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Mike Ventola is living his dream.
Only two years after earning his degree in communication from Immaculata, Ventola has already landed a baseball job as media relations director and on-air radio voice for the Miners, an Independent League team that plays home games at Rent One Park in Marion, IL.
“Last summer, my job had me calling all 96 games, home and away,” said Ventola from St. Louis, where he was spending a rare day away from the broadcast booth enjoying a Cardinals game at Busch Stadium. “I also wrote press releases for the Miners, including game recaps and features, and I handled all media inquiries that came in to the team for things like interviews with players. A lot of what I learned in my public relations classes I have put to use in this job. I owe a lot of my success to what Immaculata taught me about writing and speaking skills.”
Traveling with the Miners “definitely took me to areas of the country I’d never seen before,” Ventola said, and caused him to keep an unusual schedule at times. “For instance,” he recalled, “we’d play a 7 p.m. game in Illinois and then take a 15-hour bus ride to play a game the next night in London, Ontario. When that series ended, we went back to Illinois and had a game at home that night at 7 p.m.” Everyone with the team has his own routine, Ventola noted, but he said there were often times he felt “lucky I only had to announce the game.”
Overall, he said, the season “was a lot of fun. I forget how many movies I watched over the summer on the bus alone, but it was a great learning experience for me.”
When asked if he has a trademark homerun call, Ventola said he definitely does. “When the ball hits the bat,” he shared, “I say, ‘It’s a deep fly ball to left…that ball is going…it is going…that ball has cashed in its chips. It’s gone.” He hastened to add, “I’m not a big gambler or anything, but I spent time online listening to lots of announcers and trying to develop a signature phrase. I looked up synonyms for ‘winning,’ and I found ‘cashed in his chips.’ I just liked it.”
And how did the Miners do during Ventola’s first season in the broadcast booth?
“They won their first championship,” Ventola said. “It was so great. And afterwards, the general manager, Tim Arseneau, came up to me and said, ‘Don’t think you can announce we won the championship and then go off to another team. You have to come back next year.’ I knew we’d have that conversation at one point, one way or the other, but that was so nice.” It took all the pressure off Ventola having to find new employment for next summer, and it has allowed him to concentrate on his off-season.
The winter months, it turns out, will still find Ventola behind a microphone.
“I’ll work as the women’s basketball announcer for Wagner College on Staten Island,” he said, “and for New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, I’ll be at the radio end of things. The set-up there is similar to Immaculata’s. You can go onto the Internet and hear the game announcers live, just like a radio station would do it.”
Being on the East Coast for a few months puts the New Jersey-born Ventola closer to his roots in Easton, PA, where the family moved during his childhood.
A number of friends and family have hit the road to see Ventola in action. “When the Miners played a team in Washington, PA,” he said, “I had the honor of my dad and a friend of his driving out for two games, as did Al Dawson from Immaculata, whose wife is Michele Dawson, the secretary in Student Development. I was an RA for three years in college, and got to know the Dawsons well. Then when we played in Florence, KY, my mom and my sister came.”
Part of what makes it so enjoyable to work for the Miners, Ventola said, is that “the owners, Jayne Simmons, a local lawyer, and her husband John, are as cool owners as you could ever find. She trusts us to do our jobs. The general manager controls the day-to-day operations, but we are just all trusted to do our jobs, and to do them well. It’s been such a great experience, and I feel very privileged.”