Tommy Castronovo had a taste of the big-time, and found it addictive.
The St. Francis product from Geneva is now a junior communications student at Hope College in Michigan with an interest in sports broadcasting. That interest was amplified in resounding fashion last week, when Castronovo had the chance to broadcast from the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament in New York for an audio stream on the tournament’s website.
Castronovo called the experience a “once-in-a-lifetime thing,” though deep down, he hopes that’s not the case. His enthusiasm for meeting that challenge has been rekindled.
“I kind of was lagging in that department before I had done it,” Castronovo said. “I was kind of questioning whether or not I [was going to pursue it]. ... Definitely having that experience opened me up. I really enjoyed it, and I definitely could see myself doing it in the future and I definitely want to do it in the future, no matter what sport it is.”
Castronovo has his dad to thank for his broadcast perch at the country’s most prestigious tennis tournament. Thomas Castronovo, Sr., won the gig for his son through an auction staged by American Express.
Castronovo, 20, and his dad flew to New York last Wednesday, and the following day was Castronovo’s to describe the action from “five or six matches” throughout the day. He and three other broadcasters called action live from Arthur Ashe Stadium, as well as from some of the other courts with the help of TV monitors.
There’s no time to be tongue-tied when broadcasting a sport that unfolds as briskly as tennis.
“I wasn’t terribly nervous going into it,” Castronovo said. “It takes a little bit to get used to because points are so fast and you have to talk so fast, but once I got going into the first match, I think the rest of them went really well.”
Castronovo said a couple of his partners were seasoned sports broadcasters, but he wasn’t given much of a job description.
“To be honest, they didn’t really give me a strategy or an approach,” said Castronovo, who played high school tennis at St. Francis. “They just told me to have fun with it, try to be colorful – try not to be too colorful, but try not to be boring.”
He had the chance to do both play-by-play and color analysis throughout the day, saying he preferred play-by-play because it was difficult to find time to interject when others were describing the action.
Family and friends listened in, and his dad offered almost instant feedback via text messages while catching the broadcast from the stadium via an iPhone application.
Among the players Castronovo saw play: eventual men’s runner-up Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Serena Williams.
“It was a really neat experience, very eye-opening, to see how good those players are when you’re that close to them and how many different cultures come out for that,” Castronovo said. “It’s literally everyone from across the world comes out to [the tournament].”
After his broadcast-filled Thursday, Castronovo returned to the tournament to watch the women’s semifinals on Saturday. An avid Cubs fan, Castronovo and his dad also took in a couple Cubs-Mets games on the trip at Citi Stadium which, like the U.S. Open, is located in Queens.
Castronovo has been promised a tape of his broadcast, and is seeking internship opportunities to gain experience in the field next summer. He’s also hopeful of starting a sports show on the Hope campus radio station.
Having seen the top of the profession first-hand, Castronovo is more willing than ever to put in the effort to make it back.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.