At an age when most 14 year old kids are content with playing video games and eating large amounts of junk food, Grant Tunkel was preparing for his future. Growing up on Long Island, he was surrounded by many prestigious sports teams in the New York area. A dedicated Jets, Mets, Knicks and Rangers fan, Tunkel immersed himself in sports. Listening to broadcasts of each into the wee hours of the night, he not only paid attention to the games, but put himself in the announcers shoes. It was then he knew his career calling was as a sportscaster. Even before hitting high school Tunkel recorded his own broadcasting tapes, acting as a commentator on any sporting event he watched. One particular play-by-play tape, a Mets-Cardianals Spring Training game, caught the eye of the minor league Charleston River Dogs front office. Tunkel did some work with the River Dogs live on the air and it was there he began to forge a career in sports broadcasting.
His work has taken him from Los Angeles, CA, where he attended college at USC, to Jamestown, NY, and we are lucky to have him in the Mahoning Valley for the summer calling Scrappers games. The Scrappers Scoop recently sat down with Tunkel to discuss his work, ambitions, baseball and artistic endeavors.
Scrappers Scoop: Who influenced your love of sports growing up?
Grant Tunkel: It was probably my dad. He instilled a love of sports in me from a young age.
GT: To be honest, I try to create my own identity as a broadcaster, but there are certainly broadcasters who have influenced my work. Vin Scully is a legend, and his description and play-by-play are unparalleled. I strive to bring that level of description into my work every time I do a broadcast. Growing up in New York, I listened to Gary Cohen call Mets games and Marv Albert do just about every sport. They’re two of the all-time greats, in my opinion, and they’ve helped shape my love for broadcasting and my style.
SS: In such a competitive field, how do you stand out from the rest?
GT: Good question. I think it’s all about crafting your own identity and working hard to excel at it. I like to be as descriptive as possible, painting a picture of just about everything you see. The more descriptive you are, the better your broadcast. A long-time USA Today reporter also told me that you can never have too much original reporting, so I like to incorporate as many stories into my broadcast as possible. Listeners want to hear about a player’s background and personality, just as they want to know about a player’s batting average.
SS: How was the adjustment from New York to Los Angeles?
GT: It wasn’t too bad. It’s definitely different, comparing to the two cities, but I embraced Los Angeles with open arms and I had an amazing four years out there.
SS: After being literally all over the country, how does the Mahoning Valley stand out?
GT: I’ve only been here a short time, but I’ve really enjoyed it. There’s a lot of interesting things to do out here. I like the Eastwood Mall, there are some unique eating options and there’s nothing like coming to Eastwood Field every day for work. It’s great.
SS: You’ve noted the Jets are your favorite professional team. But what about baseball draws you to the sport?
GT: Baseball has it’s own personality, it’s own distinct culture. There’s nothing like going to the ballpark and catching a game, or watching on TV, or really even sitting by the radio and tuning in. It’s a sport with a rich history that is well-documented and a great tradition in this country. Truly it’s an honor to be able to call baseball games, given the way the sport is entrenched in everyday life.
SS: Finally, outside of the sports realm, what makes Grant Tunkel tick?
GT: I like to consider myself a diverse person. I graduated from USC with a degree in international relations as well, so I like to keep up on world affairs. I really enjoy listening to music, a lot of classic rock and some contemporary stuff as well. I also dabble, and I do mean dabble, in guitar. I have a lot of different interests.
Be sure to tune in to 1570AM WHTX for every Scrappers game this season, with Tunkel on the call. Also, read his blog, The Niles Files, where he gives daily updates about life in the minor leagues. Examples of Tunkel’s previous work can be found on GrantTunkel.com.