Lake Country Publications Sports Director JR Radcliffe provides tidbits and details from the Lake Country prep sports scene to the Wisconsin sports world at large. His weekly column presents exclusive interviews, commentaries and observations.
There are many roadblocks and detours on the path to the Major Leagues for just about everyone involved: the players, the front-office staff, the umpires, the trainers, the broadcasters. When Chad Seely faced his roadblock at just about the earliest possible stage — college — he still found a way to get in the game.
The Sussex Hamilton graduate, now 27, is communications manager for the Reno Aces in Nevada, the Class AAA affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, one heartbeat away from the Major Leagues. The jack-of-all-trades occasionally plays the role of broadcaster, traveling secretary and media relations point-person, and he'd love to someday return home and serve in some capacity for the Milwaukee Brewers.
The trip to the desert seems particularly compelling considering the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater product wasn't given the green light by colleagues to call baseball games for the nationally recognized NCAA Division III Warhawks baseball program.
"I tried everything possible to get on air," Seely said. "I was the sports anchor for the news station at Whitewater and did some football games on the radio but had zero baseball experience at Whitewater. For whatever reason, the kid in charge wasn't willing to give me a shot (at baseball). It was frustrating trying to get into that field; that's basically what I've wanted to do the last 15 years of my life."
He graduated in 2009, went back to school to finish a minor in multimedia to make himself more marketable, then landed a job with the Daytona Cubs of the Florida State League after interviewing at the MLB Winter Meetings.
"They really took a shot on me because I had no baseball experience," Seely said. "I gave them my football stuff."
Seely was suddenly in the pipeline. He broadcast games for the Florida State League champion Cubs that year, with the title of assistant director of broadcasting and media relations. He accepted an open position in Clinton, Iowa to call games for the LumberKings of the Midwest League, a squad affiliated with the Seattle Mariners.
"It was a chance to be close to home," Seely said. "That was the biggest part of moving out to Reno; that was difficult. Once I decided that if I could be the head of a media relations department in Triple-A and be be OK with not being on the radio, being far away from home was the biggest hurdle to get over. It basically came down to the fact that wherever my next job takes me is probably going to be far away. This was a great opportunity to move up and be one step away from major league baseball."
He's not off air entirely. When Reno games are televised locally, the full-time radio man moves over to that broadcast, and Seely fills in on radio. But he said stepping away from the microphone isn't going to hold him back.
"If that was my best shot at working in Major League Baseball, then that was what I was willing to do," he said. "I've grown to love the media relations aspect of the job just as much as radio."
The Aces franchise is relatively young, in its sixth year and featuring a stadium built in 2009. The franchise already has one Triple-A championship to its name and has hosted an All-Star Game.
"The crowds here just dwarf the Midwest League for the most part," Seely said. "There are some cities in the Midwest League which draw huge numbers, but for the most part, I'm seeing huge crowds (every night). You get a sense around town, where people have Aces hats and apparel on, that the team is really important to them."
He handles much of the day-to-day media relations work, including writing game notes and press releases and coordinating interviews, and he also plays a role in coordinating team travel. Seely also sold tickets and worked in marketing in Clinton, where the staff was roughly five employees.
It's all a dream gig for a man who grew up listening to Bob Uecker on the radio call for the Milwaukee Brewers, alongside brother and fellow baseball nut Justin Seely, now a physical education teacher at Hamilton High School.
"My playing days ended in high school when I got a pretty bad injury my junior year," Chad said. "I would have liked to play in college, but that put an end to that, and this was a way of staying in the game. I always wanted to be a radio broadcaster. Summers in Wisconsin are awesome because of (Uecker) and Brewers baseball."
He's actually been part of history on multiple occasions, bearing witness to three no-hitters during his brief tenure in baseball. Victor Sanchez, an 18-year old Seattle Mariners prospect, threw one for Clinton in 2013. In 2012, it was Jordan Shipers who threw one for Clinton, the same year that the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers combined for a no-hitter against the LumberKings (Chad Thompson and Mark Williams).
"I was just trying to stay as calm as possible (on air)," Seely said. "People asked me if I mentioned it, broadcaster's jinx or whatever, and I said, 'Yeah, you have to.' If you tune into a game in the eighth inning and nobody says anything about a possible no-hitter, wouldn't you be mad if you turned it off? ... The only time I've been nervous on air was the very first game I did in Daytona, which was an exhibition game, and the eighth and ninth innings of those three no-hitters."