ESPN's Dan Shulman had better watch out.
The great Al Michaels? He better be on alert.
The legendary Bob Costas?Make room, boys.
Zach Mackey has the best set of radio and television pipes to come down the pike in years. High praise for someone 17, I know. But the young man is that good.Big-time good.
Recently, the Geneseo High School senior-to-be got a taste of what major league broadcasting is about, shadowing ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball team of Shulman, Orel Hershisher and John Kruk.
Mackey, a football player at Geneseo, contacted Shulman. Ever gracious, the veteran play-by-play announcer offered Mackey, and his parents, a glimpse into the production ins-and-outs of a major league baseball game.
It left quite an impression on Mackey, who does prep sports for his high school radio and TV stations, as well as Geneseo's cable-access station. He also does wrestling play-by-play and color for MC22 Sports (Mediacom).
"Mr. Shulman could not have been any nicer,'' Mackey said. "He responded to my email, set up the game for us (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at the Chicago White Sox) and shared with me his game preparation. There is so much that goes into making a broadcast come to life, but he was prepared.''
In the TV booth, Mackey met Hershiser, a winner of 204 big-league games, and Kruk, a great hitter during his career and one of the game's true characters.
"Orel Hershiser came right over, introduced himself and shook my hand,'' Mackey said. "He was kind and gracious. Kruk was also exceptionally nice and really funny. He cusses like a sailor off the air.''
The trio allowed Mackey to stand off to the side of their pregame open, sit in on their production meeting and stay in the TV booth as they worked. The time and effort were not lost on the talented youngster.
"There isn't much glamor to it,'' Mackey said. "They are professionals and they are prepared. They work in a small, cramped space against the elements. It was really cold that night. I was also amazed at how many people it takes to bring the game to life. I was also taken with how calm and collected the guys were during everything. They were always ready.''
The experience whet Mackey's broadcast appetite for more. He is looking at mass communications programs at Indiana University and the University of Missouri. He also knows if he stays close to home, the radio and television program at St. Ambrose University is top-notch.
"There are challenges at all three,'' he said. "You really can't go wrong wherever, because it's about the work you put in.''
And about that hard work -- Mackey says Shulman left him with some great advice.
"He said if I want to work, good things can happen, but you have to work and separate yourself because there are so many people in the business,'' Mackey said. "If you think you're not gonna work, get out now. It's not just sitting around and talking sports. There's a lot of really detailed work and preparation that goes into it.''
Don't be surprised to someday turn on your television and see Zach Mackey sitting where Shulman, Michaels or Costas sit.
He's that good.
Columnist John Marx can be reached at (309) 757-8388 or email@example.com.
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