Even though it is February, we are actually very close to the start of Spring Training and the return of baseball from the winter offseason. With baseball returning, we can think of lots of great Nats wins. Almost every great Nats win ends in a Gatorade bath. And almost every Gatorade bath ends up on Dan Kolko, sideline reporter for MASN (the Nationals’ TV broadcast station).
Kolko became the MASN sideline reporter in 2014 and has been hilariously dunked with Cool Blue Gatorade many times in his first year. Recently, Dan did a Matt’s Bats Chat with me where he gave interesting behind-the-scenes descriptions of his job as a sideline reporter. I hope you enjoy it.
Matt’s Bats- First of all, can you tell me a bit of your background and how you got into broadcasting?
Dan Kolko- I had a feeling I wanted to do some type of sports broadcasting back in high school, but really learned it was the right path for me in college. I started out at Dickinson College, a small Division-III school in Pennsylvania, and they didn’t have a student TV station there, but I did radio broadcasts of football, basketball and baseball games. I then transferred to the University of Delaware (which I love with all my heart), and got great experience there doing live TV broadcasts of football and men’s and women’s basketball games, both as a play-by-play guy and the color commentator. I also hosted a bi-weekly studio sports show for the student TV station, all of which was a blast. I always tell kids who want to break into the business to do as much as possible while in college.
After college, I started working as a production assistant at Comcast SportsNet in Bethesda, and then was offered a job with MASN’s website, which back then was in its early stages. I did some behind-the-scenes stuff and also got a chance to do some writing, and was quickly given the chance to cover the Baltimore Ravens for the website. I covered the Ravens for four years doing mostly writing with a bit of on-air work, all the while knowing I’d still like to be on the TV side of things.
I then was bumped up to cover the Nats for MASN’s website in 2012, which allowed me more on-air opportunities. Last year, during a Nats-Astros spring training game in Kissimmee, Fla., I got a call from one of my bosses asking if I’d like to be the sideline reporter for our broadcasts. I said, “Heck yes, I would,” slapped myself in the face a couple times to make sure it wasn’t a dream, and went back to work.
MB- When did you become a baseball fan?
DK- I’m convinced I was a baseball fan the instant I was born. My parents tell stories about how as a toddler, I played with every tennis ball, baseball, golf ball, basketball I could find, and eventually, they had to chase them all over the place as I tried to learn how to throw.
MB- Did you play baseball growing up?
DK- I played ball as a kid, playing shortstop and pitching, but lagged behind most kids my age in middle school and early in high school because I was so skinny and always one of the shorter ones. Once I learned I had absolutely no chance of playing sports professionally, I tried to find a way to be around them in another capacity.
MB- Who was your favorite player growing up?
DK- My favorite player growing up – as was the case with most kids my age in the Maryland area – was Cal Ripken, Jr. I idolized the guy.
MB- There’s been a lot of discussion about you coming back next season as the MASN sideline reporter. Is it official yet?
DK- It is indeed official. I signed the contract last week, and will be back as the on-field reporter for 2015. The only difference this year is that I will no longer be covering the team for MASNsports.com. Handling two jobs was tough last year and was very time-consuming. This season, I’ll get to focus strictly on the TV side of things, with an occasional blog post possibly appearing on the site from time to time.
MB- What have you done this offseason?
DK- In the offseason, I try to spend as much time as possible doing the activities that I don’t get to do much of from March-September: travel, hang out with friends and family, work out and sleep. I’ve taken a couple trips this winter and spent a good bit of time with the people I care about, which has been great.
MB- Tell me about the life you lead during the season. What is a normal day for you like?
DK- Last season, I would write up a morning blog post on the site by 9:30 a.m., do some prep work for the game, get to the stadium around 2:30 p.m., conduct pregame interviews, meet with our in-game producer to discuss what reports I have for that night, prepare my pregame show material and my in-game material, do a segment (called a “hit” in the business) on Nats Xtra, then scarf down some dinner and do the game broadcast. Afterwards, it’s back into the clubhouse for postgame interviews, then I would head up to the press box to transcribe and write a postgame story. It made for fun days, but long days. This season, not writing means I’ll have my mornings to myself, which I hope will allow for trips to the gym and some added prep time.
