The San Diego Padres have a brand new affiliate in the Texas League, the Amarillo Sod Poodles. Here is a quick Q & A with brand new announce Sam Levitt as we get familiar with the voice of the Sod Poodles.
For the first time since 1982, MLB affiliated minor league baseball is back in Bomb City. The Amarillo Sod Poodles officially have their voice for their inaugural season in Minor League Baseball.
Sam Levitt has pretty much called every level of baseball, from college at Northwestern to the Cape Cod League. Including spending the last two years with a fellow Texas League team, the Corpus Christi Hooks (Houston Astros Double-A affiliate).
Sam will be the first voice of the Sod Poodles in team history, so let’s get to know this New Yorker calling games in Texas for the affiliate of a California-based team.
Austin Hartsfield (EVT): Growing up a New Yorker, who was your favorite Met?
Sam Levitt: No doubt my favorite Met was Mike Piazza growing up. I grew up a huge Mets fan going to Shea Stadium, and as I got into high school, I would go there on my own and take the train. I grew up about 15-20 minutes away from Shea. Really, the late 90’s early 2000 Mets teams were the teams I grew up with. They were the first teams I consciously really followed. Mike Piazza was my favorite player on those teams. It was the reason I was a catcher in middle school and high school and the reason why I dressed up like him for Halloween. I’d have the goatee, and be in a black jersey and everything. Obviously, he was the favorite of a lot of Mets’ fans growing up during that time. That late 90’s early 2000 version the Mets was really fun. They went to playoffs couple of times and had a couple of really memorable teams. It really got me invested in baseball and it’s how baseball became my number one sport, my favorite and my heart. I was really obsessed with the Mets and that was really the start of everything.
EVT: Did you really go to Shea and volunteer as an EMT at the Stadium while in high school?
SL: That was a very interesting part of my high school life. In fact, at one time, I was the youngest EMT in New York state. I worked for a volunteer ambulance company, which was an amazing experience. After a few years, I became a licensed EMT and found out about working at Citi Field. Towards the end of high school and early in college, I worked for a volunteer company there. I was able to go to games for free and work as part of the medical staff. It was a truly fascinating experience. There would be games where you be so busy with different medical stuff and emergencies that you’d be running around all the time. You would have to focus on that and not see a pitch. Other times it might be a quiet game as far as that kind of stuff and we just watched the game. Being an EMT and everything I did during high school shaped who I am now, and it was a tremendous experience for a teenager working at Citi Field.
EVT: Did you have a moment you knew you wanted to be a broadcaster?
SL: You know, it’s a funny story. I mean, I went to Northwestern and not to the school of journalism. I was assuming I was going to be pre-med when I got there. I was in the College of Arts and Sciences. Essentially what happened was I was taking chemistry during my freshman year and it was really hard, although that wasn’t the reason I switched. I mean like I said, I had a background on the emergency medical side, so it was always in my head that maybe that is something I would do. But I got involved at the student radio station at Northwestern, WNUR, very early and I do remember doing a show every Sunday night called The Sports Voice that I hosted with someone. John Rosenberg- who I still talk to today. I remember very specifically having this buzzed feeling when I walked out of the studio. Keep in mind, we did a talk show and I wasn’t very good. I felt my voice was probably eight octaves higher but I remember that feeling. I still get that feeling when I’m on air today. I got really invested in the student radio station and started taking the intro classes for journalism. I was there at night while I was taking chemistry during the day. One thing led to another and entering that summer after freshman year I decided I was going to switch and pursue journalism and broadcasting full force. I haven’t looked back since.
EVT: You might be the most electric person in the booth I’ve ever heard. You’re just wild and it is awesome. Where did that come from?
SL: I like to have fun. My experience with the Hooks was tremendous for a number of different reasons. Obviously, I got to do play-by-play on the radio and MiLB TV, but I also had a very versatile role in the sense that I did a lot of hosting. I did a great pre-game show on the field. I did all their online and social media content or live streams. It allowed me to really show a lot of personality and do a lot of different things. I will admit I can get a little crazy like the dancing out of the press box, but I like to show up at the ballpark every day and try to have a lot of fun. My goal is to bring energy, creativity, and passion to the ballpark. This is a game. It’s baseball, its minor league baseball and that’s the whole point of it. To have fun. I hope to bring that to Amarillo. I like to consider myself a very fundamentally sound baseball broadcaster. You will get that this summer for the Sod Poodles but, at the same time, I like to have fun and enjoy the course of a 140 game season. Especially in year one in Amarillo, I think that’s going to be really important. We are going to have some fun.
