With Damon Amendolara, the Sports Hub's energetic evening host since its inception in August 2009, moving on in a few weeks to bigger and later things as the national overnight host on CBS Sports Radio, he is left with an uncommon opportunity in the volatile world of radio: to suggest his own successor.
But with a few in-house hopefuls at the Sports Hub whom he counts as friends, and with the knowledge that he is Exhibit A that hiring someone from elsewhere can be a successful approach, Amendolara is passing on making a public endorsement.
"There are guys at the station I'm close to in [Marc] Bertrand and [Rich] Keefe, but you know, they plucked me from out of market,'' said Amendolara, a Syracuse graduate who worked in varied outposts such as New York, Kansas City, and Miami before coming to Boston. "I would be a total hypocrite to say they will take someone from within the station. They took a chance and went outside the box with me."
Amendolara's final show is Dec. 14, with his new program debuting Jan. 2. Coincidentally, since the national program will air on the Sports Hub, he will serve as the lead-in to the "Toucher and Rich" morning-drive program, whose hosts have more than occasionally used him and his quirks as good-natured comedic fodder.
Mike Thomas, program director at the Sports Hub, said via e-mail that he hopes to have the position filled by the end of the year. "I'm considering all candidates at this time,'' he wrote. "In house, in the company, and outside the company.''
In-house, the Sports Hub has a couple of worthy candidates. Bertrand, whose willingness to battle the hosts with humor and conviction as the third voice on the afternoon-drive "Felger and Massarotti'' has made him a key part of the program, would seem a natural choice and is certainly deserving of a full-time gig. Keefe, who often filled in for Amendolara and in other spots on the dial, is another promising prospect, as is Adam Kaufman.
Adam Jones, who interned for Michael Felger at the late ESPN 890, hosted an online show at ESPNBoston.com, and currently works at ESPN Radio out of Bristol, Conn., has obvious talent and is worth consideration. His contract at ESPN permits him to leave for another job.
There has been reluctance at the Sports Hub to hire WEEI personalities; the image as a station that can be a destination for refugees of the competition is one it wants to avoid. But if he's available, the Sports Hub would do well to turn to John Ryder, a knowledgeable, sharp-witted host who deserves a better fate than his current professional purgatory as Mike Adams's much-needed fountain of post-1978 sports knowledge on WEEI's evening program.
As for a local sleeper: How about Danny Picard, a writer for Comcast SportsNet New England who hustles for high-quality guests on his "I'm Just Sayin' " podcast and whose knowledge of hockey was evident during his past guest stints on the Sports Hub's weekend programming?
Hub of acceptance?
The Boston sports-radio listener in a nutshell: welcoming, patient, open-minded, and provincial, sure, but rationally so.
Well, OK, maybe not always. Maybe even not often. But Amendolara said the most pleasant surprise during his time in Boston was that the common presumption that outsiders aren't easily accepted proved false.
"Man, I thought it was going to be so much more antagonistic,'' said Amendolara. "I remember talking to the guys at corporate before I got [the Sports Hub] job, and I said, 'Can an outsider work in Boston? Can a guy from New York work in Boston?'
"And I was willing to take that shot if they believed in it, but I also knew I might just get a lot of resistance.
"But I did find Boston to be no different than I found it anywhere else, in Miami or Kansas City or other places I'd worked."
He believes that, to some degree, he benefited from the fans' desire for an alternative to WEEI, which dominated the sports-radio landscape and the ratings and didn't hesitate to remind listeners of that.
"I think people just wanted something new," said Amendolara. "They were going to be willing to try it. And the whole station did a good job of asking the listener what it wanted to talk about, whether it was Bruins, or something that WEEI rarely touched upon. It took off in part because of that.''
Back in the game
It took an unusual plot twist or two, but Heidi Watney has ended up in a good place.
Watney, the popular former NESN Red Sox reporter, departed last November to return to her native California as a Lakers sideline reporter on Time Warner Cable SportsNet. But Watney and the network parted ways based on circumstances beyond her control before the rights agreement went into effect this season, and she never worked a game.
But in the end, Watney may have ended up with a better job. MLB Network has hired her as an anchor-reporter, and she will debut in January.
"I am definitely happy to be back in baseball," texted Watney. "I really missed it the past year.
"I've heard nothing but great things about the MLB Network and the people who work there, from Kevin Millar to Harold Reynolds and Dan Plesac. They all love it there and encouraged me to come join the team."
Watney, who will serve primarily as a studio anchor on various programs, said she particularly looks forward to contributing to the coverage of big events such as the All-Star Game and the postseason.