Tim Neverett’s hiring in December as Joe Castiglione’s partner on WEEI’s Red Sox radio broadcasts occurred with considerably less drama than the Dave O’Brien-in, Don Orsillo-out maneuverings on the television side.
That has left Neverett, who turned 50 last week, as something of a mystery to Red Sox fans as the April 4 opener approaches. The Nashua, N.H., native, Emerson College graduate, and, for the previous seven years, TV and radio voice of the Pittsburgh Pirates is already developing an easy chemistry with Castiglione, who is entering his 34th year calling Red Sox games, during WEEI’s occasional broadcasts this spring.
Still, Neverett, who beat out more than 200 candidates for the job that opened when O’Brien moved to NESN, will be the unfamiliar voice in the booth, at least for a while, as listeners grow accustomed to his cadence and style through the season’s hundreds of innings.
But none of this is unfamiliar to him. Neverett grew up a Red Sox fan. He knows the history and the expectations, which is why he found it appropriate and somewhat awe-inspiring that his informal introduction to Red Sox fans came while he was surrounded by some of his favorite players of his relative youth.
“I hosted the Winter Weekend event at Foxwoods [in January] with a bunch of the guys from the ’86 Red Sox,’’ said Neverett. “I was in a room with guys I watched play a ton when I lived three blocks away from Fenway. I would go to the ballpark all the time to see those guys. And here I was hanging out with them for a while. That was pretty neat. Being around major league baseball, you don’t get star-struck very often, but I just thought it was really cool because I remembered so much about that season.”
It was a remarkable if ultimately doomed season for the Red Sox. Led by Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Jim Rice, and Dwight Evans among others, the Red Sox won the American League pennant in stirring fashion over the Angels, only to lose the World Series to the Mets in an equally devastating manner. But it’s not one of the games he attended that season that sticks with Neverett. It’s one he didn’t attend.
“I had tickets to go see Clemens pitch against Seattle,’’ he said, citing the April game when the young ace struck out a major league-record 20 batters. “I decided to skip the game. A friend of mine and I were on our way. And we said, ‘Let’s stop at this place [on Mass. Ave.] and get something to eat.’ The Celtics were also on [they were facing the Hawks in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals] and I wanted to watch both. They had both games on and we’re watching Clemens strike out batter after batter after batter. We’re like, ‘Should we just go?’ He was like, ‘No, we’re going to miss the Celtics.’ So we’re sitting there watching history made with the tickets in our hands.”
Thirty years later, Neverett finds himself in a position in which he won’t miss a pitch. But the journey that brought him to the Fenway broadcast booth took him all over the country. He got his start as a 19-year-old intern calling games for the Double A Nashua Pirates in the mid-’80s. He had just finished his freshman year at Emerson, where he was also on the baseball team.
“The announcers, fortunately for me, liked to take nights off,’’ Neverett said. “Both of these guys had regular jobs. It wasn’t like it is today where you work full time for the team. This was a different time in minor league baseball. Once they realized that I could do some innings for them. By July 4, both of them took the day off, and I did both ends of a doubleheader myself. I got to do a lot of games and really enjoyed it.”
That experience further confirmed broadcasting was the path Neverett wanted to travel. He started calling anything he could — football, hockey, basketball, even four Olympics for international television — and going wherever there was an opportunity. He moved to Las Vegas and then Denver, calling minor league baseball games in the former city and eventually getting a chance to call Rockies games in the latter. In 2009, he moved to Pittsburgh when the Pirates beckoned.
“One thing leads to another, one thing leads you to another part of the country, the opportunities get bigger as you go,” said Neverett. “One day you’re doing high school football, the next you’re doing Ivy League football, then Division 1 football. You continue to climb the ladder. There was no room in Boston when I was just starting out, and I recognized that. Guys who had great jobs didn’t leave them. I knew I had to leave to go somewhere where there were opportunities.”
The opportunity to return to Boston wasn’t something Neverett chased. He was happy in Pittsburgh. But in a sense, the opportunity found him. A few months after the 2015 season, he was looking on a broadcasting website for summer jobs for his oldest son, who is trying to get into the business.
“I was looking at a lot of minor league jobs, a lot of college league jobs that were listed on this particular site, and I saw ‘Boston Red Sox,’ ’’ he said. “I said, ‘They’ve got to have somebody,’ and I didn’t really give it much of a thought. But a friend who works in another market had called me and we started to talk. And he said, ‘You know, the Red Sox have an opening,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I just saw that.’ A little while later, apparently he did contact some people, and it turned out there was interest on both sides.”
After several weeks and conversations with executives at WEEI’s parent company, Entercom, Neverett, whose parents, brother, and sister still live in the area, accepted the job on the morning of Christmas Eve.
“I knew how lucky I was, to have one great broadcasting job and the opportunity for another,” he said. “I didn’t take that lightly. I don’t take any of this lightly. I try to be as accurate as possible. You have to remember, the game is the story. You have to keep them there, listening, but the game is the most important thing. They don’t want to hear a talk show. They want to hear the Red Sox. I know that.”