By RoseAnn Sapia
It was a championship clinching game and Emma Tiedemann was in the booth.
It’s the thing dreams are made of, and Tiedemann got to experience it in her first season with the Lexington Legends.
“I was freaking out internally, but more calm on the broadcast”, says Tiedemann remembering that surreal moment when the Legends recorded the final out.
The winning run was in scoring position at second base, and the infield convened for a meeting at the pitcher's mound. One more out to seal the second Championship in franchise history in the season which the team made history.
“It was an incredible series with drama; a back and forth with the BlueClaws.”
The final call: “...left side. Picked up by Diaz. Tags third base. LEGENDS HAVE DONE IT!"
The 2018 season garnered a lot of attention for the Lexington Legends, the Single-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, with plenty of buzz before the season began. The team named Emma Tiedemann new Director of Broadcast and Media Relations in early March, making her only the second female play-by-play broadcaster in Minor League Baseball history, and the first in the South Atlantic League. This season, she’ll be one of six women in the booth in the minor leagues.
With a change in personnel, Tiedemann is entering 2019 with a renewed focus. “We have a lot of arms this year in Lex. As a broadcaster, I’ll be focusing more on pitches, grips, and arm slots”, says Tiedemann.
The Mizzou alum will have the opportunity to focus more on the technical side of the game this season. Since she’s alone in the booth, she won’t have someone to bounce off of like a former pitcher who would have a lot of knowledge from pitching experience. Because of that, Tiedemann is ready to expand as a broadcaster.
Although just her second year in Lexington, Tiedemann has been calling games since high school. Her journey started when her grandfather, Bill Mercer, invited her to assist him on the call of a women’s basketball game for the University of Texas at Dallas. She was just 15 years old.
“I knew I wanted to do play-by-play since 2010, but thought I’d want a network or college or university”, recounts Tiedemann who’s niche really surfaced when she took a broadcasting gig with the Mat-Su Miners of the Alaska Baseball League, a summer league for college players.
Tiedemann served as play-by-play and color analyst for the Miners in 2014. “Once I was in Alaska and got to work day-in and day-out at the ballpark, I fell in love with it”, she says.
Her broadcasting career led her to several teams in several leagues, allowing her to gain experience at varying levels. She spent two years as the Broadcast and Communications Manager for the Medford Rogues of the Summer Collegiate League, and one as the number-two broadcaster with the St. Paul Saints of the independent American Association, all leading up to her current role with the Lexington Legends, the Class-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.
There’s something special about each of these leagues, and Tiedemann got an up-close look at what makes each unique. The game may stay the same, but the men who play it are quite different.
“I spent my first three years in Summer Collegiate League which was college guys trying to make that transition from aluminum to wooden bats”, Tiedemann shares. “There’s coaches from different backgrounds with different attitudes, and all the players have that sparkle in their eye hoping for that standout season”, she continues, mentioning that the guys playing in the Collegiate League are the ones hoping to draw interest from MLB scouts.
Then there's the Independent League, the fringey sibling of the minor leagues, who's gaining importance to MLB. “A lot of guys finishing their careers that want to play the game they love, and some that hope to get a call to the Bigs”, Tiedemann says. The men playing Independent League baseball are filled with passion for the game, and that had a huge impact on Tiedemann’s perspective.
According to Tiedemann, the Saints had one of the best office cultures. “Their slogan was ‘Fun is Good’ and I’ve carried that with me”, she shares, “That’s how I approach my work”. She took that attitude with her when she joined the Legends last season.
Now entering her second year in Minor League Baseball, Tiedemann has enjoyed the opportunity to get creative and have fun in the booth, noting that if she “botches” a play, she’s able to laugh it off and make a joke while on the call. “I apologize and tell them what happened, but I’m more relaxed and okay with things going wrong”, she says.
One of the unique parts about working with a Minor League club is that Major League teams are always watching. “The Royals and the visiting clubs are all paying attention to you”, Tiedemann remarks, adding that it’s important to remain professional as a broadcaster while having fun.
Although there are differences between the Collegiate, Independent, and Minor Leagues, there is one thing that has remained a constant during Tiedemann’s tenure with each. “I’ve actually called a Championship Series in my first year with every team”, she shares. However, she was on the losing end of each series until last season when the Legends won it all.