MB- What do you do during the game? Are you always in the camera well next to the dugout, or do you go up to the press box or into the clubhouse?
DK- I’m in the camera well most of the game, but also pop up to the press box from time to time. I prepare a number of reports for each game, but they could become relevant at any time, so I have to be ready to go on-air if a certain report fits in that moment. I coordinate with our producer and the guys in our production truck throughout the game, and we decide when it makes sense to put me on. We try to get me in at some point in the first three innings. I come up with most topics myself, but sometimes one of my producers or F.P. will make a good suggestion.
MB- How do you do all that avoid being hit by screaming line drive?
DK- I had a few close calls last season, but survived unscathed. You’ve got to really pay attention down there in the camera well, or else you can get smoked.
MB- How do you handle all the travel you do with the team as they play 81 road games?
DK- Traveling so frequently definitely wears on you as the season goes on, and it’s tough feeling like you’re never really settled, even when you’re at home. I have suits and shirts and ties everywhere, dry cleaning and laundry all over the place. But our travel itself is made much easier by the fantastic team staffers. You miss out on beach trips and time with family and friends, which can be tough, but you get to be around baseball every day, which is great.
MB- Do you become friends with the players or the other broadcasters or staff?
DK- You do become friends with the other broadcasters and crew members, because you’re around each other so often. I’m friendly with players, but I still try and keep a professional balance, because I’m there to do a job, and sometimes that could mean asking tough questions of players and coaches.
MB- How would you describe your job? Do you try to report just the facts like a journalist or be more of an entertainer or color commentator?
DK- I see my job description as providing important information on news surrounding the team (injuries, updates from the manager, specific things a player might be working on, etc.) while also adding a bit of color to the broadcast. Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo work hard to call the action on the field, and my role is to bring information from the clubhouse that can provide context or enhance the broadcast in some way.
I work hard at that, but also pride myself on not taking myself too seriously, and so I’m willing to go down Bernie Brewer’s slide in Milwaukee or do a hit from above Tal’s Hill in Houston if it shows off something cool or adds to our broadcast. We’ll see about the whole kayak thing in San Francisco this year. I know I let a lot of people down by not making that happen last season.
MB- What’s it like to be given a Gatorade bath after a win? Who pays for the cleaning?
DK- The Gatorade baths are fun for the players and the fans. Less fun for my dry cleaning bill, which I take care of myself. No, they’re a blast, and it’s a nice way to top off a walk-off win.
MB- Do you have a favorite color to be doused with? Do you have a change of clothes?
I prefer a blue Gatorade bath – by far my favorite flavor to drink – but am good with anything but red, which stains easily. Gotta watch out for the suits, shirts and shoes. For one pregame hit last year, I chatted with Jerry Blevins and Drew Storen about the art of the Gatorade bath (http://www.masnsports.com/media.php?show_id=2295294&p=4), which was a cool segment.
MB- Tell me about the clubhouse after the clinch in Atlanta– it looked crazy.
DK- The clinch was a great night. The guys were really enjoying themselves, and I tried to work through all the beer and Champagne so that everyone back home could hear from all the players and staffers. I’m glad fans seemed to enjoy it.
MB- A few one-word questions: Apple or Android?
DK- Apple, for sure
MB- Chocolate or Vanilla?
DK- Chocolate, for sure
MB- Window or aisle seat?
DK- Window seat, for sure. (But I get an aisle seat on the team charter flight.)
MB- Beach vacation or ski vacation?
DK- Beach, without a doubt. Love the beach.
MB- Favorite ballpark?
DK- On the road, I love AT&T Park in San Francisco, Safeco Field in Seattle, PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Wrigley Field in Chicago. Tough for me to pick just one.
MB- Favorite food to order at a game?
DK- I’ve always loved nachos, but there’s something about a ballpark hot dog for me.
MB- Favorite TV show?
DK- I’ll give two TV shows I absolutely love: The Wire and Seinfeld.
MB- Is there a wrong pipe?
DK- We all know the answer to this one, right?
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