September 4, 2019 Duration: 25:12:00 Guests: Jim Hunter, Broadcaster for Baltimore Orioles on MASN & O’s Radio Network
Listen Listen to “Becoming a Student of Faith” on Spreaker. Episode Description
Joining us in Episode 8 of Following Francis is Jim Hunter, broadcaster for the Mid Atlantic Sports Network [MASN] as well as the Baltimore Orioles radio play-by-play announcer. Throughout this episode, we will discuss how this broadcaster continues to stay devoted to his faith amidst a crazy travel schedule, the connection between faith and baseball, and the future of the Baltimore Orioles.
“It’s [faith] the base and the center of everything that I am because it’s what matters. Your faith is something that’s ingrained in you and it fulfills you. And it’s something that’s a very important part of my life.” – Jim Hunter
For more information on the Baltimore Orioles season, please visit: www.mlb.com/orioles/schedule
Chris Dwyer: [00:00] Welcome to Following Francis. I’m Christopher Dwyer, your host coming to you from the Franciscan Monastery in Washington D.C. We’re excited here at the Monastery to have a very special guest, Jim Hunter. Many of you will know him as the broadcaster for the Mid Atlantic Sports Network as well as the Orioles radio play-by-play announcer. Jim, I can’t thank you enough for coming out to Following Francis here today. You know, I was looking over your bio a little bit and I see that you’re the father of three children and married living in Maryland, and I understand you just became a grandfather.
Jim Hunter: [00:45] Yeah. Last week. Our oldest son Jimmy had his first child, so we have another James Dennis Hunter in the family. He’s known as JD, so there’s not another Jim or Jimmy around. So, it’s a real blessing and we couldn’t be happier.
Chris Dwyer: [00:59] Oh, that’s fantastic. Now, going back, I understand you’re originally from New Jersey, correct?
Jim Hunter: [01:04] Yes, yes. I’m from New Jersey. When I was a very small, we lived in a town called Clifton, which is in North Jersey. Passaic County. And then right after first grade, I mean, the next day my parents moved us down to Monmouth County to a town called Hazlett. He bought a house there and that’s where I grew up. I started second grade there in Hazlett and was in that area most of my life up until I came to Baltimore to work with the Orioles. So I was a New Jersey guy through and through all through my schooling and I got married there, I had children there, and then moved to Baltimore in 1997.
Chris Dwyer: [01:46] Well I see you were involved in a high school sports. Were you involved even earlier than that? Were you involved in sports when you were in your elementary school?
Jim Hunter: [01:53] Well I always played baseball, little league and all that, that wasn’t associated with the school. I did in grammar school. St. Benedict’s did have a basketball team and I played on that. But back then there weren’t as many available sports to play as there are now. I remember when I got to high school for instance, they didn’t even have a soccer team and now they have everything there. Soccer and hockey and lacrosse. I mean they’ve added just about anything that you could play, you could play at Saint John Vianney, but when I was a young, they only had the basic sports but, I did play in high school. I played baseball and football all four years. And I played basketball one year.
Chris Dwyer: [02:35] Well, you and I are about the same age in fact, so I can completely relate to your experience with sports and its availability. Certainly in elementary school there was nothing for me. But you’re probably too humble dimension that you also received, are inducted into the athletic hall of fame there in your high school. Was that specifically for baseball.
Jim Hunter: [02:59] I was inducted. It was really like a trifecta reason. I was on two very good baseball teams my junior and senior year. We won the South Jersey parochial championship each of those years. And unfortunately we lost in the state final each of those years for the North Jersey champion. And I also play football all four years. So I had five varsity letters. I think part of the reason why I also was put in was because by the time they started the hall of fame in the 90’s was about 20 years, almost 20 years after I got out of high school. I was already working national radio at CBS, and I think the prominence of one of their alumni having a natural voice was something that attracted me to their hall of fame. Eventually, all of my teammates got inducted and so it probably would’ve happened anyway. But it was a very early honor. And you know, very, very humbled that I would go, in fact, I was inducted into the very first class when they started that hall of fame, so that, that was really something.
Chris Dwyer: [04:02] Oh, I think that’s a great honor. And then you from there went on to, was it Seton Hall?
