Dan Shulman's Star is on the Rise
When Dan Shulman decided to take up broadcasting as an "extracurricular activity" at university in 1985, he never dreamed that one day he would be broadcasting Major League Baseball and college basketball to millions on ESPN the most powerful sports network in the world.
"In frosh week of my first year, I was looking for something extra to do. I really wanted to write for The Gazette' (University of Western Ontario (UWO) campus newspaper), but there was a huge lineup to get in. So I thought I would try the radio station," recounts Shulman.
The smooth-voiced Toronto native soon found himself doing play-by-play for the university's basketball, football, and hockey teams. But ironically during his time at university, he never seriously considered a career in broadcasting.
"It was always just a fun thing to do," says Shulman, who was enrolled in the actuarial science program. "In my fourth year, I actually stopped broadcasting to concentrate on my studies."
When he graduated in 1989, Shulman landed a job in his field, working as an actuary for nearly a year. He soon discovered that he didn't enjoy actuarial work, so he began working as an anchor for Barrie, Ontario radio station CKBB on weekends. When he was offered a full-time position with the station in 1990, he quit his job as an actuary for good.
The first big break of his career would come when he accepted a position at Toronto's all-sports radio station "The Fan" in 1992. Within a year, he was moved into The Fan's coveted afternoon drive slot.
"You could see that he was going to be a star," says Nelson Millman, program director (then assistant program director) with The Fan. " He was a smart guy who had a great knowledge and love of sports. And he was developing his own distinct style."
While at The Fan, he also hosted a number of baseball talk shows including "Baseball Today," "Major League Report," and "Jays Talk." This baseball niche would help him land the job as play-by-play man for Blue Jay telecasts on The Sports Network (TSN) (one of Canada's leading all-sports TV stations) in 1995 a position that he calls "the biggest break of his career."
"I remember the pay phone I called my father from after that interview and saying to him I think I might have a chance at this." says Shulman. "At the time I really had very little play-by-play experience."
Broadcasting alongside former major leaguers Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler, his tenure at TSN would last seven seasons.
"He's one of the most dedicated and professional people that I've worked with in any profession," says Martinez, his broadcasting partner for six seasons. "When he first started he didn't have any experience in TV, but he was a quick study. He's a natural broadcaster and a tremendous talent."
The Blue Jays were never a championship team when he was there, but Shulman says he will always cherish his years with the club.
"I'll always remember the relationships I developed with people like Buck Martinez and the players who I watched blossom like Pat Hentgen, Shawn Green, and Carlos Delgado."
When Shulman accepted the job at TSN in 1995, he also started doing part-time work for ESPN, commentating both baseball and college basketball games. But it was still a shock to many when he announced that he was leaving TSN for a full-time position with ESPN in January.
"It was a tough decision, there's no question about that," says Shulman, "But my wife and I sat down and decided it was the best decision for us."
The man whose voice had become synonymous with Blue Jays' TV broadcasts is now the lead play-by-play commentator for Major League Baseball on ESPN Radio. He also calls select Wednesday night baseball games and NCAA men's basketball games from a variety of conferences for ESPN television.
"I love it," says Shulman about his new position. "I was an absolute sports junkie growing up so I'm lucky I get to broadcast games of two sports I love."
But Tim Scanlan, ESPN's coordinating producer for Major League Baseball, believes he is the lucky one. When he learned Shulman was available on a full-time basis he jumped at the opportunity to offer him a position.
"He brings stability and versatility to our baseball broadcasts. I can put him with any of our analysts on a moment's notice and know that I'm going to get a top tier broadcast," says Scanlan. "The crew absolutely loves working with Dan. He is so sensitive to everyone's needs."
Surprisingly, Shulman's ESPN travel schedule is "about the same" as it was when he was covering the Blue Jays. This has allowed him to maintain his home outside Toronto and to see his wife, Sarah, and three young boys: Matthew, Alex, and Ben on a regular basis.
The 35-year-old feels fortunate about both his family and the path his career has taken.
"I'm very lucky. It seems like all my friends would trade places with me if they could, but I wouldn't trade places with them," jokes Shulman.
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