Stevens: Robert Portnoy Plans To Make Lobo Baseball Personal For Lobo Fans

Feb. 14, 2013

New Mexico Lobos Baseball - At Isotopes Park - Vs. Oklahoma State

Game Times: 5 p.m., Friday; 2 p.m., Saturday; 1 p.m., Sunday - ESPN Radio 101.7(FM) The TEAM

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

The research into Lobo baseball has begun.

It was a chilly, blustery day at Lobo Field, but that didn't stop Robert Portnoy of ESPN Radio 101.7 The Team from rolling up his sleeves, pulling out pen and pad, and getting to know the people involved in his next gig in the radio booth:

The Ray Birmingham Lobos.

Portnoy's and The TEAM's goals for broadcasting New Mexico baseball are similar to Coach Birmingham's goals for his team: to be the best in college baseball.

To be the best in the booth demands a blue-collar work ethic similar to what Birmingham demands from his players on the field. Simply put: there is a lot of air to fill with a baseball game and Portnoy plans to fill it not only with stats and facts, but by providing Lobo fans their personal window into the New Mexico players and coaches.

Which is exactly what Portnoy did for the Albuquerque Isotopes from 2006 to 2012 before making the jump to 101.7 (FM).

"For me, the most important thing in preparing for a broadcast is to put the time in and get to know the players and coaches in a way that will allow me to help Lobo fans become familiar with them," said Portnoy, a Stanford University grad.

"You want to take the players from being a name on a page and a stat sheet and turn them into something more personal and someone the listener can relate to. You try to make listeners so familiar with the personalities on a team that they feel an affinity and an ownership of the team because of that familiarity."

Portnoy gets his first chance on Friday. The Lobos host Oklahoma State in a three-game series at Isotopes Park this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

"In baseball, you not only call the action, but you have the time to tell stories about the game and provide insight into the players and coaches," said Joe O'Neill, President of The Team.

"Nobody prepares any harder and any better than Robert. I can assure Lobo fans that our broadcast of these games will be second to none in college baseball and comparable to any broadcast in Major League baseball."

Said Portnoy: "The staple of any broadcast is preparation and you have to have a firm handle on the stats and facts. But the broadcasters who separate themselves are the ones who go beyond that and make the players people instead of a series of accomplishments and numbers.

"The pace of baseball is unique from the non-stop action of basketball or the rhythmic pace of a football game. Baseball is much more lyrical. It is a three-hour novella that affords the opportunity to make it personal."

Pulling Portnoy away from the Isotopes was coup for O'Neill, The TEAM and now the Lobos. He has called the game at every minor-league level and has booth experience in a variety of sports. His first experience with the microphone came as a kid in front of a television.

"I knew since I was a little kid that I wanted to go into broadcasting," said Portnoy. "I had a big, clunky cassette recorder with a microphone that plugged into it. I would watch anything I could and do the play-by-play. I would turn down the television and call the games.

"I had another friend who was into it and we would broadcast together. We would pretend to be the famous broadcasters of the time."

Portnoy spent his middle-school and high-school days in the Phoenix area. He went to Stanford and majored in communications and English. In college, he grew passionate for the game of golf and worked the mini-tours for seven years.

"That was tough, very difficult," Portnoy said of making the rounds on the mini-tour. "But I wouldn't change it for anything. It was a great experience."

After seven years, Portnoy got the message that he probably wouldn't make it to the big bucks on the PGA Tour. His body also was sending him a message. He had two wrist surgeries and a disc in his back was beginning to bark at him. He went back to pursue a Masters at San Jose State, but got pulled out of class for a Class A job in North Carolina with the Kinston Indians.

He spent three years with Kinston, two years at Huntsville (Ala.) and one season with Indianapolis (AAA) before joining the Isotopes in 2006.

"I have come to love the Lobos and appreciate the special passion for the Lobos in this community," said Portnoy. "I always wanted to be a part of the Lobo family at some point and when Joe (O'Neill) came along with this opportunity, it was the perfect time for me to make the move.

"What we want to do is make the broadcast of Lobo baseball the best in the nation just like the goal of this team is to be the best in the nation."

For sure, it's going to be a tough road for Birmingham's Lobo to be the best in college baseball. It might be easier for Portnoy. Just put a microphone in front of him.