By Jim Hague
Ryan Miller is a 12-yearold Kearny resident and a big sports fan. The soon-to-be eighth grader at Lincoln School is a fan of the New York teams, namely the Mets, Jets and Knicks.
“I really get into it,” Miller said.
So when he saw an advertisement on television for the Bruce Beck-Ian Eagle Sportscasting Camp, Miller knew that it was something that he wanted to do.
“I was real excited,” Miller said. “I was more encouraged to do it.”
However, most of the students attending the weeklong camp at Montclair State University and the Yogi Berra Museum were much older than Miller. But the famed organizers and instructors at the camp made Miller feel at home.
“I didn’t feel intimidated,” Miller said. “They were great. They all made me relaxed. They were telling stories and jokes. I got really interested in it.”
Miller said that he might want to pursue sportscasting in the future.
“It opened the door to see what I could probably do as a career,” Miller said. “I learned a lot about the relationships you make with people. I’m definitely glad I went.”
Miller was one of two local residents to attend the camp, headed by Eagle, the play-by-play television voice of the Brooklyn Nets on the YES Network, as well as football and college basketball coverage on CBS, and Beck, the sports anchor on WNBC-TV Channel 4.
The camp featured guest appearances from famed sports broadcasters like Chris Carrino, the radio voice of the Nets, Tina Cervasio of the MSG Network, Kenny Albert of FOX Sports and MSG and Kim Jones of the NFL Network.
The campers also had a chance to interview former Giants Super Bowl hero David Tyree, got a chance to call the play-by-play for a Somerset Patriots game and as an added bonus, spent some time with New York Yankees Hall of Fame legend Berra, who made a surprise appearance.
“Yogi had not been back to the museum for a few months,” Beck said. “We didn’t know if he would be able to make it. But he loves being with the kids and wanted to be with them. Yogi has that genuine warmth and it was special to see the interaction with the kids.”
It was the 11th year that Eagle and Beck have joined forces to hold the camp for aspiring sportscasters.
“It’s very exciting, because it gives kids a great opportunity to learn some of the nuances of being a sportscaster while also having a week of fun,” said Beck, who left soon after the camp to cover the Olympics for NBC Sports. “We’re able to give them a little exposure to the business at an early age. Maybe they can pick up something from the week. It’s not all about broadcasting. It’s about other things as well.”
“We’ve had kids of all ages over the years and it’s very gratifying,” Eagle said. “Many of our campers go on to study broadcasting in college. We’re planting the seeds at an early age. If we’re able to encourage them to pursue broadcasting in the future, then it becomes a memorable experience. All these kids are getting a head start, learning the nuts and bolts. I didn’t get an opportunity like this when I was a kid.”
Eagle is proud that some of the camp’s products have moved on to professional broadcasting, like Scott Braun of the MLB Network and Justin Antwile, the voice of the Somerset Patriots.
“It’s nice that we’re able to have a personal connection with the kids,” Eagle said. “Not everyone gets a chance to become a broadcaster, so we teach them a little bit about life lessons as well. Bruce and I are living out a dream, doing what we love, but we’ve proven that it’s attainable. There are so many more avenues to do this now with technology, the Internet. The business has changed. The tapes don’t lie. If you’re talented, you’ll get the opportunity. It’s not handed to you, but you can get the chance.”
Zach Smolen is a 15-yearold soon-to-be sophomore at Bloomfield High School.
“I have a teacher, Brandon Doemling, who had a flier about the camp and gave it to me,” Smolen said. “He knew that I was a big sports fan and that this would be right down my alley. I was really excited about it.”
Smolen is a fan of the Yankees, Giants, Nets and Philadelphia Flyers.
“I play baseball all year round,” Smolen said. “I’m on travel teams and Babe Ruth teams. So sports is a major part of my life. As for the camp, I was a little nervous, because I didn’t know anyone there. But once I got there, it was much easier.”
Smolen said that he was happy to get a chance to interview Giants Super Bowl hero Tyree.
“I got a one-on-one interview with him,” Smolen said. “I tried to be very professional instead of being a fan. I remember watching his catch in the Super Bowl and getting so excited. It was fantastic to get a chance to interview him, a once-in-alifetime experience.”
Miller learned a lot about what it takes to become a sportscaster before an event.
“I learned about all the preparation and hard work that goes into becoming a sportscaster,” Miller said. “I have a better appreciation now for what they do. It was a great experience.”
Miller said that he loved meeting the legendary Yogi Berra.
“It was really cool,” Miller said. “He’s a famous player. He had a few words for us, but he said that if being a sportscaster is what you want to do, then you can get there if you try hard enough. It was great.”
Smolen had met Berra once before at a New Jersey Jackals game.
“I waited on line to get his autograph,” Smolen said. “This time, I got to talk to him a little and it was really exciting.”
Smolen was inspired to perhaps pursue sportscasting as a career.
“It definitely helped a lot,” Smolen said. “It seems like an incredible job. I think I can do it. It encourages me.”
Smolen was also glad to have met Beck and Eagle.
“It’s going to be something, watching the Olympics and seeing Bruce Beck there,” Smolen said. “I can say that I know that guy. I already knew relationships were important, but preparation is also a key. I look forward to going again next year. It’s still amazing I got this opportunity.”