BRADENTON -- Joel Godett sat in a booth inside McKechnie Field’s press box Friday night, surrounded by the tools of his trade.
In front of him was a control board, a headset and a scorebook nearly as thick as a snow tire. A pair of binoculars and Baseball America’s 2011 prospect handbook sat to his left, not far from a Lakeland Flying Tigers roster that was taped to a wall.
Godett was preparing to do what he has been doing since the middle of last spring -- broadcast the exploits of the Bradenton Marauders, the high Single-A baseball affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
A 24-year-old native of New Jersey, Godett has become the voice for the two-year-old team, doing play-by-play for all home and away games.
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Whether they are welcoming a team to McKechnie or taking long road drips to Daytona or Port St. Lucie, the Marauders don’t go anywhere these days without Godett.
And it’s hard to believe this all started on a hunch.
Godett was about to enter his junior year of high school when his father noticed a newspaper advertisement for a broadcasting camp hosted by Bruce Beck and Ian Eagle, two of New York’s most popular voices.
He figured he’d give it a shot.
“Band camp, broadcasting camp,” Godett said, “I’ve been to both.”
It’s easy to see which one stuck, especially when the broadcasting camp featured cameos from guys such as Chris Carrinos and Sam Rosen, play-by-play voices for the New Jersey Nets and New York Rangers, respectively.
“It was cool. They trot out those people in front of you,” Godett said, “and after a week you’re like, ‘All right, this is something I can do.’”
The most valuable lesson Godett learned from the camp was to get involved, to get as much experience and make as many contacts as possible. So as soon as he returned home, Godett phoned the Hunterdon County Democrat in New Jersey.
“I said, ‘Basically, I’ve got no experience, but I want to write for you,’” he said.
Sometimes the truth works. Godett received a call back and became the paper’s fencing beat writer the following winter before he started covering more mainstream sports such as softball.
He also landed an internship with a local television station, shadowing the graphics department and tracking stats for basketball games before the station let him do some color commentary.
“In hindsight, I was terrible,” he said, “but it was a really cool foot in the door.”
Godett’s ambition followed him to Syracuse University, famous for its broadcast and journalism departments.
“I worked, probably at the expense of having a life in college,” Godett said. “I did everything.”
He broadcast men’s basketball and football, as well as the men’s lacrosse team’s run to the ’08 national championship, at one of Syracuse’s radio stations. At the other station, he did sports updates, as well as play-by-play for women’s lacrosse, women’s basketball, high school football and a short-lived professional indoor football team.
Oh and he also did hockey, field hockey, volleyball, women’s soccer, men’s soccer ... .
“Anything and everything,” Godett said.
Following graduation, Godett found himself at the University of South Florida, broadcasting women’s basketball and baseball.
But in the winter of 2009, Godett started to miss baseball. He had experience -- his first job out of college was broadcasting for the New York Mets’ Triple-A team in Buffalo, and he spent a summer working with the legendary Cape Cod League -- and sent emails to all of the Florida State League teams based in the Tampa Bay area.
Dan Wolfert, the Marauders’ general manager at the time, bit.
By the middle of May, Godett was reporting to work at McKechnie Field, doing all of the Marauders home games and some away games. When the season ended, the Pirates made him a full-time member of their communications department, and the Marauders expanded his role when they decided to have Godett call all 140 games.
No longer just an Internet feed, Marauders baseball can be heard on WTMY-1280 and the team’s Web site at bradentonmarauders.com.
Godett also does the game notes each night, updates the stats and hosts the Marauders’ television show.
“He’s very good at what he does. I have no doubt he’ll one day be in the major leagues being a broadcaster,” said Trevor Gooby, the Pirates director of Florida operations. “He’s probably too good to be in the Florida State League, and I’ve told him that. But he’s got a passion for it, and it’s not the easiest career to get a job in. So he’s working his way up the ladder like our players on the field.”
Since his father saw that advertisement nearly 10 years ago, Godett has followed his passion from frigid upstate New York to balmy southwest Florida.
Where will it lead him next? Godett isn’t sure. But he does know what he wants.
“I’d love to do games on ESPN. I’d call field hockey on ESPN if they called me,” Godett said. “But as much as that would be cool, I think I’d be just as happy being the voice of a (Division) I university and having a cult fan base that knows me and relies on me. And maybe I’m not world famous, but I’ve got a good job and I’ve got good people around me.”