Jim Hunter: [04:08] Yes, I started, well I, I didn’t go straight from high school to Seton Hall. I went to a community college first, Brookdale, which was Monmouth County’s community college, junior college. I had to get my grades up. So I went to community college for a couple of years and then I transferred to Seton Hall and I finished and got my college degree from Seton Hall. So, I graduated December of 1981. So I was one semester beyond if I’d gone straight through to a four year school.
Chris Dwyer: [04:35] Okay. Now were you studying broadcasting at that point or were you studying something else?
Jim Hunter: [04:41] I was. When I went to Brookdale, I took some communication courses and I worked at the college radio station right from day one. But what I had to do because I wanted transfers, I had to take certain core courses that Seton Hall would accept the credits. So I made sure to take all those courses. But, I actually, I got a break my first semester sophomore year when I was 19, but there was a fellow student who was working at Brookdale’s radio station, that got a part-time job as a newsman on the local radio station in Asbury Park, New Jersey. And he overheard the program director talking one day that they were looking for somebody to come on. They had a morning news format show up Monday to Friday during drive time and they wanted somebody to do sports and he said, well, you know, this guy I go to school with, he’s pretty good over there at the college station. Why don’t I put you in touch with him? So I went down, I auditioned and my memory of it was the most difficult thing was the typing test because I didn’t know how to type so I kind of faked it because they wanted to know if you could type the script. So I went out and auditioned and I got the job. And I started at 19 years old on commercial radio, doing the three minutes sports reports. I did six of them, between 5:00 AM and 9:00 AM and then I would go to school. So, my courses, if you will, most of it was being in professional radio at 19 years old. It was right before I turned 20.
Chris Dwyer: [06:17] Wow.
Jim Hunter: [06:17] And having to go to work and perform every day. So that was a real good break for me that early on because when you’re in the commercial world, you have to do it their way. It’s, you know, it’s not like in college radio where, you know, you could be yourself and improvise and whatnot. You had to do what they wanted you to do. And in fact, it was such a blessing to get that job so early that when I transferred Seton Hall, I commuted. I didn’t live on campus because I didn’t want to give up the job. So what I do, and you know, I think back to this and say wow that’s ambitious, but I would get up at 4:00 AM and drive 30 miles South to the radio station and the days that I had to go to Seton Hall, which is in South Orange, which was 45 to 50 minutes from where I lived. I would get in the car and drive up there and go to school and then eventually get home and do it all over again the next day. But, really looking back was the right thing to do. Maybe I missed out on some of the social things in college, but, I didn’t want to give up a job and my thinking was, well, I already have a job, but when I get out of college, I’m going to be looking for a job. Why should I give this one up? And it ended up being the right way to go.
Chris Dwyer: [07:25] That’s an awesome lesson to learn for folks that in fact, if you’re dedicated and really want some badly, you do have to work for it. So you’re proof of that.
Jim Hunter: [07:33] Well, that is true. I mean, you know, everyone gets breaks. I mean in any walk of life, in any job, but then once you’re in there, it’s up to you. So, you know, someone’s no going to put up with a poor performance just because they know somebody. But, you’re right, in this business that I’m in, it’s all about producing. So you get your opportunity, you go with it and then you have to produce. You know, I was fortunate. I mean I’ve had really three jobs my entire career and it’s been uninterrupted since I was 19 years old. So I’ve been pretty lucky in that regard.
Chris Dwyer: [08:08] Now with a life that was so busy back on campus at that point in your life, how was your faith life? Was it active? Were you, was it sort of on hold, as a lot of college students?
Jim Hunter: [08:19] It was as active as it could be. The one good thing about Seton Hall being a Catholic university, they had mass at noon everyday on campus in the chapel and the chapel is beautiful there. It’s honoring the Blessed Mother. So you could go to mass every day. You were there at noon and 30 minutes later, you know, either go to lunch or go to your next class or whatever. So, I mean, I’m not going to lie, there were weekends that something would pop up and you’d miss, but it was always there. My father was an Irish Catholic. And I mean, even when I went to work for the Orioles, I was 38 years old and I went to spring training. If I’d call home on Sunday, he would say, did you go to mass today? So it was something that, you know, always was there and always a part of my life. I’m certainly, you know, much more active now as an adult in place, in mechanisms in place and now very active in my parish when I can get there. During the season, I go to mass more at the ballpark than I do at my parish because of the timing. But, you know, you went as often as you could and certainly went for all the major holidays and the Holy days and things like that. But, it’s always been a part of my life.
Chris Dwyer: [09:29] In fact, you were touching on my next question here because it’s got to be difficult to stay connected to your faith while you’ve got all this activity and traveling around the country to do your job. You said you attend mass mainly at the stadium. Is that the…
Jim Hunter: [09:47] Yeah, there’s a group that’s based out of Washington, D..C called Catholic Athletes for Christ and Kevin O’Malley is the guy that runs it and he does a fabulous job making sure, I believe there are 28 of the 30 ball clubs offer mass on Sundays if they’re home and the mass at Camden Yards, Archbishop Lori appointed Fr. Matt Buening as our team chaplain. He’s the chaplain at Towson University, so he has Sunday morning free. So he comes to Camden Yards and celebrates mass at 9:45 every Sunday morning we’re home. The reason that I go to mass more at the ballpark is, A: I help organize. but B: When the Orioles moved the game times on Sunday from 1:35 to 1:05, if I went to 9:00AM mass at home and then had the drive down, I would get to the ballpark too late to be ready for the broadcast. So, having the mass to the ballpark is perfect. I can get there at 9:15, go to mass at 9:45. And by 10:15, I’m back in the booth getting ready for the broadcast. So this group that Kevin O’Malley heads up is really, really well done and it’s thorough and they make sure that everybody who’s interested knows where they can attend mass on the road so they don’t have to miss, simply because they have to be at the ballpark to do their job.
Chris Dwyer: [11:06] How do you see faith among athletes and in sports today? It’s not an easy thing to practice and our society tells us that we don’t even need it. Are you seeing any of that influencing the athletes in their practice of faith?
Jim Hunter: [11:21] Well, I mean, I don’t know what’s in the hearts of all these players. I mean, I do see players blessing themselves a lot on the field. It looks like they’re asking for help as they’re about to bat or pitch. But, I honestly, I mean, you know, we see some time, occasionally you’ll see a player come to the mass on Sunday. The last time we were home we were playing Tampa Bay and two of their coaches came. But I’m sure that any of the players who are active in their faith worship in their own way, and, you know, it wouldn’t be really right for me to comment on that because I don’t know what’s in their hearts. But all I know is that, you know, for me, I’m very thankful that there’s the opportunity, you know, especially when we’re on the road, to be able to attend mass and not miss it. Know that, that somebody is going out of their way to set it up for you. But I’m sure a lot of the players worship in their own way. And I know, for the Protestants, most stadiums do have some type of bible study every Sunday. And I know that’s also well attended. So I’m sure quite a few of the players in their own way worship whenever they can and however they can.
Chris Dwyer: [12:33] Do you see a connection between faith and sports in any way?
Jim Hunter: [12:38] In a way, I guess the devotions of both, because if you’re devoted to your, like in my faith being a Catholic, and as an athlete you have to be devoted to your skill. You know, there’s only 25 precious roster spots in any major league team at any one time. And if you’re a player that, you know, want’s one of those spots, you got to do what you got to do to make sure that you last and you survive and you’re better than their next option. I think, you know, the devotion to either is certainly there and to get fulfillness out of both of them. I think your devotion has to be a legitimate, and I think it has to be consistent. And that’s what I see in the ballplayers. I mean, I see their dedication to their craft, getting to the ballpark early, the hitters going to the batting cage and working on their swings and, the pitchers going out in the field and stretching their arms and side sessions. And so, you know, your devotion to being a good Christian and your devotion to being, you know, a good baseball player and or a good broadcaster, you have to be devoted to doing whatever it takes to be the best you can be. So in that regard, I think there’s similarities. Yeah.
Chris Dwyer: [13:48] Yeah. In fact, that it sounds very similar to when you were a teen yourself, a 19 year old who’s very dedicated and running out there to make sure you could keep that job when you transferred colleges.
