Tag Archives: independent baseball stories

Broadcasting Baseball – Tim Calderwood

On what would have been opening weekend in the Frontier League, Indy Ball Island still wanted to bring a Frontier League staple to all of our readers, words from the Boomers broadcaster Tim Calderwood.

Hello Indy Ball Island!

One thing we have a plethora of currently is time. I am grateful that Indy Ball Island has given me the opportunity to use some of that time to write about one of my passions in life, indy ball, and share some stories. I’m a visual guy so you know pictures will be involved in this as well. One of the things I have grown to love about indy ball is that everyone has a story, the unique perspective that I have is to tell those stories every night for others to hear and get the best seat in the house to watch as more chapters are written (Well, best seat ish).

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There will be plenty of time for stories and thoughts over the coming weeks before the return of baseball, but in the meantime I have a very wide range in musical taste (Eminem to Eric Church to Dave Matthews to Phish and everywhere in between), but every time I write something I like to use Jay-Z from PSA, allow me to reintroduce myself!

My name is Tim Calderwood and I IMG_-pwmpwkam currently the broadcaster for the Schaumburg Boomers in the Frontier League. I have been with the Boomers since their first season, 2012. I’ll give a little bit more of my history in just a moment, but first since we are becoming buddies you can call me Popcorn, or TCPopcorn. It’s a nickname that has stuck with me for my entire tenure in baseball. On twitter @tcpopcorn and ditto on insta, though I don’t post much on insta. And twitter may fall into your realm because most of my posts come during baseball season.

20190809_213741During the pandemic to keep my baseball fix going I have been hosting a program that I post on Twitter and Youtube called Quarantine Cards where I open baseball cards, which is something I started doing during game broadcasts last year and wanted to start again while we wait this out (Stay safe out there everyone!).

One of the things I liked to do during my broadcasts was to try and find cards of Frontier League players that have reached the show and share a bit of their story, yes, you can make your way from indy ball to The Show.

 

NOTE: If you have any cards of Frontier League players in The Show, send ‘em my way! 20200418_213712They go with me to every game on the schedule to remind people that dreams can come true.

 

But back to my story. My broadcasting roots in indy ball trace all the way back to 2007. I spent three years with Traverse City (Beach Bums – Mich. 2007-09) and one year with Lake Erie (Crushers – Ohio 2010) before moving to Gary in 2011. One thing I have in common with the players is that for four years I lived with a host family before landing back in my homeland of Chicago. I’ve been broadcasting baseball since college, but as a ‘professional’ since 2005. I put professional in quotes because really as I look back at IMG_20200409_180957_392pictures and memories frequently, who can call this a job. I once heard a quote, find something you love to do an you’ll never work a day in your life, and ain’t that the truth. Each and every night and ballpark and season is filled with its own excitement.

Of my 13 years broadcasting professional baseball, all of them have been in the independent ranks and 12 of those years in the Frontier League. Now some people may say that being a lifer isn’t a desirable position, but I point to finding something you love and going with it. I enjoy being able to remember details of a player when they make it to The Show, or attending a wedding, or recounting great moments in team and league history (Plenty of those in the coming blogs I am sure). Many people have made careers in independent baseball, although as Frontier League Commissioner Bill Lee likes to say, “We’re family and you’re welcome to stay as long as you like, but we hope you get the heck out of here.”

I have built so many relationships through baseball. From players to coaches to managers to players who have become coaches and then managers to coaches who have become managers. I’m lucky in Schaumburg that the team has had only one manager in franchise history, Jamie Bennett. Many Frontier League teams are now led by familiar faces, and I have been able to build relationships with many of them in addition to my peers in the broadcast industry and the countless people from other organizations I have met annually in my Tour de Frontier as I like to call it.

Here’s to hoping we have many tours down memory lane in the coming months! Until next time,

Yours in Indy Ball,

TCPopcorn

No More What If’s – Kevin Belskie

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Kevin Belskie

The game of baseball creates the greatest memories of my life and teaches me lessons I can’t learn anywhere else. Growing up in the Philadelphia suburb of Norristown, PA, baseball became a huge part of my life by the time I could walk. The warmer months were occupied by little league games, travel team tournaments, and each night at 7:05, Harry Kalas called the Phillies game and I made sure not to miss an inning. This became a routine and I was hooked. My dad would tell me about the players he grew up watching and I would be glued to my seat listening to him. I’d beg my parents and my brothers to play catch with me all day, every day, because all I wanted to do was play baseball. While attending Norristown High, my passions persisted even though my freshman year left me with mediocre stats. I vowed to myself I’d keep practicing so eventually after high school I could pursue my professional dreams.

 

Senior year of high school was coming to an end when I got selected as an All-Conference Infielder and recruited by Albright College and Suffolk University. Given that Suffolk is in Boston and Albright’s only an hour away, I chose to stay close to home and go to Albright. The first year at Albright wasn’t what I expected after working so hard during my high school seasons. Something was missing, a connection wasn’t quite there, and I didn’t feel the same amount of passion from my teammates that I exerted. Without hesitation, I reached out to the coaches at Suffolk hoping to transfer by the following season. Coach Anthony Del Prete expressed “You have a spot on the team but playing time is earned not given.” It was from that point on I knew bumps in the road were just bumps and I couldn’t give up playing baseball.

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With some persistence and plenty of patience, the spot in the lineup was mine. My three seasons with Suffolk granted me with remarkable experiences as a baseball player, collegiate teammate, student, and friend. We won three straight conference championships and three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. I received multiple awards including two-time All-GNAC selection, GNAC Player of the Week, as well as a GNAC batting title in 2016, hitting .432. Then despite knowing being a part of the Suffolk Rams would eventually end, we lost the final game of the season in May 2017 on the day of our graduation ceremonies. Suffolk taught me the value of hard work, perseverance, and how to overcome any obstacle. Words cannot express how grateful I am for Anthony Del Prete, Cary McConnel, John O’Brien, Jhonneris Mendez, and the rest of Suffolk University’s coaching and athletic department staff. I’m certain I would not be able to continue this journey without all of their help and guidance.

When my college career ended, I felt hollow. I hadn’t played in any collegiate prospect summer leagues so getting drafted was never a thought that entered my mind. However, Indy Ball opportunities always appeared as an option to me. My “real career” in financial services started quickly after moving home holding very little interest in my life. Almost everyday in my cubicle, I would relish my college career and the feeling of being on the field everyday. This thought would always be followed with, “what if?”. What if I had attended every tryout possible and fought like hell to keep playing? My younger self would have kicked my older self’s ass for giving up and not exhausting every opportunity. 

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In March of 2019, almost two years removed from college, I decided no more what if. Inspired by reading The Alchemist, I signed up for the Empire Professional Baseball League tryout camp. I played in a competitive men’s league throughout my post-grad summers as well as practiced and trained consistently year round. I signed with the New York Bucks and played the 2019 summer in the Empire League. Even though my time in the lineup was less than I anticipated, I finished the summer slashing .319/.410/.458 and clubbed my first professional homer! 

Throughout my career I’m very fortunate to have the support of families, friends, and coaches. My mantra is always, “I am still here, I am still playing, and I am not stopping anytime soon!” I look forward to the countless memories, connections, and lessons I still have to make from this incredible ballgame!