the time,’’ said Burnham.
“But we kept in touch. When this position with the Thunder opened, we talked, things worked out,’’ said Fuerst. “I’m quite excited with being Jays’ number two here and all the possibilities.
’’Both Brad and Greg Coleman (a former Thunder assistant general manager who is now the president of the Eastern League rival Erie SeaWolves) really showed me all the facets of Minor League Baseball and what it is all about.
“You are only in this if you love it.’’
The 23-year-old Fuerst, a native of Nashville, Tenn., a 2009 Western Kentucky graduate who married his high-school sweetheart, Deirdre, a nurse, this past September, has a smooth, sharp delivery that reminds one of former Thunder radiocaster and now Tampa Bay voice Andy Freed.
He came northeast driving a Budget Moving Truck with a Volvo being towed behind, and will mix with Burnham in the Thunder radio booth well.
Fuerst is also one who pays attention to detail when he’s broadcasting.
“I like to be informative because it means so much if you can provide the score and the inning. It’s frustrating when you turn on a game and listen for five or ten minutes and you have no idea what is going on.
“Naturally you want to discuss what is happening in broader fashion, but you have to double back and regroup for the sake of the listening audience from time to time.’’
Fuerst is also getting used to living outside the South, and not just because of the zany February weather we have experienced in the Greater Trenton area.
“This obviously is my first time living up here, and I’m just getting used to the fact we’re close to New York, a little closer to Philadelphia and not all that far away from Baltimore. In the South, you have to drive four or five hours between the big cities.
“Deirdre and I have only been here a few weeks, and we’re enjoying ourselves already.’’
As Justin Shackil did as Burnham’s radio partner last season, Fuerst will be calling the majority of road games, with Burnham joining him a bit more than last season. He feels the Eastern League will offer some familiar faces.
“First, I appreciate the opportunity to call a higher level of baseball in Double-A, and I know I’ll see some players from 2009 that I covered in the Sally League the first year of the Hot Rods (who transferred to the Midwest League in 2010).
“A lot of the Sally affiliates are also in the Eastern League, and there were a lot of good players from (Yankees affiliate) Charleston I remember from 2009.’’
Fuerst is also excited to be working with a Yankees affiliate.
“Through the minors, the Yankees take care of their teams. I saw it with Charleston. Then I think I’ll be calling the games of a Yankees affiliate. It’s the Yankees, enough said.’’
Fuerst is also excited about following big-league broadcasters like Freed and the Phillies’ Tom McCarthy, who honed their craft in the Thunder radio booth. His immediate predecessor, Shackil, will, ironically, be moving south, to the Double-A Southern League, for his next stop.
“I’ve been told Justin did a great job with Jay here last season,’’ said Fuerst. “I want to fill the spot just as he did. This is what I want to do.’’
Burnham and Fuerst kept in touch over the last few years, and felt, when the time came, the chemistry would be right and the two could naturally play off against each other.
That definitely will be the case, based on an impressive “Fuerst’’ impression.
THUNDER MOVE TO FM 91.3, WTSR: In a move that made the area radio rounds for the past few weeks, and made official at a press conference at Paul Loser Hall on The College of New Jersey campus Wednesday.
WTSR’s 1,500-watt signal reaches a 25-mile radius of the Ewing campus, bringing in a possible 800,000 listeners in Mercer, Bucks and Burlington counties.
WTSR will broadcast all 142 Trenton Thunder games plus playoff games for at least the next three seasons. All games can also be heard online at www.trentonthunder.com. Fans will access the on-line broadcasts at that site and www.milb.com, not at WTSR’s Web site.
“This new partnership expands the reach of Trenton Thunder baseball within the region,” said Thunder general manager and 1996 TCNJ graduate Will Smith. “We look forward to working with a distinguished institution like The College of New Jersey to bring Trenton Thunder games to even more fans over WTSR’s airwaves.”
“We’re excited that students will be able to learn the technical side of the radio business through Thunder broadcasts,” added Smith. “If I was a student, I’d be excited for the chance to work with and learn from broadcasting New York Yankees Double-A Baseball.”
“TCNJ is very excited about this partnership with the Thunder. It will provide our students with access to hands-on learning opportunities and will help broaden awareness, throughout the region, of TCNJ’s standing as a national leader in the delivery of undergraduate, public education,” said Matthew Golden, Vice President for College Relations and Advancement.
The partnership between the Thunder and The College of New Jersey will provide paid educationally based employment opportunities at the radio station for students.
Students will serve as Board Operators during each game broadcast, and will have the opportunity to create and produce much of the content heard during games. The College of New Jersey will have opportunities during the broadcasts to promote the school as well as in-stadium promotional opportunities during Thunder home games.
FROM MAINE TO OHIO AND VIRGINIA: The Altoona Curve held mascot tryouts last weekend as the club searches for a signature character for the 2011 season … A fan of the Binghamton Mets suggested a nickname for NYSEG Stadium, Wally’s World, with Wally Backman piloting the B-Mets in 2011 … Prince Georges Stadium, Bowie’s home ballpark, has a new field for the upcoming season … Second baseman Tony Thomas, obtained by Boston from the Cubs system for RHP Robert Coello, could give Portland’s lineup a boost … BaseLines will be reporting from the Thunder camp in Tampa, Fla., March 16-21.