Behind the Mic: Joe Davis Becomes New Voice of MLB on Fox; Melanie Newman Joins MLB Network

Behind the Mic provides a roundup of recent news regarding on-air talent, including new deals, departures, and assignments compiled from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, Joe Davis is the new voice of MLB on Fox, ESPN re-signs five investigative reporters,  and more.

Joe Davis Tapped as FOX’s New MLB Voice

FOX Sports ushers in a new era as it readies to take the field for its 27th Major League Baseball season. Today, Brad Zager, president of production/operations and executive producer, named award-winning, ace broadcaster Joe Davis to FOX MLB’s lead play-by-play position – becoming the new voice of MLB’s premier events.

“It’s been amazing to watch Joe’s continued growth over the years developing into one of the elite broadcasters in all of sports,” said Zager. “As an integral part of our coverage over the last several years, his transition onto baseball’s biggest stage is a natural fit and we couldn’t be more excited to have him as the new voice of MLB on FOX.”

Davis, tapped in 2017 to succeed Vin Scully, legendary voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, joins first-ballot Hall of Famer and Emmy Award winner John Smoltz in the network’s lead booth. The pair, alongside Emmy Award-winning reporters Tom Verducci and Ken Rosenthal, are on deck to present FOX Sports’ coverage of the 2022 MLB All-Star Game, MLB at Field of Dreams Game and MLB Postseason – including its 25th Fall Classic. Davis’ first appearance in his new role is set for Saturday, May 28 on FOX.

Additionally, he will continue his role for local Dodgers telecasts on SportsNet LA.

“If you had asked me when I was 10 what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would’ve told you ‘Call the World Series.’ So when I say this is a dream-come-true, I really mean it,” said Davis. “One of the best parts about this is the team I get to work with. Obviously Smoltzy … I’ve had a blast getting to know John and building such a comfort together in the booth these last few years. He, Kenny and Tom along with our producer Pete Macheska and director Matt Gangl are all superstars – the absolute best at what they do. They’ve been so welcoming to me through the years as I’ve worked more and more with their group. It’s all about the people you’re with, and I’m really lucky in that regard.”

Davis joined FOX Sports in 2014 as a play-by-play announcer for the network’s MLB, college football and college basketball coverage. He has been in the booth for FOX Sports’ Division Series coverage since 2017 and called a Championship Series game alongside Smoltz during the 2019 and 2020 MLB Postseasons, respectively.

“Having worked with Joe before, finding our chemistry in the booth is already well underway and I’m looking forward to our partnership over the next several years,” said Smoltz. “I had the opportunity to work with the very best at FOX Sports in Joe Buck, and I feel fortunate to get to continue with another exceptionally talented ‘Joe’ in Joe Davis.”

Davis attended Beloit (Wis.) College, where he was a four-year letter winner on the school’s football team. The most important training he received however, may have come during the offseason when he assumed play-by-play duties for the school’s athletic department – calling baseball and men’s and women’s basketball games on local radio and television.

Just before his senior year, Davis secured a job with the Schaumburg Flyers baseball team of the independent Northern League, serving as the team’s play-by-play voice and media relations director. With that professional experience in hand, he landed a role as the play-by-play voice of the Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits, the Double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. Davis called Biscuits games for three seasons and was named the Southern League Broadcaster of the Year in 2012.

While in Montgomery, he also gained experience serving as a radio host for the Baylor Independent Sports Properties Network while picking up reps at Comcast Sports Southeast as a play-by-play announcer for college football, basketball and baseball.

At just 24 years old, he made the impressive leap to national television – joining ESPN in 2012 as an announcer, ultimately lending his call to college baseball, basketball, football, hockey and softball games. Davis also appeared in spot duty for MLB contests on ESPN Radio. In 2013, Davis was assigned to the network’s broadcast of the Poinsettia Bowl, becoming the youngest person to ever announce a bowl game for ESPN (25).

Melanie Newman Joins MLB Network

Play-by-play broadcaster, host, and reporter Melanie Newman has joined MLB Network’s on-air roster appearing across its programming. Newman’s MLB Network role is in addition to her broadcast work covering the Baltimore Orioles for MASN and the Orioles Radio Network, which she will again continue this season. As part of her new responsibilities, Newman will regularly do play-by-play for Friday Night Baseball on Apple TV+ this season, plus host MLB Network studio programs. With MLB Network producing in partnership with Apple, Newman is set to do play-play-play for the New York Mets at Washington Nationals tonight at 7:00 p.m. ET on Apple TV+, alongside Chris Young, Hannah Keyser and Brooke Fletcher. With her role on Friday Night Baseball, Newman is the second woman to lead play-by-play duties for a national broadcast team, after Suzyn Waldman held that role for The Baseball Network in 1994 and 1995.