EVT: What is the craziest thing that you ever did during an interview or a bit? Anything that you want to do in the booth?
SL: The craziest thing I’ve ever done as far as a broadcaster interview is probably when I was with the Gateway Grizzlies. They’re a team outside of St. Louis. They were the team I spent my first three years out of college with. We did a broadcast in 2016 (me and my partner Matt) from the hot tub beyond the right field fence and it was really fun. Believe it or not, we had a home run ball literally land on a tent that was covering us over the hot tub. Headsets on, bodies in the water. We had the equipment behind us and it was probably the most creative thing I’ve ever done on the broadcast side. As Hodgetown gets built and I see what different stuff there is, I hope we find some cool places to do the broadcast from just to mix it up every now and then.
EVT: What baseball player would be your dream color commentator?
SL: I’m going to give one non-baseball answer first. I would love and I mean love to call a basketball game with Walt Clyde Frazier. Mike Breen obviously gets that honor a lot, but I would love to somehow, someway call a game with Walt Clyde Frazier. He is tremendous, and I want to hear “swish” and “percolate”. I want to hear it in my headset. So that’s definitely one. As far as baseball player goes that’s a good question. I guess I’ll keep it with the Mets because that’s who I grew up with. Somebody like David Wright, (if he wants to) is going to make a tremendous analyst on TV. I don’t know if that’s in his plans or not. He was a favorite of mine growing up throughout high school. It would be really cool.
EVT: Moving on to ballpark food? Does any place have better food than others?
SL: I will stay with the Gateway Grizzlies with this answer. The team I worked with in the Frontier League. They have tremendous food and I’ve said it to many people, it is some of the best Minor League Baseball food in the country. They do an amazing job, They have these Philly cheese steak nachos that I love. They have baseball’s best burger which is a cheeseburger in between Krispy Kreme donuts. It is tremendous. Another thing that is amazing (in St. Louis) is the gooey butter cake. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it or had it, but it’s really good. The Grizzlies, one year, had gooey butter bites and those were incredible. So overall at GCS Ballpark in Sauget is the most creative and best minor league baseball food. I’m sure we can have a lot of tasty stuff in Amarillo and it’s going to give it a run for its money.
EVT: What is the most beautiful ballpark you’ve ever been in?
SL: I would probably say Petco Park in San Diego. I love Southern California. I love Los Angeles and San Diego. It is beautiful there and my goodness Petco Park. I mean it’s warm, it’s beautiful, It’s right in the heart of downtown San Diego right by the Gaslamp District. I love it there. It is absolutely tremendous. As far as a minor league stadium, that’s an interesting question. You know, I won’t pick a favorite minor league one. I will say that it will be Hodgetown. I will say that the Texas League has so many great ballparks like Whataburger Field and Dr. Pepper Ballpark. I love the Wolff too. It has a great atmosphere. Really great fan base. Hammons Field is absolutely beautiful and tremendous as well. It truly feels like you’re in a Cardinals’ ballpark. It has that same Busch Stadium type of feel. One Oak Field is beautiful with downtown Tulsa in the background. So yeah, it’s a league with really nice ballparks, a lot of history and some tremendous markets.
EVT: Are you excited to go back to Whataburger Field for opening day with a new team? It’s kind of poetic.
SL: It is a little poetic. I’m very excited. Obviously, I made a ton of tremendous friends and colleagues down at Corpus Christi with the Hooks. It’s a great organization and you know I can’t speak highly enough of my two seasons there and the way they treated me. The fans there too, it’s a baseball-crazy town. It’s a town that loves and knows baseball and that was part of the reason I really enjoyed it. I’m sure it will be a whole lot of fun to be back there on opening night and I’m really looking forward to that. It’s going to be the first-ever game in the history of the club and ironically I get to call it and say the first words on the air in the ballpark that I’ve been working at the last couple of years.
The Amarillo Sod Poodles open their first season on the road against the Corpus Christi Hooks at Whataburger Field on April 4.