You could hear the happiness in Chris Adams-Wall's voice when talking about work.
And why not?
Work, since last June 22, has been being an integral member of the Tampa Bay Rays radio team. When the news came while on the road with the Montgomery Biscuits that he would be heading to Tampa Bay, the Rays’ Double-A affiliate in the Southern League, there was little time for celebration or packing.
Adams-Wall was on the go.
With more than seven full seasons calling Biscuits’ games, wondering when or if a promotion on the MLB level would be forthcoming, and at times questioning the career choice taken, Adams-Wall earned the call-up.
Almost from his start hosting the Rays’ pre-and postgame shows heard along the team’s 16-station affiliate network, on Game 77 of the 162 on the season schedule, Adams-Wall fit in nicely with his new partners – Neil Solondz and Andy Freed. All three were cut from the same broadcast pattern.
They all paid their dues in the minors, no different than some of the ballplayers they speak about to their radio audience. On his first official day on the job, Adams-Wall was seeing the Rays game with the visiting Kansas City Royals, the start of a four-game series at Tropicana Field, from a new perspective.
Several of the players in Rays' uniforms he remembered from when they came through the system as a Biscuit. From Adams-Wall's account of how his introduction went from acquainting himself with the home broadcast booth, having two supportive partners has made his transition to “The Show” comfortable.
Freed, having just completed his 19th season as a Rays’ play-by-play voice, he, too, put in his time “down on the farm”, before his hiring by Tampa Bay. After five seasons at Double-A, followed by another four with Triple-A Pawtucket, Freed earned his way to Tampa Bay.
Partner Solondz, who has logged one dozen seasons with the Rays’ radio team, put in eight years as the voice of the Durham Bulls (Tampa Bays’ Triple-A affiliate), before getting his call to Tropicana Field.
While speaking with Adams-Wall earlier this week, now, less than six months since receiving the phone call from Rays’ Director of Broadcasting Christopher Mueller that he had the job, he still feels as if his career advancement isn’t real.
“When I arrived in Tampa Bay, I jumped right away into it,” Adams-Walls said during a recent phone conversation about what he labels a “crazy season”. “The team won 99 games, they dealt with so many injuries, and I am so grateful of how everyone has made me feel like part of the family.”
Adams-Walls appears genuinely appreciative of beating the odds in scoring a position in baseball that is limited in numbers. So many hang on in the minors, such as himself, hoping for that “call”. Although he lived in Alabama for eight years, so very far from his roots in Brunswick, Maine, he is quickly settling in the Tampa area.
Packing up in Montgomery, and making the 500-mile-plus drive to St. Petersburg, Adams-Wall didn’t have much time to think too much of what would be waiting for him.
Just getting to his new home base, learning on the fly how things are done in radio on the MLB level, and being put in the broadcast booth when Freed went down with a back ailment, had Adams-Wall more in a reactive mode than overplanning. Time wasn’t a luxury afforded the rookie.
Finding a place to live in St. Petersburg, all the while thinking of a strategy that he had hoped would bring success with his new employer, Adams-Wall's ambitions and levels of stress were all over the chart.
Hosting This Week in Rays Baseball podcast, featuring in-depth interviews that help listeners become more familiar with personnel throughout Tampa Bay’s organization, Adams-Wall inherited this from Solondz. Hosting the pre-and postgame gig, also previously handled by Solondz, would become Adams-Wall's primary responsibility. Taking listeners’ calls, and connecting directly with Rays’ fans during the postgame show, is what the rookie Rays’ voice enjoys the most.
Prior to arriving in Florida, Adams-Walls tells of doing very little pre and postgame shows with the Biscuits. This is something he remembers thinking he would “figure out”. Calling the action on the field, now, this Adams-Wall would be ready for. But he didn’t plan on filling in for Freed so quickly.
“I think it was about 20 games I worked with Neil when the team was in San Francisco, Anaheim, and Miami,” Adams-Walls recalls of another MLB-first for his introduction with the Rays.
It was in late May when Adams-Wall learned that he was under consideration for the Rays broadcaster position. Last March, after a Rays spring training game in Tampa with the New York Yankees, overnight, longtime Rays radio voice Dave Wills passed. His 18 seasons calling Tampa Bay games with partner Freed spoiled local baseball fans with the very best storytellers in the business.
The new chapter of Rays on Radio began on June 6.
While on the road with the Biscuits in Pensacola for a five-game series with the Miami Marlins Double-A affiliate Pelicans, this is when and where Adams-Walls' career trajectory changed.
Joe Davis, currently the play-by-play TV voice of Los Angeles Dodgers telecasts and FOX Sports MLB telecasts, is a former Biscuits’ radio voice like Adams-Wall. Davis followed in the legendary baseball voice of Vin Scully of the Dodgers. Davis and Aaron Vargas, the Biscuits’ radio storyteller whom Adams-Wall succeeded, are the two friends/mentors who influenced him to stick with baseball.
Teaching English for a year in Spain, working in Los Angeles for Fox Sports, being in front of the camera with Alabama News Network, and returning to Montgomery for an eighth season wasn’t an easy decision for Adams-Wall. It was in Alabama where Adams-Wall learned how to broadcast baseball.
On June 20th the drive from Montgomery to St. Petersburg began. Adams-Wall worked hard for his new opportunity. Memories of his childhood attending Portland Sea Dogs (Double-A) at Hadlock Field, 30 miles south of Brunswick, came rushing back to the newest Rays radio voice. Now, he would be working in an MLB ballpark, and kids would be traveling many miles from all directions with their families for games, and possibly listening to him.
It has taken a baseball radio village to get Adams-Wall to the Rays. His loyalty to all that has shown him the direction to the big-time is precious. His love of God, his family back in Maine, and his Tampa Bay extended family are a package that should keep Adams-Wall on the airwaves, internet, and all other avenues in which Rays baseball is consumed for many more seasons to come.
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