Curve ‘voice’ fills many roles
Those who know him only as the broadcast voice of the Altoona Curve, only know part of the story – a small part.
To be clear, Mike Passanisi, in his fifth season with the team, dreams of reaching the majors as a broadcaster. He also has big-league aspirations as a media relations professional or even as a social media director.
At the top level of the profession, they’re three distinct jobs with their own demanding deadlines and responsibilities. In Double-A baseball, though, an organization that has one person capable of wearing all three of those hats has a valuable asset.
It also has one busy employee, and that’s the case with Passanisi on gamedays at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
When the Curve started a recent series, Passanisi had been at work 11 hours and 32 minutes before he uttered his first words on the team’s broadcast that night. That’s because he had been busy handling a seemingly unending list of duties related to marketing, media relations, promotions, social media and ticket sales since he arrived at the ballpark just before 8:30 a.m.
Such long days come with the territory in minor league baseball, and Passanisi, 30, with short, slightly spiked dark hair and dark Dolce and Gabanna glasses, appreciates the challenges and opportunities his job presents. Actually, he embraces all that comes with the job, and he works every day with one focus.
“I want people to come to the ballpark and have a good time,” he said.
His focus and reach stretch far beyond the ballpark – especially with his broadcasting duties and work on the team’s social media outlets and website. He knows it’s not enough to simply throw information out there, too.
“We try to track what’s working and what’s not,” he said.
Passanisi handles everything from the small details to the big events. As the team’s self-described “resident nerd,” he serves as the lead troubleshooter for everything from wireless problems in the clubhouse and jammed printers in the front office to handling the anticipated media surge for this week’s Eastern League All-Star Game in Altoona.
While the press box might include a half dozen credentialed media members for a regular game (and has swelled to as many as 74 for Steven Strasburg’s professional debut in 2010), Passanisi expects three dozen media members for the two days of all-star festivities.
Passanisi became the Curve’s lead broadcaster in 2010 and was later promoted to assistant general manager-communications.
Before arriving in Altoona, Passanisi was director of media relations and creative services for the Savannah Sand Gnats in the South Atlantic League. He also worked for the San Diego Surf Dogs of the Golden Baseball League.
He’s the oldest of three siblings, including brother Matt, 26, a lawyer in Las Vegas, and 16-year-old sister MaKayla, who still lives at home in Penngove, Calif.
His work has already been on ESPNNews (when he called Jose Canseco’s short-lived comeback attempt for the minor league Surf Dogs), and he clearly remembers July 25, 2013, when he was the broadcaster for the second no-hitter in Curve history, which was the result of five different pitchers.
Curve general manager Rob Egan, the team’s radio voice for its first six seasons (1999-2004), said Passanisi’s strengths are obvious. He appreciates the challenges of the job and brings a proven perspective when critiquing Passanisi’s work.
“He has a great communications background, and he’s a strong writer, which we need with producing media notes, programs, the website and so much more. That’s an absolute strength,” Egan said. “Plus, in this business you have to be committed and passionate. He’s both of those things, and he’s dogged in his pursuit of perfection, even though it’s elusive for anyone.”
Most specifically, though, Egan knows the challenges of travel (in minor-league ball, the team’s lead broadcaster is usually the only member of the front office who attends road games) and all the other things that come with Passanisi’s position, everything from time spent away from the office and home, as well as staying connected with other members of the staff.
“Honestly, I think the area where he’s improved most for us is as a broadcaster, simply because he understands the organization and our company better. He’s much more comfortable on the air,” Egan said. “In some ways, I think I’m harder on him because of my background, and in other ways I might not be as fair as I should.”
When Passanisi finally gets behind the microphone for a game, he brings his scorebook, a wealth of organization and team knowledge and five different colored pens. That’s orange for batting average, red for stolen bases or errors, green for run-scoring plays, blue for strikeouts and purple for walks. A hash on his scorebook denotes a first-pitch strike. That’s all just part of his personal scoring approach, something broadcasters at all levels do with slight variations.
Much like the ballpayers on the Curve roster, Passanisi also eyes advancement. Someday, maybe in the big leagues, he might have more than a small office, one he does not share with a poster printer that takes up a quarter of the room.
And at some point, the final task of his day might not be determined by which way the wind blows as in true minor-league fashion – fireworks nights at Curve games are also something of an employee roulette wheel.
If the wind blows what remains of the fireworks back into the ballpark, front-office staff members clean off the field before they leave that night. But, if the wind blows out, team interns pick up the debris from Lakemont Park the next morning.
“Everybody has aspirations,” Passanisi said, “and I want to be the best I can be at whatever I’m doing.”