Jim Hunter: [13:59] Yeah. Because again, you know, I’m looking back now, I think, wow, I was pretty, you know, ahead of the game as a teenager. But again, it’s all about getting a job. Once, you get a job in whatever profession you choose, it’s all about you moving forward. But you have to get that initial job so you can learn to make your mistakes and go from there. You know, I was, you know, 19 about to turn 20 sophomore year of college and I was going to a place and they were paying me to do the job and I was getting paid to learn and to learn how to be a professional. So, way back then the dedication and devotion, I mean, you know, I probably spent 3 hours every day before an Oriole broadcast before we go on the air, getting ready to go on the air because you have to be ready. You have to be prepared. And if you do that, it’s going to show in your presentation. And then an extension of that is if I’m on television or radio, those broadcasts are different, so you have to be ready for those. So, it’s all devotion, it’s all about dedication, if you’re going to be the best that you can be in whatever your profession is.
Chris Dwyer: [15:08] And going back to the faith and in your life, what has faith played for you? I mean, is it your grounding? Is it your overall moral compass? Is it what you fall back on during hard times?
Jim Hunter: [15:24] I think what it is, is it’s the base and the center of everything that I am because it’s what matters, you know, your faith is something that’s ingrained in you and it fulfills you. And it’s something that’s a very important part of my life. I mean, a couple of weeks ago we were in Boston and had a Thursday off and I got lucky because it was the Feast of the Assumption and I was able to find a chapel and go to mass, you know? And that’s important to me. It’s important to me not to miss. It’s important to me to do whatever is necessary to help grow your faith. Even as an adult. In the off season, we do a lot of work with the Little Sisters of the Poor in Catonsville. They have a couple of big banquets to raise money. They take care of the elderly who are poor and we help them out with fundraising for their Martin house and that’s always a lot of fun, you know, you come away feeling really good. Whenever the Archbishop sends out a message and says, ‘Hey, can you come to this function or that function?’ Bonnie and I always go because we know we’re going to be enriched by going and hanging out with them and helping in whatever way we can help. So it’s definitely the whole basis of who I am and how I hope I treat people. I mean, obviously we all from time to time get angry at somebody or whatever. But, it just the whole basis of who I think I am and who I became and who my parents raised and hope that I would become. The faith is the whole center of all of that.
Chris Dwyer: [17:02] Well, as much as you prepare for each of your broadcasts, it sounds like you also take a lot of energy and effort to prepare yourself for your faith and continue to grow in your faith. Any particular exercises other than attending the sacraments that has helped you strengthen your faith?
Jim Hunter: [17:19] Well, I like to read, although it’s hard during the season to read because I honestly just don’t have the time. I’m always thinking to myself, well, I could be doing prep work. But, I like to watch movies. I just watched, on the last road trip, in fact, a movie about the life of a Saint John Paul II, which was very good cause it went all the way back to his phase as a youth in Poland. And you really learned a lot about what he went through in World War II and how it shaped him. So I really enjoy those type of movies. I try to, whatever I see one that peaks my interest, I usually buy it and then eventually get around to watching it rather. But I like to read faith-based books. as many as I can. Usually that happens in the off season because again, during the there’s just, there’s such little time, you know, you have to get your rest because we have so few days off and most of the game, certain nights you’re going to bed late and you have to get up and get your work done and you have to be prepared. So, you know, I like to read, I like to watch and, you know, during the off season, I even try as often as I tend to get to daily mass at nine in the morning that they offer at my church. So, it’s just a part of it. But you know, I’m sure it’s not anything that’s, there’s probably a lot of people that put a lot more than I do, but as long as I know who matters and what matters, then I think I’m staying on the right path.
Chris Dwyer: [18:52] Have your children, uh, stayed with the faith? Are they a following?
Jim Hunter: [18:57] Yeah, they all believe. Whether they go to mass every Sunday. I doubt they do. I mean, you know, when you’re young people and you have different priorities at different times. But I mean, every Christmas we go to mass as a family to the vigil on the night before Christmas Eve. And then we go to dinner and then we have our rituals. But yeah, they understand. I mean, I’m not like my father was asking, ‘Hey, did you go, did you go, did you go?’ Because I figured that once they understand how important that is in their individual lives, they’ll eventually go back and then I think it will be worth more if they do. But, they do go to mass. And I know they believe, I just don’t know how efficient they are at making sure they get there every Sunday. Most of the time I’m never around anyway. I mean, they all live on their own anyway. They’re all married, live on their own. So, and I’m a, you know, I, half of the Sundays during the baseball season, I’m not even in Baltimore. So, it would be tough to keep up on that, but I know that they have faith and I know they believe.
