Tiedemann becoming a Legend in booth

As second female play-by-play broadcaster, her role gets amplified

Emma Tiedemann's decision to become a professional broadcaster was greatly influenced by her grandfather, broadcaster Bill Mercer.

By Benjamin Hill / MiLB.com | March 15, 2018 10:00 AM ET

As a young girl growing up in the Dallas suburbs, Emma Tiedemann dreamed of becoming a veterinarian. But after a pivotal moment at age 15, those childhood dreams took a significant detour.  

Play-by-play baseball broadcasting is now Tiedemann's passion. Her ultimate goal, similar to all Minor League Baseball broadcasters, is to call games at the Major League level. Tiedemann recently took a significant step toward that goal; last Friday, the Class A Lexington Legends revealed she will serve as their primary play-by-play broadcaster in 2018. She will serve as the first female play-by-play broadcaster in the South Atlantic League, joining Kirsten Karbach of the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers as the only female lead broadcasters in Minor League Baseball.

Tweet from @LexingtonLegend: We are happy to introduce the 🆕 voice of the Legends: Emma Tiedemann! ������🙌🎉 Emma is the first female play-by-play broadcaster in @SouthAtlantic League history. 🎙👩 You go, girl! #stachetastic📲 READ MORE: https://t.co/6L2hk7Axut pic.twitter.com/YTrc3ieOi4

As for Tiedemann's pivotal teenage moment? It came courtesy of her grandfather, esteemed Texas sports broadcaster Bill Mercer. Mercer's sprawling resume, which began in the Minor Leagues with the 1959 Class C Muskogee Giants, included work with the Texas Rangers, Dallas Cowboys and World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW). Mercer also spent over three decades teaching broadcasting classes at the University of North Texas. In this capacity, he would assign students to call games at the nearby University of Texas at Dallas, a Division III school.

"There was a [University of Texas at Dallas] basketball game, and none of his students could make it to the game," said Tiedemann. "I was 15 at the time and played basketball at my high school. My grandfather told me, 'Well, I can't keep score and broadcast all by myself. Can you come here and keep score? And if you want to talk, feel free.' I ended up talking about what was going on during the game and just fell in love with it.

"It was really that experience that opened my mind to the possibility [of being a broadcaster]. It just felt natural. It was fun to go into the atmosphere of a packed gym and to get to know the players. Without a doubt, after that first broadcast the thought of being a veterinarian never crossed my mind. I found my passion."

Tiedemann did play-by-play work for the University of Texas at Dallas for the remainder of her time in high school, branching into other sports beyond basketball. She then enrolled at the University of Missouri and hit the ground running.

"Mizzou was fantastic in the way it was able to give me experience right off the bat. I started immediately with [university radio station] KCOU and got plenty of reps," she said. "As any broadcaster will tell you, it's all about the reps. My initial goal out of college was to work in radio year round, so I wanted to have a well-rounded experience. I called any sport I wanted; Mizzou was great for that."

Tweet from @Mizzou: A #MizzouMade alumna is making history in @MiLB! Emma Tiedemann, a 2015 graduate is the new play-by-play broadcaster for @LexingtonLegend! Congrats Emma!!! 🙆���������🐯������ https://t.co/fFS0Ck3RmN

In the summer between her junior and senior year, Tiedemann was hired to broadcast games for the Mat-Su Miners of the summer collegiate Alaska Baseball League. Little did she realize it would change her career trajectory.

"I kind of approached it as 'When am I going to have an opportunity to live in Alaska again?'" she said. "The [Miners] GM promised me it would be a summer I wouldn't forget, and it was true. But even if you take away the scenery, the mountains, the beautiful wildlife, I still realized my passion was baseball. I came to the realization that I wanted to work for a baseball team, broadcasting every single day, traveling and going to different ballparks. I fell in love with that. So I got back, and my senior year, I applied to a variety of teams."

Tiedemann landed a job with the Medford [Oregon] Rogues of the summer collegiate West Coast League, serving as the team's broadcaster and communications manager. She said the latter portion of her job title was important as it would "mirror any position I would find in Minor League Baseball. I felt I was in a good position to be hired on as a No. 2 [broadcaster]."

That she was. For the 2017 season, Tiedemann served as the No. 2 broadcaster for the independent league St. Paul Saints, working with veteran play-by-play man Sean Aronson. Heading into the 2018 campaign, her goal was a No. 1 job. As she had done the previous season, Tiedemann attended December's Baseball Winter Meetings PBEO Job Fair in search of an opportunity.

"I saw that [the Legends] had posted at the Job Fair. I interviewed three times total and it was all a whirlwind," she said. "I first interviewed on a Monday and was hired on Wednesday."

It's been an offseason of transition for the Legends' game broadcast. Longtime broadcaster Keith Elkins retired, and the team was making the switch from terrestrial radio to exclusive streaming broadcasts via MiLB.TV. Legends president Andy Shea said the team had no doubts that Tiedemann was the person for the job.

"From talking to her and seeing her skill set and experience, and above all, her big-time energy and personality, it just clicked," he said. "We didn't want to let someone else scoop her up."

Minor League Baseball -- and sports in general -- tends to be a male-dominated industry. The Legends are outliers, however, in that they have a female owner (Sue Martinelli-Shea), and their front office already consisted of seven women in full-time positions.

"I think we're more willing to consider women candidates without pigeonholing them," said Shea. "She was the best person for the job, and not because we saw on the resume that her name was Emma. ... It might sound corny to say, but the cherry on top was that we were able to hire a female candidate in a male-dominated industry and within a very male-dominated position within that industry."

While Tiedemann is aware that she will be subject to increased scrutiny because of her gender, she downplays the notion that she is a trailblazer in her field.

Offseason MiLB include

"I don't really see myself as one, but it's been something that's been attached to my name in every league I've been a part of," said Tiedemann, citing ESPN's Beth Mowins as one of her broadcasting influences. "At the end of the day, if I can help a little girl who watches baseball, who has someone point out to her that I'm in the broadcast booth, that's great. If I can help a little bit for anyone to realize their dreams, that's a plus."

First and foremost, Tiedemann's focus is simply on improving her craft.  

"You have to prepare like there's no tomorrow, looking up the stories behind each player, preparing three to five talking points about every guy who steps to the plate and every guy on the mound," she said. "That's more key in the game of baseball than any other, the time between pitches, all those little voids you have to fill. That's when the preparation pays off."

As for what listeners can expect from her, Tiedemann said her style is "a little more traditional."

"I learned from my grandfather and listened to Red Barber tapes," she said. "At the same time, I try to bring my own personality, a dry sense of humor and a little sarcastic. It's all about painting a picture for the listener, bringing them not just to the diamond but to everything that extends past it. If something's happening on the concourse, I'll talk about that."

For now, that diamond will be Lexington's Whitaker Bank Ballpark as well as the South Atlantic League's 13 other locales. But for how long?

"The ultimate goal would be Major League Baseball broadcaster," she said. "But I fully expect to pay my dues. I'm happy where I am now and will be ready to take the next step when the opportunity presents itself."   

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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