Newman contributed to MLB Network in 2021, when she called the MLB Network Showcase telecast featuring the Chicago Cubs at Chicago White Sox last August. Newman also served as the play-by-play broadcaster for the first-ever, all-female MLB broadcast when the Orioles visited the Tampa Bay Rays in the MLB Game of the Week Live on YouTube last August, which MLB Network produced.

Newman, who joined the Orioles’ broadcast team in 2020, became the first woman in franchise history to do play-by-play for a game, when she called the Miami Marlins at Orioles on August 4, 2020, on the Orioles Radio Network. At the time, Newman joined Suzyn Waldman, Jenny Cavnar, and Gayle Gardner as women who have handled play-by-play duties in MLB. Since 2020, Newman has served a variety of roles for the Orioles broadcast team, including hosting pre- and postgame coverage, plus in-game reporter duties. Last September, Newman also was part of the first-ever all-female broadcast team for an ESPN baseball broadcast when the Los Angeles Dodgers matched up against the San Diego Padres.

Prior to joining the MLB Network and the Orioles broadcast teams, Newman was a broadcaster for the Frisco RoughRiders of the Texas Rangers’ organization in 2018, followed by time with the Salem Red Sox of the Boston Red Sox organization in 2019. Newman’s career began at Troy University, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Broadcast Journalism, Leadership and Sports Information, and served as the play-by-play voice of the Troy University women’s volleyball, softball and baseball teams on TrojanVision TV (2010-2013). Following her time at Troy, Newman then moved to the Atlantic Sun Conference (2012-2014), providing sideline duties, before joining the Texas Collegiate League as a broadcaster and on-field emcee (2014). Newman later acted as the pre-game host, away game co-broadcaster and on-field host for the Mobile BayBears of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization (2014-2015). She has also contributed to the GameDay Radio Network, Big South Conference, Liberty Flames Sports Network on ESPN+ and other sports telecasts on the ACC Network.

ESPN Re-Signs 5 Investigative Reporters to Multiyear Contracts

ESPN has strengthened its longtime commitment to journalism by recently re-signing five of the most prominent reporters in its Investigative and Enterprise Journalism Unit to new contracts. The five signings come alongside the contract renewal of a key features writer, the addition of an accomplished writer, and the move of an editor into a full-time feature-writing role.

The investigative journalism portion of the unit develops investigative stories and breaks news across multiple platforms and under multiple ESPN brands.

The five ESPN investigative journalists who have signed new contracts to remain with the company are Steve Fainaru, Mark Fainaru-Wada, Mike Fish, Michael Fletcher and T.J. Quinn. All have been with ESPN for at least six years and have earned widespread recognition and top journalism awards during their careers.

Fainaru is a Pulitzer- and Emmy-winning journalist who came to ESPN in 2012. His 2017 E60 piece about Syria and the World Cup won a Sports Emmy for Journalism. His work at ESPN also includes, with his brother Mark, dozens of pieces on the NFL’s concussion crisis and an investigation into abuses at NBA training academies in China. Fainaru spent 10 years at The Washington Post as an investigative reporter in sports, national reporter and foreign correspondent. He won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for a series on private security contractors in the Iraq war.

Fainaru-Wada joined ESPN in November of 2007 as an investigative reporter. His recent cross-platform expose with freelance reporter Mike Kessler unearthed revelations that a track coach had molested dozens of boys and young men over the past five decades. The reporting led to the coach’s arrest in two separate jurisdictions and won a Sports Emmy for Journalism, among other industry high honors. The story also was included in the 2020 edition of The Best American Sports Writing anthology. His work also has included a story reported with his brother, Steve Fainaru, exposing abuses by coaches at NBA-run training academies in China.

Fish, who joined ESPN in 2005, previously worked at CNN-Sports Illustrated, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and four other daily newspapers. He has written extensively on performance-enhancing drugs in sports and earlier in his ESPN career covered the accidental friendly-fire death of Army Ranger and professional football player Pat Tillman. He more recently wrote stories about NFL players’ investments that funded high-interest loans and, alongside Mike Fletcher, about NBA players and shoe deals in China.

Fletcher came to the Enterprise Unit in early 2020 from ESPN’s Andscape (formerly The Undefeated) and has focused on politics, criminal justice and social issues. Prior to joining ESPN in January of 2016, he spent 21 years at The Washington Post, where his beats included the national economy, the White House and race relations. His recent work includes a moving piece about Colin Powell, questions about the in-custody death of a former NFL player, and the aforementioned piece with Mike Fish.

Quinn has been with ESPN since 2007 and recently has reported extensively on the detention of WNBA star Brittney Griner in Russia and the trial related to the drug-related death of MLB pitcher Tyler Skaggs. Previously at the New York Daily News, Quinn, as part of that paper’s sports investigative team, broke numerous stories about doping. He also spent seven years as a Major League Baseball beat writer.

