Emma Tiedemann Shines as the New Play-By-Play Announcer of the Portland Sea Dogs
Thanks to a seasoned broadcaster grandfather and a play-with-the-boys attitude, the 29-year-old is able to call it like she sees it.
For Emma Tiedemann, it is a “yes, I had hot dogs for breakfast” kind of day. School buses recently deposited approximately 6,500 children for an educational tour of the Sea Dogs’ stadium, and their boundless curiosity and enthusiasm left Tiedemann with little time to fortify herself. A 29-year-old play-by-play announcer and one of Minor League Baseball’s original four female broadcasters, Tiedemann left Kentucky (and the Lexington Legends) and moved to Maine in March of 2020 after she accepted the position of director of broadcasting for the Portland Sea Dogs (the Boston Red Sox’s Double-A team).
Sports have always been at the center of Tiedemann’s life. As a child in Texas, she played football with the boys during recess in elementary school. She’d go home crying every day because no one would throw her the ball, but the next day she got right back out there. She eventually picked up basketball and volleyball; she even participated in rodeos during the weekends. When she was 15, sports broadcasting came into Tiedemann’s life, and it’s been a constant ever since.
People often point out that you’re not just a broadcaster, you’re a female broadcaster. Does that get old?
Yes, honestly. I cannot wait for the day when I can walk into the press box and they say, “Oh, the broadcaster’s here,” not “Wait, you’re the broadcaster?” I don’t like the attention or to talk about myself; it’s kind of an anti-broadcaster thing, because our job is to talk about everyone else. Whenever people point out that I’m a female broadcaster, my response is, “Yeah, but I’d rather talk baseball with you.”
Can you tell me about your first foray into sports broadcasting? You said you were 15 years old?
My grandfather was a sports broadcaster at the University of North Texas, and would have his [broadcasting] students go to different local universities and practice calling games. He was at the University of Texas–Dallas calling a game, and I was going to be there just to keep score. It was a women’s basketball game— basketball was my sport growing up. But on that day, his student couldn’t make it, and he said to me, “Well, I have an extra headset, and you know basketball. Why don’t you give it a shot?” I was really shy, but he says I talked the entire time. I recall bits and pieces of trying to talk and not talk over him, to be cognizant of all the things he’d ever taught me. I loved the live action and how you never knew what was going to unfold in front of you. From then on, I kept broadcasting at the University of Texas all through high school. I was free labor, but it was fine with me. I went from women’s basketball to men’s basketball, volleyball, soccer, softball, and by the time I graduated high school, baseball.
How do you know what to say during play-by-plays?
Once you put on the headset, everything else melts away. You just use your words and your background to describe what’s going on. For example, for me, if it’s a ground ball to the first base side, I know I can describe it that way, but maybe in the last inning there already was a ground ball to the first baseman, so I need to be more descriptive. Is it bouncing? Is it a chopper? Is it a one-hopper? How fast is it going? All these little things are what I know to look for. I’ve called hundreds of games, so it’s taken years of practice to get to that point.
What is the biggest challenge of your job?
It’s such a competitive field. Everyone thinks that if they grew up watching sports then they can talk about sports, that they can broadcast from their couch. Every job I go for, there’s roughly 200 applicants. The biggest challenge is competition. But once you’re in, you’re in.
“Once you put on the headset, everything else melts away. You just use your words and your background to describe what’s going on.”
What’s a common misconception people have about sports broadcasting?
I think people assume we go to the ballpark 30 minutes before first pitch and put on a headset. People don’t realize that I spend hours a day researching our team, the opposing team, the pitcher, hometowns of these guys to see if they have anything interesting where they’re from. Little things that can add some depth to the players that these people come out to see or listen to on the radio.
Do people treat you any differently as a young female?
The most sexism I have faced was when I was trying to get into Minor League Baseball. The biggest pushback was from the people in charge of hiring. Once I got in, and I was with my first affiliate in Lexington, Kentucky, they were fine with my sex. When I came to Portland, same thing. They treat me like anybody else; it’s been awesome. But I’ve sat through multiple job interviews where I thought, “I could sue for what these people are saying to me, but I’m still looking for a job, so I can’t be that person. I still want to work in this industry.” Once, I was interviewing to be an assistant—so not even a number-one broadcaster, I’d be the number two—and I sat down, and the broadcaster said to me, “I’m sorry, but my ownership in the big league club won’t have a female broadcaster on the air, but I can critique your tape that you sent me.” So he opened up his laptop, starts playing my half-inning that I sent, and critiques it in front of me, after he just shattered my dreams of working for that team. Once I found Portland, I went through multiple interviews and my gender was never brought up. It was never, “Oh, you’re a female broadcaster.” It was, “Oh, you’re a very well-qualified broadcaster, and you are the best person for the job.”
I’m going to circle back to one of the first influences in your career path: your grandfather. Is he still around?
Oh yes. He was just inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. He’s 96. He listens to every single game and gives me feedback every single day. He’s my biggest supporter.
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