“I had former bosses reaching out, they were jealous”, Tiedemann says, then laughs, “Karma’s gonna get me and this’ll be my only Championship”.
A lot of work goes into being the Director of Broadcast and Media Relations for the Lexington Legends. The job doesn’t end with being the voice of the team.
Along with calling every home game, Tiedemann is in charge of writing press releases, game notes, and stat packs. She’s responsible for tracking and documenting roster moves, and oversees the happenings in the Press Box and AV Room. The team of 10-15 people she manages includes everyone from the PA Announcer to those working the cameras, and the in-stadium DJ.
“I absolutely love it, it’s a dream job”, gushed Tiedemann. “It’s long hours, but I can’t wait to go back every day.”
Since there’s always so much to do in her role, her job doesn’t end when she leaves the ballpark. To put it into perspective, Tiedemann shares that her play-by-play prep is done after hours.
“I take each player from every team and do a Google search looking for stats and streaks, and then I go to Google News”, says Tiedemann, “I do five to seven hours of research for every team”. She then puts all the information she collects into a binder she created that has a page dedicated to every player. She goes back to the binder each time a player does something notable to ensure her notes are up to date.
This is all done in an effort to “paint pictures more than numbers”. Tiedemann considers her style of broadcast to be more human than others, and she clearly puts a lot of work into making sure she accomplishes just that.
There are bus rides, and they are long.
“Travel took a lot of getting used to”, Tiedemann admits, when thinking of the way she’s managed traveling throughout her career. In the leagues she’s worked, bus trips at random times of the day and night become part of the lifestyle. However, the ten-year broadcasting vet does have a system to help navigate traveling.
When traveling through the night, Tiedemann makes sure to be actively preparing during the day. When traveling during the day, she turns to Netflix. “I have watched more True Crime Docs than anything," she says humorously.
But every long trip does come to an end, which gives her something to look forward to. She explains that you're either at a new destination or finally back home, but says that one just gets used to that hectic pace.
“I didn’t really have an off day”, Tiedemann shares about her schedule this past season. In that rare occasion when she does have a day to herself, however, she likes to spend it relaxing.
“I try to catch up on sleep, but that internal clock goes off”, she says, adding that more than anything, she stays away from social media and her phone, and gets outside whenever she has free time. “Grab a cool beverage and find a nice pool and sit outside” is how she describes her ideal day off.
When the season ends, her schedule quickly goes from about six months of nonstop baseball to no baseball at all. That’s when she becomes a lot like the players she's watching all season. Winter jobs are necessary.
“I have a lot of random jobs during the off-season."
She spent a lot of this past off-season driving around Lexington, Kentucky as an Amazon Delivery Driver and Lyft Driver. Both jobs helped her pay rent, and allowed her to meet the people of Lexington. Driving jobs functioned as a way for her to further immerse herself into the community, creating a deeper connection with her neighbors outside of the ballpark.
Her non-baseball work didn’t end there. In October, she was named the play-by-play voice of Morehead State University’s women’s basketball team, becoming the first woman to hold the position in university history.
This gig allowed Tiedemann to get back to her roots of calling basketball games, just as she had done back in high school. She got to travel with the team, in what she described as a dream set-up.
“It was the best off-season I could’ve asked for.”
Rain is falling at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. The tarp has to come onto the field. In the booth, Emma Tiedemann sends her listeners to break, then sprints down to the field to help with the tarp pull. A daunting task that she's game for.
Once the tarp is on the field, she heads back up to the Press Box. She recalls all the rain delays from last season that she spent watching the AV team try to keep the fans entertained. She remembers one particular instance when the On-Field Host brought all the kids out for a rain delay dance party.
Rain delays are when she can really take it all in. She might not be on the field dancing, but she's living out a life she loves. And, in the process, has established a place in the baseball history books.
Follow Emma on Twitter @emmatieds.
RoseAnn Sapia is a Features Writer and the Co-Editor of Lifer for All Heels on Deck. She's an East Coast girl. Follow RoseAnn on Twitter to discuss all things baseball (basketball, too) @_RoseAnnSapia.