CLINTON, Iowa -- When most people say they had to do the grunt work to get where they're at in their profession, they usually use it as just a figure of speech. But when Dave Lezotte says it, he's not joking.
Years before calling games up in the radio booth as the director of broadcasting and media relations for the Clinton LumberKings, Lezotte could be found getting down and dirty on the field as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers' grounds crew.
"I did everything from the daily field maintenance to running in the sausage races," Lezotte said.
It was just a matter of time before Lezotte, 24, became an official employee of his favorite Major League team. Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, Lezotte spent a majority of his summer afternoons with his dad catching Brewers games at the old County Stadium.
The two were there so often that they got to know several of the ushers by name. One of them ended up telling Lezotte's dad, who at the time was working in hotels, about a job opening the Brewers had for the head of luxury suites. His dad ended up getting the job, and soon after Lezotte was brought on to work as a groundskeeper.
"Eventually it got to the point when we were there so often that we knew sooner or later we were going to have to work there," Lezotte said.
Lezotte enjoyed working on the field, but his passion was always in radio. He spent the final two years of high school learning about the craft, and when it was time to go to college he decided on the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, a school known for its strong radio, television and film program.
It wasn't long before Lezotte had immersed himself in broadcasting. During the school year he would call Oshkosh football and basketball games, and in summer he would switch gears to the Fox Sports booth, soaking in everything he could as an intern for Daron Sutton and Bill Schroeder, who at the time called games for the Brewers.
"I learned a lot from Daron," Lezotte said. "He's kind of a new-school guy. He likes to paint the picture, but he also likes to talk about statistics.
"That's kind of the way I am. I try to combine everything I can. If a guy is hitting well over his last 10 games, I wanna tell you about it. If he's hitting well in certain situations, I like to talk about it. But at the same time, I also want to paint the picture."
Lezotte graduated in December 2005 but knew he wasn't going to be able to make the Baseball Winter Meetings, where many aspiring Minor League broadcasters go to find work. He registered on the pro baseball employment website, and one of the job openings was for the LumberKings.
"I applied and sent in all my demo material," Lezotte recalls. "But I had done very little baseball. [General manager] Ted [Tornow] called me and told me they were passing on me, but the guy they hired ended up getting a job with the White Sox. Ted called me right back and asked me if I wanted a shot at it."
Lezotte jumped at the opportunity and moved to Clinton in time for the start of the 2006 season. He had no trouble fitting in with the LumberKings' staff, but adjusting to life in a small rural town took a little longer getting used to.
"It was a little bit of a culture shock," he said. "I'm a guy who grew up in suburban Milwaukee, a place where you can drive in any direction and find five or six malls if you want. Here it's like you have to plan out your day around [finding a place] to go shopping."
Like most out-of-towners, Lezotte said he has grown fond of the close-knit atmosphere in Clinton. He's learned to relish the history of the city and enjoys the intimacy of living in a smaller town.
"It's a very homey community," he said. "You get on a one-on-on-one basis with the fans where they joke around with you and you can joke right back with them. That's what this town's been about all these years."
Working for one of the smaller markets in the Midwest League has other advantages, Lezotte said. As soon as he got the job he was allowed to call games for the LumberKings.
Had he gotten a job with a larger city, he said, he probably would have had to start off doing something that may not have been closely related to broadcasting -- something like working on the team's grounds crew.
"[The LumberKings] gave me the opportunity to do what I wanted right away," Lezotte said, "and I will always have a special feeling about this place for the opportunity to come here and get my start."