Even while miles away in Iowa, Brent Balbinot says he was familiar with the radio call that for the last two decades has become a staple of University of Toledo Rockets broadcasts.
As Balbinot (BAL-bin-not) prepares to take the reins as the new play-by-play radio voice of the Rockets he says he is not trying to replace or imitate the legendary Mark Beier.
“Being kind of a radio-geek, I would listen, especially with Learfield Properties, I would go online or use the app, and you can plug in certain schools,” Balbinot said. “I would do that constantly to see what other Learfield guys would do in particular on their school’s broadcasts. So I was aware of ‘Touchdown R-R-R-R-Rockets’ for a few years.”
Balbinot will be the play-by-play broadcaster for UT football and men’s basketball and will host the football and men’s basketball coaches shows.
Balbinot spent the last 13 years working for his alma mater, the University of Iowa, where he was the play-by-play announcer for Hawkeyes baseball and women’s basketball and helped produce Iowa football broadcasts.
He was selected after a national search by Learfield’s Rocket Sports Properties as well as the UT Athletic Department and will replace Beier, who held the same position for the past 21 years.
“I think that his attitude and demeanor, show that he is the type of guy that will be student-athlete and program first, as opposed to himself first,” said Luke Reiff, general manager of Rocket Sports Properties. “That will certainly go a long way in people enjoying the transition to him, simply because he is following up a legend in Mark Beier. We weren’t able to hire anybody that could do what Mark did. We want someone that comes in and will be a smooth a transition as possible. Brent is not coming in here trying to even pretend that he is going to replicate anything that Mark did.”
Like many kids, Balbinot, 48, remembers tuning in to his favorite radio announcers in his small hometown of Fort Madison, Iowa.
Because Iowa has no professional sports teams, Balbinot’s favorite broadcasters were spread throughout the Midwest. He would listen to the Jack Buck, Fred White, and Denny Matthews on Royals on the Radio and Milwaukee Brewers’ Bob Uecker.
“A lot of people remember him from Major League, but Bob Uecker has been the voice of the Brewers for what seems like forever,” Balbinot said. “He’s tremendous. I remember listening to him call the Brewers and the Cardinals World Series back in 1982 and that stuff was just tremendous and stayed with me.”
Balbinot said he doesn’t have any set catch phrases or a signature call. His goal is to be as descriptive as possible, but not over the top, to make listeners “wish they were there.”
“I like to let a broadcast breathe quite a bit,” Balbinot said. “So many young broadcasters in particular feel like they have to be talking every second. If you have a big score, I’m likely to grab a cup of water from the cooler and just let the crowd, the band, and everything else kind of just give you a feel for what it is like to be there.”
Balbinot recalled an analogy that the legendary Vin Scully once used that has stuck with him. Scully said that each broadcast begins as a blank canvas, and it is the announcers job to paint a complete picture.
“I want to tell the coaches, the athletes, and the university’s story,” Balbinot said. “The games are obviously happening in the here and now, and I think too many times fans can kind of forget what happens on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, or during basketball, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. These athletes are people, the coaches are people. I want be able to raise the banner for the University of Toledo in a manner that shows what is happening way beyond as a fan when you come in to watch a game and when you leave to go home. I want to tell the story on a daily basis.”
Contact Brian Buckey at: email@example.com or 419-724-6110.
UT began football practice for the season on Aug. 4. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH