PAWTUCKET – It’s always been easy to spot talent at McCoy Stadium. This time, we’re taking the spotlight and shining it away from the playing surface. Instead, let’s point it toward the press box.
Remember the name Mike Monaco, folks, and not just because he’s answering the Red Sox broadcast call on NESN this Friday night and again on Saturday afternoon. Remember his name because in this scribe’s humble opinion, it won’t be long before you tune into a big-time sporting event and see this particular cool-as-a-cucumber/prepared-to-the-gills purveyor of on-air syntax staring back at you.
The upcoming NESN gig represents the latest in a series of résumé-building moments for the 26-year-old Monaco, who grew up less than hour away from Fenway Park and swore his fan allegiance to the BoSox at a very young age. One Halloween, Monaco went trick-or-treating for sweets as Nomar Garciaparra because he admired the shortstop’s sweet pre-batting rituals. Talk about your Sox devotion.
“When Nomar got traded [in 2004], I remember exactly where I was. My first autographs came on the same day at Fenway. The ball was signed by [former Boston third base coach] Wendell Kim and [catcher] Jason Varitek,” said Monaco.
These days, Monaco is devoted to all things related to his broadcast craft, which I’ve witnessed firsthand.
Earlier this month, Monaco wrapped up his first season as one of two broadcasters the PawSox employ. He spent the two previous seasons with the local Triple-A ballclub as a broadcast intern. If he wasn’t sitting next to me in the McCoy press box with his headphones on and listening to Will Flemming and Josh Maurer so he could compile a detailed postgame recap, you could find Monaco either in the TV or radio booth.
With the PawSox ramping up their television appearances in recent years, the need was there to fill airtime. For Monaco, it was a prime chance to get more hands-on experience after getting his feet wet at the Single-A level – 2015 with the South Bend Cubs and 2016 with the Fort Wayne TinCaps.
You always want to secure an internship where the chance to get actual honest-to-goodness hands-on experience is available. Between the 2017 and 2018 seasons with Pawtucket, Monaco was afforded numerous opportunities to strap on the headset – home and away – and write the captions based on what was taking place on the field.
“Coming to Pawtucket in 2017, there was no expectation of ‘Here’s a certain amount of play-by- play you’ll be doing,’” said Monaco when asked to reflect on the steps that have led him down a fruitful path. “I was very lucky the PawSox kept believing in me and kept pushing me.”
Specifically, let’s retrace the steps down the path that led him to this weekend’s plum assignment, which includes sitting next to Jerry Remy and Dennis Eckersley as Boston closes out the season against Baltimore.
When Flemming joined the WEEI Red Sox radio booth prior to the 2019 season, the PawSox took swift action. This time, a national search to find a replacement was not conducted. Team management made the wise call to elevate Monaco from intern to fulltime broadcaster. Everyone inside McCoy knew they had struck gold with Monaco, who came across as appreciative when asked about the faith the PawSox showed in him, knowing full well he could have been asked to apply for the broadcast job just like everyone else.
The phrase “catch a rising star” has been often utilized over the years based on the wave of on-field talent that’s passed through McCoy before reaching Fenway Park. What the PawSox were telling Monaco upon informing him he would be teaming up with Maurer was that he was cut from a special cloth.
“To hear that, it makes me incredibly grateful when you think of the talented PawSox broadcasters the team has had over the years … guys I’ve looked up to and try to learn from,” said Monaco.
Much like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, Monaco has been on the fast-track to bigger and better for some time. When he studied at the University of Notre Dame, he sought out Irish alums who have reached the pinnacle of the sports broadcasting domain. The responses and feedback he received provided him with a structural foundation that in turn helped him map out the appropriate course of action.
“Go do it and don’t say no to any opportunity. Go get as much experience as you can,” said Monaco when asked if there was a common thread from everyone who took the time to reply to his emails. “If you need to do a practice broadcast on your own, do it.”
Like a basketball player who seeks to build the perfect arc on his jump shot, Monaco has worked tirelessly to polish his on-air delivery. The only way you can do that is by landing gigs, which he has.
If your cable subscription includes the Big Ten Network, chances are you’ve seen Monaco wear a variety of hats. His role as a contributor has involved everything from college football to soccer to volleyball. This past summer, he flew out to the state of Washington to help ESPN’s coverage of the Junior League Softball World Series.
As for NESN, the sports cable station aired several PawSox games this past season with Monaco on the call. Clearly, he made a favorable impression. When NESN announced in late August who would be keeping the seat warm for Dave O’Brien during select weekend games in September, there was Monaco’s name. Given his relentless drive and clear-as-day talent, it was far from shocking to learn he had been chosen as a fill-in.
“I’m honored to be a small part of it even if it’s for just a few games,” said Monaco. “Going back to my very early years, I knew I wanted to be a broadcaster. I do feel really lucky that so many people were willing to help along the way.”
“The two words that probably get overused in our society are honored and blessed, but those are the right words,” Monaco added.
Guess there’s nothing left to say but go get ‘em, Mike!
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03