The Frisco RoughRiders have a new team member this year. On and off the field, the Texas Rangers’ Double-A affiliate makes several key additions each offseason. This past October, they found their new “voice.” Nathan Barnett, who is from Dallas, is the new play-by-play man for the Riders. Barnett will also be Manager of Media Development.
A home-grown talent, Barnett has history with Frisco baseball. He was Media Relations and Broadcast Assistant in 2013. He then took his talents to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to become the Media Relations Manager and Broadcaster of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
After two seasons with the Pelicans, he returns home to the RoughRiders. I had the chance to ask Barnett about his homecoming, his award-winning 2014, reuniting with Chuck Greenberg and more.
Q: What has the first month been like as voice of the Frisco RoughRiders?
A: The first month has been an education. I’m familiar with the RoughRiders, having worked here in 2013. I’m also familiar with the Greenberg Sports Group because I worked for them with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans the last two seasons. So there is a lot that I do know. There are some folks here in Frisco that I am familiar with. A lot has changed here, and I’ve changed a lot. When I was here in 2013 as an assistant under Alex Vispoli, I was pretty clueless. I came out of that experience having learned a lot from him and I’ve come back having learned a lot the last two years.
I think a lot of the month has been me trying to understand what we do well, what we’ve done well in the past, how I can continue that and how I identify places for improvement. Because status quo bias is always a big thing in life, it’s especially hard for me here because I’ve already experienced a season of the RoughRiders without me being the guy leading it. So there’s a lot of things we’ve done here where I might think, “okay this is just the way we do them” but it’s really important for me to step back and say “let’s start from scratch.” There are a lot of things we do do well here and a lot of things that Alex instituted here that were great tremendous successes. But I want to make sure I identify those things as real successes and not just “well they sounded good at the time” or “it felt good at the time.”
Q: What about staying in the Greenberg Sports Group with Chuck Greenberg?
A: Absolutely. This is home for me, that’s a huge part as well. I’m not trying to figure out the best route to work or trying to figure out where to eat or buy my groceries. I’m living in an apartment that’s less than 10 minutes from where I grew up and 15 minutes from my high school (St. Mark’s). There’s so much familiarity that’s allowed me to hit the ground running. The familiarity with Greenberg Sports Group is a big piece. Because a lot of what we’re trying to do here in Frisco is what I experienced in Myrtle Beach the past couple of years.
Obviously it’s a much different place and it’s a lot bigger but there are a lot of things that translate. And there are some folks I know here, so it’s made the “getting to know everybody” thing less overwhelming. It’s allowed me to step into some situations and start making an impact where I feel like I can and makes it a little easier to work with folks.
Q: What did it mean to be recognized as Carolina League Broadcaster of the Year?
A: The Carolina League Broadcaster of the Year award might be the thing I’m most proud of in my career. It’s not because I won an award or got a lot of recognition. The biggest thing to me is that it’ a league filled with eight other guys (and number two’s, assistants, etc.), about 15 total. A large handful of guys that I admire and respect the hell out of. To have that group think that I should be recognized as the league’s top broadcaster was one of the most flattering experiences I’ve had in my life. And really affirming. Those guys, who I learned from every single day and lean on for advice and get inspiration from, if those guys think I deserved that award, well then I must be doing some things okay. That was incredibly gratifying.
Q: What was the Championship experience with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans like?
A: The championship was a lot of fun. The Pelicans hadn’t won a title since 2000 (the second year of the franchise) and had never closed one out at home. So for the first time in franchise history, we got to celebrate a Mills Cup Championship at TicketReturn.com Field. Being the voice behind that was exhilarating, especially the way it happened. That was a team that found a way to win every night. Back-to-back years as champions, back-to-back years with an inordinate amount of wins and we’re the best team in the league in consecutive years. Although they dominated playoff wins and losses, all the scores were close. The Championship ended with a walk-off infield single. It was a really fitting way to cap off an exciting and nerve wracking season.
Q: What are you looking forward to bring (back) to Frisco and the RoughRiders?
A: I want to do what I can. I don’t think it’s fair to say I was a big part of that. I was part of it just like everyone else was. That Pelicans Front Office is a really special group. It starts with Chuck Greenberg and President/GM Andy Milovich. Those are two really sharp guys. Andy is one of the most inspiring leaders that I have worked with. So I think it starts with (them) and they deserve most of the credit.
However, everyone in that Front Office works their tail off. That’s a group that wants to be the best at what they do. That’s been the message from Andy Milovich since he got there. I think it’s really starting to come to fruition. There’s tremendous buy-in; people really believe in what they are doing. If anything, that’s what made us work as hard as we did—that belief, vision and leadership. Those elements are all here too. Chuck Greenberg is here as well, and (President & Co-General Partner) Scott Sonju who knows the RoughRiders in and out. He’s been here since the early stages of this team.
There’s also a great leader here in (Executive VP and GM) Jason Dambach, who’s different than Andy Milovich but they both share great vision. They both know what they want to accomplish and have a really great idea of how they want to get there. I just hope I can be part of that. I hope I can help magnify what people want to do and encourage people in the right way as a team player. That’s the important thing for me, just being part of a unit that can be special because I know this group can be.
Q: Are you excited to be back home?
A: It’s huge. It’s a dream come true. I remember when I first was looking at working in sports, I got an offer from the Frisco RoughRiders to work as an operations intern. At the time I thought I wanted to work in media in some way. I hadn’t really set on broadcasting. This was my Senior Year in college. I ended up taking a job with a collegiate team in Palm Springs (California) because I had an opportunity there to do more media relations, to get on the air and do some broadcasting. But I did that only because a mentor of mine told me to do it. I was dead set on coming to Frisco. It just felt right. I don’t regret the decision that I made to go out to California, but two years later I was able to land the job in Frisco in 2013 as an assistant.
I remember that first summer I was working baseball in Palm Springs, I thought “man, I would just love to be able to get to Frisco. That would be so incredible.” And then I did it. Then I said, “Man, that was awesome. I’m going to look back on that season as one of the most special seasons of my life. I get to call baseball in my hometown, watching players that are going to grow up and be heroes for my favorite team, the Texas Rangers.”
And here I am three years later, I’m now in a position to stay here for an extended period of time. It really is a dream come true. I remember that first summer thinking, “Man, Aaron Goldsmith (former RoughRiders broadcaster, current Seattle Mariners and FOX broadcaster), this guy’s really good, what a cool job he has!” To think I’m now in his position is pretty crazy, pretty surreal and it’s extremely gratifying and exhilarating. It’s great to be home, to be close to family and to be close to the Rangers. It’s an organization I’ve loved since I was a kid but also that I respect in the way that they operate from a baseball and business standpoint.
It’s a cliche, but it really is a dream come true.