WGH grad Gania makes trip back to big leagues for radio | News, Sports, Jobs

Submitted photo Warren G. Harding grad Greg Gania, right, poses for a photo with former MLB pitcher and his color commentator Doug Fister before calling the play-by-play for the Detroit Tigers’ game against the Oakland Athletics on July 21.

The Mahoning Valley Scrappers boast the fact that since arriving in Niles in 1999, they have produced more than 100 players who have advanced to the Major League level.

The franchise can now also claim one of its own radio play-by-play broadcasters as someone who has performed in the big show.

Greg Gania — a Warren native and a 2001 graduate of Warren G. Harding High School — worked as the Scrappers’ radio play-by-play broadcaster from 2001-2004. Gania began his stint as the voice of the Scrappers when he was a junior at Bowling Green.

Gania has since been the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Erie SeaWolves, the Class AA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. He also serves as the team’s assistant general manager.

On July 21, Gania got the call up to the big leagues when he called a doubleheader between the Detroit Tigers and Oakland A’s at RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland. It marked the second time Gania called a game on the Tigers radio network. He made his Major League debut on Sept. 8, 2018 when he stepped in for a night at Comerica Park in Detroit.

“It’s awesome, it’s a dream come true for any minor league broadcaster,” Gania said. “It’s really no different than the players who are trying against all odds to work their way up to the big leagues. It’s the same with us, except that there are much fewer slots to fill.

“To have that opportunity to get my foot in the door, and then to have the Tigers appreciate my work enough to give me a second go-round, it’s quite an honor.”

Gania made his Big League radio debut just days after the end of the SeaWolves’ 2018 season. He was all set to take a much-deserved breather following a 140-game schedule when he said his phone began “blowing up with texts from our front office.” The message was to reach out to the Tigers’ director of broadcasting as soon as possible.

“Dan Dickerson, the Tigers’ radio guy, had to move over to the television booth for a Saturday game and they asked if I could call the game on the radio,” Gania said. “At that moment I knew what it felt like for these players when they get called into the manager’s office at 10 or 11 at night after a game and are told that they are moving up to Triple-A or to the big leagues.”

With virtually no time to prepare for the game — or to get nervous — Gania drove 270 miles to Detroit on a Friday, checked into a hotel, “stayed up until about three in the morning making notes,” and then about 12 hours later settled in behind the mic.

“I’ve had so many players over the years tell me their experience of playing that first game in the majors,” Gania said. “They’re nervous, there are all kinds of butterflies before the game but once they actually get in the game things settle down and it’s just baseball.”

“That was how it was for me. I was really wound up heading to the stadium but once the game started it just felt natural. I felt like I belonged there.”

The Tigers organization was impressed enough with Gania’s work that he was invited to call a spring training game in 2019 and several spring training games in 2020. Gania was on-call that year to work a regular season game, but those plans were disrupted due to COVID. The league lockout this past spring prevented him from working any spring games.

Last week’s Tigers-A’s doubleheader was played the week of the MLB All-Star break. It was the lone game on the Tigers’ schedule during a five-day stretch, and prior commitments left Dickerson unable to make the trip to the west coast. The Tigers again reached out to Gania. This time, Gania drove to Detroit and then made the trip to California with the team. The game coincided with the SeaWolves’ four-day All-Star break.

“Everything worked out perfectly, the timing couldn’t have been better and it wasn’t a last-second notice,” Gania said. “It was pretty surreal, everything was first class. The Tigers couldn’t have been more gracious and accommodating.

“The really neat thing about this was that there are about thirteen players on the Tigers roster that I know from their time with the SeaWolves. They were so welcoming and they were genuinely happy that I was given this opportunity.”

Oddly enough, this time Gania was the veteran in the booth for the two-man broadcast. He was joined for the doubleheader by former MLB pitcher Doug Fister, who was providing color commentary. Fister was making his broadcasting debut.

“It was pretty awkward for me in that here’s Doug, a guy who played in front of 50,000 fans and who played in the World Series, and he was sort of leaning on me for advice,” Gania said. “He was fantastic. Everything fell in place right away.”

Gania noted that the biggest difference between calling a minor league and a major league game is the time put in beforehand. As a minor league broadcaster he “wears many hats, and most of the day is spent doing everything but radio prep work.” Major league announcers have plenty of time each day to prepare for the broadcast.

“The game is a little faster, the venue is bigger, it’s a bigger stage, but it’s still calling a baseball game, it’s what I love,” Gania said.

Gania says he will “forever be incredibly grateful for the opportunity given to me by the Scrappers.” He still has fond memories of his time spent with the organization – even prior to stepping into the radio booth. Gania noted that his first-ever job was working in concessions with the Scrappers when he was 16 years old.

“I worked there for three summers and then I told (former Scrappers general manager) Andy Milovich that I loved the organization, I wanted to come back again for another summer but that I needed some type of internship that worked with my communications major,” Gania said. “Public relations, media relations, anything would have worked. That’s what I was hoping for.

“Then one day the phone rang in my dorm room and it’s Andy. He says, ‘How would you like to be our radio guy?’ Then I worked under (Scrappers general manager) Dave Smith for two years. I can only imagine how bad I was starting out as a 20-year-old, but those guys stuck by me. I owe them a lot.”

Smith, who now works for Kent State University, recalls Gania as being “an extremely energetic, hard-working kid.” Smith noted that Gania was always passionate about his work.

“If you asked me to name the broadcasters I worked with during my time with the Scrappers, Greg is the first name to come to mind,” Smith said. “He was always upbeat and he loved what he did.

“Even before he became our radio guy, I remember Greg being a really positive person who loved working for the Scrappers. I’m not at all surprised about his success. He earned it.”

Gania’s most memorable time with MV centers around the 2004 season in which the Scrappers, managed by Mike Sarbaugh, won a New York-Penn League title.

“That team just caught fire in August, and I remember the fans being so into baseball that summer,” Gania said. “It’s neat that me and Mike are still friends to this day.”

When Gania was hired by the SeaWolves at 23 years old, he was the youngest broadcaster at the AA level. Today at 39, Gania says he is “grateful and thrilled” with the path baseball has taken him, but still hopes for more.

“Just like the players, once you get that call up you don’t want to let go, you never know when or if you’ll get another chance,” Gania said. “I’m grateful for the opportunities the Tigers have given me. Those opportunities have shown me both how close I am to reaching my ultimate goal and how tough it is to actually accomplish the goal at this level and in this sport.

“For now, I’ll just keep doing what I love doing and see where it leads.”

sports@tribtoday.com

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