Chris Dwyer: [20:03] I think that’s awesome that you imparted that to them. And I only aske because a number of our listeners here, and I would say the majority of our listeners happen to be young professionals, basically a college and up to thirties. And they are listening in and they’re developing their own spirituality and some have been finding it very difficult to follow what the church has offered. So we’re out there asking folks, you know, what, what is it that keeps you connected? What is it that helps you remain tied to the faith even when it is difficult. So that’s why I was asking particularly about your children.
Jim Hunter: [20:40] Yeah, like I said, I mean I know they believe and I know they understand and I’m sure actually as they move forward in their lives, you know, my daughter and her husband recently moved. They are in the parish now of where our former pastor in Fallston grew up. So he in fact, Fr. Matt lives at this particular church. So they know it’s there. I’m sure they go when they can and as long as I know that they understand what’s really important and I believe they do understand that, then everything is fine.
Chris Dwyer: [21:17] Oh, it sounds like they definitely do there Jim. What’s the rest of the season look like for you here?
Jim Hunter: [21:25] The rest of the season looks like playing out the schedule. We’re looking forward to September call ups and getting a look at some of these players that might be going forward with when you’re in a rebuild, it’s a tough thing to go through. This is the second time that I’ve been through here with the Orioles, the first one actually turned around more quickly than they thought. But this time they’re breaking it down to the bottom and trying to build it up from the farm system. And that’s going to take a few years. So for the rest of the year, it’s just a matter of getting to know and see what players that already here that have stepped forward that maybe we didn’t think would be part of the rebuild, but now will be. But I’m interested, for instance, Ryan Mountcastle, who’s one of our top prospects, he won the MVP in the international league in AAA this year and he’s only 22, which is some feet. So it’s nice to see that initial call up of the September call ups. And, you know, I remember when Trey Mancini was that guy and you know, now he’s one of the best players on the team and in the league. That’s exciting because, you know, obviously for a last place team, you’re not looking forward to post season, so you’re looking forward to the future and who might be a part of that. So that’s really what we got going for us for the remaining games. So we’ll move forward and hopefully we’ll see some of those new players and look forward to what they might do in the off season to get better talent. The new regime is had a really good first year. They had a good draft, they signed a bunch of international players and I would imagine this off season they’ll be active in trying to acquire certain players they think fit their mold that they could move forward with. They’re very into the analytics of the game. And I know there are players out there that when they were with Houston that they acquired that helped the Astros improve and become one of the best teams. So I’m sure they’re going to be busy doing that. So really going forward the off season is what we’ll look forward to because I will see what different players they might be able to acquire.
Chris Dwyer: [23:16] So did you get a break?
Jim Hunter: [23:18] Oh yes. Oh yes. In the off season I do as little as possible and usually around December, they’ll start up, we do an off season radio show once a week for an hour just to keep the fans up to date on what’s going on. And we usually have a couple of players call in each show. So that’s only once a week for an hour. And like I said, usually for December. So pretty much from the time the season ends up to around Thanksgiving, it’s pretty much just rest, relax, get reacquainted at home and try to get to the beaches often as I can.
Chris Dwyer: [23:54] Well I certainly appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule cause I know it’s running crazy right now for you. So thank you for stopping by at Following Francis here.
Jim Hunter: [24:04] I appreciate it. It was a lot of fun. Thanks for having me.
Chris Dwyer: [24:06] Thank you to Jim Hunter for taking time out of his busy schedule and thank you to our listeners for joining us here at Following Francis. Please check out the latest information about the monastery and the work of the Holy land friars at myfranciscan.org as well as on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. Please subscribe to our podcast and share the link with your friends. We have joining us next time Fr. Brian Meldrum, a young priest who is studying here at Catholic U. So please join us for that podcast. And in the meantime, I am Christopher Dwyer and on behalf of the Franciscan friars, I extend to you the Franciscan blessing peace and all good.