At 19 years old, Joey Liberatore sits in one of the most desirable seats in the sports broadcasting industry.
The Myrtle Beach Pelicans newest broadcaster and media relations assistant is calling games in the Chicago Cubs organization and capitalizing on his impressive early experience to carve out his place in the broadcasting field one game at a time.
You’ll hear his voice on the radio calling games in 2017, most likely impressed by his seasoned voice and ability to personalize the broadcasting experience in a manner that seems to have years of high-level experience.
Through the airwaves, you’ll hear the fantastic baseball calls.
What you won’t hear is Liberatore’s impressive journey to Myrtle Beach, one that has taken quite a few unusual turns throughout his young life.
The family connection
Liberatore remembers watching the 2005 Chicago White Sox World Series on the television in his father’s bedroom, taking in every pitch as he did during every game of the team’s season.
His dad, John, was a truck driver who spent much of his time away from home and was unable to watch the games with Joey. But that didn’t stop the two from bonding over America’s Pastime.
“I fell in love with baseball primarily because every single day I would call [my dad] and that one phone call that we would have that day was the connection I had,” Liberatore said, emphasizing his close relationship with his father as well as his mother, Susan.
“I would study baseball day in and day out, recording stats that the White Sox were posting and I would call him and say, ‘Hey Dad, what do you think about this stat, or this player?’ So that’s really how we connected and how I fell in love with the game of baseball.”
Whether it was the 2005 World Series-clinching win or games throughout the lengthy summer stretch of the White Sox season, Liberatore and his father kept their connection strong through conversations about batting average, ERA and hitting streaks. It was a bond held together by the country’s classic game, and just one part of the Liberatore family’s connection to professional baseball.
In Joey’s freshman year of high school, two of his aunts were diagnosed with terminal illnesses in a tragically close time period. It was a stressful and difficult season for the family, one that Liberatore wished to brighten, even if just slightly, to bring joy at a time that needed it the most.
“They were both big Cubs fans and instead of giving them a call and saying ‘I’m so sorry,’ I decided to do something,” Liberatore said, referencing a hashtag campaign on social media that attempted to grab the attention of his aunts’ favorite baseball club.
With the help of his friends, Liberatore’s movement caught the attention of the Chicago Cubs, setting up a family visit to Wrigley Field where they would get to visit the historic ballpark and take in the sights of the stadium at field-level.
The admirable effort wasn’t just unique and impressive, but it ended up being the spark to ignite Liberatore’s career in professional baseball, a full-circle event that began with a family-first attitude.
“People tell you that if you work hard enough, what you want to accomplish can be accomplished, so that was really a big turning point in not only my life but fortunately for my family’s life,” he said. “It gave us confidence and hope that whatever we set our minds to we can actually accomplish.”
The journey to Johnson City
Following the visit to Wrigley Field, Liberatore kept in touch with his Cubs contacts, most notably Chicago’s manager of communications, Kevin Saghy.
By his junior year of high school, Liberatore’s ambition and hard-working mentality led to involvement in projects that would have been the desire of recent four-year college graduates. He was working for the Cubs in a production role, producing commercials that would air on the radio broadcasts for Cubs.com.
While most of his classmates had their eyes set on just beginning their initial college studies, Liberatore wanted to take a crack at yet another challenge – breaking into the Minor Leagues as the youngest broadcaster in professional baseball. And while continuing his studies and earning college credits on the side, he did just that.
That next step? Landing a job with the Johnson City Cardinals, a rookie-ball affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.
In the blink of an eye, as soon as he earned his diploma, Liberatore was off and hitting the road for his next challenge. It wasn’t the blueprint that most high-school students follow, but it was the ultimate definition of “living the dream.”
“It was an opportunity that was given to me, and you can’t really say no to watching baseball and broadcasting each day,” Liberatore said, noting that he didn’t hesitate to enter the working world as soon as he graduated.
“I wanted to grow up. I wanted to do what I loved and I was given the opportunity to live my dream at 18 years old and I wasn’t going to let something like that pass. Just that opportunity to say that I was a minor-league broadcaster, at any time in my life… even if my first job was when I was 40, I’d be grateful for that.”
Live the dream is what he did, working the entire year with Johnson City and establishing himself as one of the more interesting stories in Minor League Baseball.
Night after night, Liberatore not only called new baseball games, but also learned plenty of life lessons throughout the process.
Gone were the days of opening up the fridge to home-cooked meals and returning home with laundry washed and ready to be worn.
It was a whole new world, one that might’ve shocked the system throughout the first few weeks of Liberatore’s independence.
“You really learn to grow up a lot faster than you would being nurtured at home. And that’s really nice and loving but at the same time, it’s also really nice to be thrown out into the real world and to be able to experience different things…
“Budget is always the big thing that stands out,” he said with a laugh. “I was finding myself eating out a lot at first and noticing that my bank account was suddenly gone because of that. But, it really was a big learning experience. There were a lot of things I learned that I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t independent from budgeting to taking care of my clothes each day, just little things like that.”
Meanwhile, between the loads of laundry and trips to the grocery store, Liberatore crafted his style and perfected his home run calls in the process of further developing his on-air presence. The nightly grind was taxing, but each game in the 2016 season presented a new opportunity — gain experience to capitalize on next steps that might be around the corner.
Myrtle Beach days
Little did he know, his idea to take time to travel after the 2016 season would be the catalyst to his current job in Myrtle Beach.
On his first trip to the East Coast after the season was over, Liberatore passed the ballpark on 21st Avenue North with a notable but distant thought in his mind – “How amazing would it be to one day have the chance to work there?”
After that, the story followed the same successful script for one of the hardest-working young professionals in the game of baseball.
The Pelicans opened the “Broadcaster/Media Relations Assistant” job opportunity not long after Liberatore’s initial trip to Myrtle Beach, a too-good-to-be-true moment that would ultimately become a connection that was meant to be.
With his stacked resume and impressive background, Liberatore applied to become Voice of the Pelicans Scott Kornberg’s partner for the 2017 season, an opportunity that would further Liberatore’s connection with the World Series champion Chicago Cubs and provide the chance to develop his on-air skills alongside one of the best voices in the business.
The two talked, Liberatore hit yet another home run in the interview process and the Pelicans gained one of the brightest young minds the industry has to offer.
The journey to the
To be certain, you could compare Liberatore’s dreams with every Minor League player that takes the field in 2017. Like all of them, the 19-year-old has aspirations to fill one of the Major League play-by-play jobs. It’s a future that he says gives him chills with every thought.
But for now he works daily toward one goal — make every opportunity count on his way to his next step, whatever that might be.
“The one thing I always say is one thing I don’t want to be known as is the 19-year-old broadcaster. I want to be known as one of the best broadcasters,” he said. “My mentality is the same as the next person, regardless of age, it’s that I’m trying to accomplish the same goals that they’re trying to accomplish. In doing that, I have to put my head down, not let anything get to me and do the same work that everyone else does at this level.”
And while doing so, Liberatore is making sure that everyone who supports him along the way is appreciated, often times on air. He’ll frequently make mention of supporters who tweet his way during the game with kind words, ensuring that everyone who is listening feels as though they’re as big of a part as anything else in Liberatore’s nightly calls.
After all, above even his broadcasting skills, Liberatore’s best attribute is his kindness and genuine nature as a person.
To be sure, he’s one of the easiest people to cheer for in the game of baseball.
“At the end of the day, I try to make my broadcast seem like I’m sitting next to you on the couch telling you about the game,” he said. “That’s always the goal, to portray that we’re all friends.”