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Gary Stein: The Man Behind The Mic

March 15, 2010

By Krystina Lucido

Gary Stein
Baltimore sports fans have work, school, families, kids. They don’t always have time to go to their favorite sporting events -- to feel the excitement, hear the buzzers and the cheers, smell the cheesy nacho air -- which is why they should feel lucky Baltimore has Gary Stein.

Stein works for CBS Radio, Orioles Radio and Terrapin Sports Radio, but he is also the voice of Baltimore indoor soccer. Stein’s colorful commentary has been on the airwaves for the Blast, and the Spirit before them, since 1994.

“I love the game,” Stein said. “I think it’s a great game, the game itself is fantastic to me. It’s like hockey, which is actually my favorite sport. It’s not the sport that I follow the most, but it’s my favorite sport to watch, listen and think about.”

And for Stein, hockey has a similar pace to the sport he has been announcing for the past 16 years.

“I was just talking to my father-in-law the other day,” Stein said. “We were watching the U.S. play hockey against the Canadians for the Olympic final and he said, ‘God, I don’t know how the announcer gets it all straight.’ Because the pace is so frenetic, and I’m just the opposite. That’s my game. That’s my call. I could never do baseball. Baseball is too slow. It’s not boring, I like listening to it, but the pace is so much different.

“I love indoor soccer, the game is fast. It’s just like hockey. They kill each other. They’re always scrapping in the corners, making head passes, corner to corner, head to head action. So I’m so proud just being a small part of it.”

Stein's passion for the game and unique way of telling a story make listeners less sad they are missing a game because they get everything they need from his interpretation and narrative.

“I love describing things,” Stein said. “I love the fact that a person could be -- if I’m on my game -- driving down the road and listening to the game and really getting the picture.

“I remember growing up as a kid, radio was my connection to the world. … The radio guy, Rick Weaver (play-by-play announcer for the Miami Dolphins) was his name, and he gave you the game. He knew what was happening: right side, left side, inside, outside, crushing hit, devastating blow, acrobatic touchdown catch, down the sideline. I got it. And for whatever reason that stays with you. And for me that was a passion.

“It gives me a big thrill to hopefully do that for other people. That’s why I love radio. That’s why I like radio over TV; TV, you’re a narrator. The pictures are right there; if you’re watching it, you’re getting it. Radio is creation and that’s what I like.”

Hearing Stein describe his passion for this profession, it's hard to believe he was almost doing Baltimoreans’ taxes. Studying accounting at Towson University, Stein was on “the eight-year plan,” not liking the numbers game and at 25 years old still pondering what he wanted to be when he grew up. Finally the proverbial light bulb went off and screamed, “Sports!”

“I was working for a restaurant corporation in D.C.,” Stein said. “Finally I decided I wanted to become something in sports because that’s always where I was most comfortable, whether it was playing, talking, researching, whatever it was about sports. But I needed to figure out a way to do that, so that’s what I did. I went to Towson University, and I went into the Mass Communications program there and that got me on my way.”

Towson may have started him on his way, but Drew Forrester gave him his break. Current host of "The Comcast Morning Show" on WNST, Forrester was the general manager of the Baltimore Spirit at the time when Stein heard of an opening for a play-by-play guy. Forrester brought him on, Stein’s first break into a career that now includes hosting a pre- and postgame Ravens show on ESPN Radio 1300-AM; broadcasting UMBC Retrievers basketball and lacrosse on the Retrievers Radio Network; and hosting the pre- and postgame show for Maryland Terrapins football, among many other endeavors.

So how does it keep it all straight?

“I listen,” Stein said. “I listen to other play-by-play in all sports. I listen to basketball. I listen to baseball. I listen to anything I can. And I pick up words, catch phrases, descriptive phrases that would help me in my description.

“I’m always thinking as I’m preparing for a game. I’m preparing storylines for the game -- who’s hot, who’s not, who’s guarding who, what the big matchups are -- and I just kind of use that and try to come up with phrases that will make it clear to the listener what the storylines are.”

So if fans can’t get to the game, turn on the radio. It might not be the same as sitting in the stands, but if you make your own nachos and close your eyes, Gary Stein can come pretty close to making it feel the same.

Issue 147: March 2010