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By Carolina Fernandez | June 9, 2005
Mark Boyle thrives on the unusual. From piranha fishing in the Amazon to performing with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, he has experienced a plethora of unique amusements during the off-season. This summer, he will go from chartered jets and five-star hotels with the Pacers to eight-hour bus rides and basic accommodations as broadcaster for the Billings Mustangs, a rookie league baseball team in Billings, MT.
Boyle, the Pacers radio play-by-play announcer, has a love for baseball and wanted to pursue his passion during the downtime he has in the summer.
“I always wanted to do baseball,” he said. “But as my career evolved I didn’t have a chance. The reason I chose to do a minor-league team is because their season is short. It only runs June through September.”
Boyle cited his passion for baseball as one of the things that inspired him into pursuing his career.
“I went into broadcasting because I wanted to broadcast baseball every day in the summer,” said Boyle. “I just always wanted to do that. I’m very pleased with my career, but it was always just something I wanted to do.
“At the risk of offending basketball fans, baseball has always been my favorite sport. If there could only be one sport in the world and I had to choose it, I would choose baseball.”
And now, he’s pursuing his dream. Mustangs General Manager Gary Roller is eager to have an experienced broadcaster.
“This year it was a pretty easy decision,” said Roller. “We usually get broadcasters right out of college because of the level we play at. I was very excited about it.”
Boyle gave several reasons for choosing the Mustangs as opposed to other teams, part of the reason being he began his career there.
“I started at a radio station there in Miles City (MT) in 1978,” he said. “Back then they didn’t have specialized radio, so I was a disc jockey and did farm reports, news reports, a little bit of everything. I’m also familiar with the park. That was one of the things that was appealing.”
In addition to having started out in Montana, Boyle’s wife also is from there and the couple has friends and family in the area.
One challenge that Boyle might encounter is adjusting to the slower pace of baseball, which has a much more deliberate tempo and entirely different rhythm than basketball. Boyle recognizes and appreciates these differences.
“The pacing of the game is different,” he said. “In baseball there is a lot of dead time, you can weave in anecdotes it lends itself to a more conversational approach.
“There are a lot of things not applicable at the NBA level. There’s more of a bond between baseball fans and broadcasters than in any other sport. People can see more about you than in basketball, you have time to tell stories; you can’t do that in basketball because it’s so quick. Baseball broadcasting was always appealing to me growing up. There’s an intimacy and connectivity there and you don’t have that in basketball.”
Roller is anticipating that Boyle will be up to the task of making the change in the broadcast booth. If he has a concern, it is his new play-by-play man's adjustment to the more spartan lifestyle.
“Baseball is his passion and he follows it very closely. I think there will be a very smooth transition,” he said. “The transition that might be difficult for him will be from the lifestyle of the NBA to the minor league. We don’t charter jets or stay at the Four Seasons, we’re a bus team. I think that will be harder for him to adjust to than the transition from broadcasting basketball to baseball.”
Boyle is prepared for the differences of working with a minor-league team compared to one in the NBA.
“It will be different to not take flights to games and stay in fancy hotels; you take that for granted in the NBA,” he said. “These guys have to travel eight hours on a charter bus to get to games. I’m a little older now than when I started my career with the Pacers and I’m curious as to how I’ll respond getting back to the real world.”
Boyle agreed that along with the lifestyle change, it will also be a transition to work with the different types of players he will encounter.
“I think it will be different, the guys in the NBA are at different places in their lives,” he said. “A lot of the people who play in this baseball league are coming straight out of high school and college, for some of them it’s their first time away from home and their first professional experience. They’re younger guys and less experienced, and most of them don’t make very much for a monthly salary. I’ve never had any problems with any of the Pacers players, they’re great, but they are more mature and have more life experience. Unlike the Mustangs, all the guys on the Pacers are richer than me.”
Even though Boyle is excited about his new adventure, he does not plan to make this a typical summer routine.
“I’m looking at this as a one-time thing,” he said. “Never say never, but the Pacers were kind enough to give me this time off and my wife is being pretty flexible on this.”
Roller said he is excited about what Boyle can bring to the Mustangs.
“He’s very polished, most of the broadcasters we get aren’t very experienced and basically he will just pick it up running,” he said. “While most of them have to figure out what their style is and many take a month to get their feet under them, he already has a style that will transfer well into baseball.”
Roller said he was not sure if Boyle’s presence as broadcaster would increase the amount of local listeners, but he said he thinks it will maximize their national listeners (the games are streamed on the Internet at http://broadcast.billingsmustangs.com).
However, the chance that local interest will peak is likely, as well, due to the promotion of his arrival in the local media.
“We’re trying (to promote his arrival), but in a small market it’s tough,” Roller said. “We have a banquet on the 18th (June), where the players will sign autographs and he will emcee it, but the media in town is very excited. They all have features they want to do on him. It’s very unusual on this level for someone like Boyle to broadcast (for the minor leagues). They are all waiting to sit down and talk with him.”
What’s in store for his next adventure, climbing Mt. Everest or swimming with sharks, perhaps? He hasn’t decided.
“I’ll think of something,” Boyle said. “I’m glad to finally take a whack at this baseball thing.”