Conerly’s summer in Cape Cod League is next step in broadcasting career

Will Conerly

Will Conerly, a 2020 Quincy University graduate and currently a graduate assistant in the QU athletic department, is broadcasting games for the Y-D Red Sox in the Cape Cod League this summer. Submitted photo

SOUTH YARMOUTH, Mass. — The moment required subtlety and restraint.

Will Conerly understood that.

As Harwich Mariners second baseman Hal Hughes rounded the bases after hitting a solo home run, Conerly allowed his play-by-play voice to fade and the television audience to soak in the picture. Mickey Tettleton, the former major league catcher and analyst for NESN broadcasts, eventually broke the brief silence with some analysis.

Everything about the call worked in harmony, a credit to Conerly’s continuous growth in the booth.

He held back and delivered an informative, smooth description of the play, injecting statistical background culled from preparation and research. No one watching the Cape Cod League game could have known this was the Quincy University graduate student’s first time calling the action on a major network.

Nor would they have guessed he’d never worked alongside Tettleton.

“It turns out Mickey Tettleton knew this kid,” Conerly said. “So no one else in the world could break it down better than this guy. I just had to do my job.”

The call needed to be simple, succinct and steady, just like it was.

“It’s something I’ll never forget for sure,” Conerly said.

It’s turning into a summer he’ll never forget as well.

‘Becoming a baseball broadcaster is the goal’

A 2020 graduate of QU with a bachelor’s degree in communications, the 23-year-old Conerly signed on as a graduate assistant in the athletic department while also serving as the play-by-play voice for QU football and basketball on WGEM Radio. 

It seemed to be a natural progression for the Webster Groves, Mo., product who began calling QU games on the GLVC Network as part of his undergraduate studies and spent the 2019 prep football season calling games for WTAD Radio.

That entire time, broadcasting games in the Cape Cod League remained a primary goal.

“You want to put yourself in the best situation to advance your career,” said Conerly, a left-handed reliever for the QU baseball team who made two appearances in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. “Becoming a baseball broadcaster is the goal, so this is the best place to be.”

The 10-team Cape Cod League has roots going back to the 1860s and generally is considered the premier collegiate wood bat summer league, especially for players with legitimate professional aspirations. While it is in the same classification as the Prospect League, it produces major league prospects on a much larger scale because of its history and its location in the Northeast.

Three of the top five college players projected to be selected among the first 10 picks in the 2022 MLB amateur draft have been in the Cape Cod League this summer. That includes Brooks Lee, the Cal-Poly shortstop who is projected to be selected as high as No. 2 and be the first college player off the board.

Lee is hitting .397 for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, the team Conerly covers.

“It’s really fun to see the level of talent,” Conerly said. “I’ve never seen anything like that every day with guys competing at a high level. For these guys, it’s their first real dose of what professional baseball is like.

“Although it’s 40 games and not 100, they’re going against high-level pitching every night and they’re playing with a wood bat instead of just playing weekends like in college. The grind of that has been interesting to see and experience the ups and downs of a season.”

It’s why he pursued a spot with vigor.

Last fall, with a majority of the college sports stuck in COVID quarantine but starting to see legitimate hope for a summer revival across the board, Conerly emailed the general manager of each of the 10 Cape Cod League teams.

He quickly figured out he was somewhat late to the party

“I emailed every team because I really wanted to get to the Cape,” Conerly said. “I had other opportunities, but this was something I really wanted to do. One of the positions was open, and it’s funny because it seemed a little later than normal that I sent things out.

“I didn’t realize how early some people will send stuff and how early teams make decisions. But there was an opening, I interviewed and I ended up getting the position.”

Yarmouth-Dennis has been the perfect fit.

Conerly is paired with Brad Klein, who will graduate from Syracuse University next May, and they split the play-to-play and color analyst duties. There are several Syracuse students working in the Cape Cod League, as well as some young broadcasters with strong lineages.

Ben Shulman, a junior from Syracuse who has spent the summer with the Chatham Anglers, is the son of ESPN’s Dan Shulman. Chris and Stefan Caray, who are calling games for the Cotuit Kettleers, are the great-grandsons of Harry Caray and Chip Caray’s twin sons.

“The networking with the other broadcasters has been important,” Conerly said. “We’re all passionate and like-minded in wanting to pursue broadcasting.”

It enabled Conerly and Klein to develop some immediate synchronicity.

“We have to work well throughout the season to deliver for the listener,” Conerly said.

The insight they provide is critical since the listeners are relatively unfamiliar with the players when the season begins.

“To cover the stories of a team throughout the season has been fun,” Conerly said. “We can look at all the stats and projections for guys, but there really are some guys performing at a high level that I wouldn’t have expected to perform at that level.”

For example, Y-D middle infielder Wyatt Hoffman, the son of Hall of Famer reliever Trevor Hoffman, hit just .228 in 49 games in the spring for the University of the Pacific. However, he’s hitting .282 with eight doubles and 12 RBIs in 33 games in the Cape Cod League.

“You get to tell the listeners why that’s happening and how it’s happening,” Conerly said. “You’re telling that player’s story.”

‘Stepping stone to the next level’

His work originates from the radio booth, but Conerly’s goal is no different than the players.

He’s pursuing a next-level opportunity.

“It has helped me get better as a broadcaster and will help me get my foot in the door,” Conerly said. “I see other broadcasters who worked the Cape league in years past are now calling minor league baseball or doing network deals where they have moved on. It is kind of a stepping stone to the next level.”

Getting there requires showcasing more than a strong voice and the ability to articulate. Potential future employers are judging work ethic, preparation, knowledge and adaptability during every broadcast.

“I’ve always really prided myself on being prepared and prided myself on having the right statistic or the right nugget to share,” Conerly said.

He’s discovered it’s equally important to know when to seize the moment.

“There’s so many instances where you can’t prepare for a certain thing you’re going to see on the field,” Conerly said. “Rather, you really just need to focus on the fans, the listeners and those who are watching and telling them what is happening in front of me and trickling in information about the players that I can.

“A lot of the preparation before the game is done on the computer, and I still do that. But a lot of it I’ve been able to learn by actually getting to know the people.”

A lot of it comes from merely watching the action.

“I’ve learned to make sure I don’t get lost looking down (at notes) so much and really focus on the game,” Conerly said.

It’s forced him to trust his instincts more.

“It’s a job of a broadcaster to decipher that information, calculate it in your head and actually chew it up and spit it out to the listeners in a way they can understand it,” Conerly said. “I’ve really tried to make sure I know what is relevant and when to use it.”

It’s only going to make him a better broadcaster in the years to come.

“I absolutely think it will,” Conerly said. “And it’s without question what I want to keep doing.”

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