Enterprise writer and reporter Katie Barnes has also signed a new contract and will continue pursuing stories and reporting that appears on the ESPN App, Outside the Lines, SportsCenter and the ESPN Daily Podcast, among other platforms. Barnes, who in recent weeks has covered Lia Thomas at the the NCAA swimming championships and the Women’s Final Four, is a three-time nominee for GLAAD awards and covers culture, LGBTQIA+ issues, women’s basketball, collegiate softball and women’s combat sports.

Joining the Unit is Roberto José Andrade Franco as a writer and reporter who will focus on boxing, soccer and baseball. His work has appeared in Best American Sports Writing, and he has been a finalist for the Dan Jenkins Medal for Excellence in Sportswriting. Based in El Paso, Texas, he has previously written for ESPN platforms on a freelance basis. He recently wrote “Canelo Álvarez and the mystical man behind his quest for immortality.”

Finally, Ryan Hockensmith has shifted duties from deputy editor to full-time writer. Over the past few years as he’s edited some of our best writers, Ryan has put forth memorable and touching pieces of his own, ranging from “The final, beautiful goodbye of NFL legend John Madden” to The Secret MVP of Sports to a story last month about How Ken Griffey Jr. saved a man’s life.

“We are beyond thrilled to add Roberto to our talented staff and can’t wait to see what Ryan brings to readers, viewers and listeners on a more-regular basis,” said Chris Buckle, vice president, ESPN Investigative and Enterprise Journalism, who announced the developments. “For years, ESPN has aired and published the most important stories in sports, stories that range from holding the powerful accountable and giving a voice to those who cannot speak freely to dramatic pieces that take fans deep into sports figures’ lives and provide them access in ways they simply can’t find elsewhere. Our commitment to those ideals continues and is demonstrated with these very exciting moves across the Unit.”

Andscape Re-Signs Senior NFL Reporter Jason Reid

Andscape, the Walt Disney Company Black media platform dedicated to diverse stories of Black identity, has signed senior NFL writer Jason Reid to a multiyear extension. Reid will continue as the platform’s lead journalist covering the National Football League, and appear across ESPN’s linear television shows on topics about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the league.

Reid’s extension coincides with the completion of his first book – Rise of the Black Quarterback: What it Means for America – which will be released in August by Disney Publishing Worldwide under the new Andscape Books imprint. The book is an offshoot of Andscape’s season-long “Year of the Black Quarterback” multiplatform enterprise series that debuted September 2, 2019, helmed by Reid. #YOTBQB examined the emergence and growing prominence of Black quarterbacks in the National Football League. Rise of the Black Quarterback will be the first title from the Andscape imprint.

“Jason’s exceptional coverage of the National Football League positions Andscape as the place for news about activism among the league’s predominantly Black athletes, and the demand for more diversity in its predominantly White ownership and management,” said Raina Kelley, vice president and editor-in-chief, Andscape. “We are excited to have him on our team, and for his leadership in our coverage of the league.”

Reid added: “I’m honored by the trust Andscape and ESPN have in me to support my reporting on sensitive subjects regarding matters of diversity and inclusion in the most successful league in professional sports. I’m also proud to be part of a team that’s second to none in covering the NFL. I’ve been given incredible opportunities to grow, including writing my first book, and I look forward to tackling new challenges in the future.”

Reid joined ESPN The Undefeated, which rebranded last month as Andscape, in January 2016 after serving for a year as an columnist. At Andscape, he led a team of correspondents in reporting the critically acclaimed #YOTBQB series. Reid’s enterprise reporting has included the NFL’s support of social justice organizations in the wake of players’ protests and the ensuing discord among the players. In April 2017, Reid co-authored The NFL’s Racial Divide – an examination of the role race plays in the construction of NFL rosters – which won the 2018 NABJ Salute to Excellence Award in the sports digital media category.

Reid contributes to other ESPN platforms, including Outside the Lines, SportsCenter, ESPN Radio programs, and more. In September 2016, he wrote a cover story, “Welcome to the Todd Gurley Show,” a multi-platform content collaboration between ESPN The Magazine and Andscape on the Los Angeles Rams star running back.

Reid served as a National Football League reporter and sports columnist for The Washington Post before joining ESPN in 2015. He also co-hosted a Washington, D.C., morning drive program on ESPN 980 – The Man Cave with Chris Paul and Jason Reid.

Before The Post, Reid wrote for The Los Angeles Times where he covered the Dodgers, Clippers and provided college basketball analysis. He began his journalism career covering prep sports for The Times.

Reid is a graduate of the University of Southern California School of Journalism.

Curt Menefee, Joel Klatt Set for Fox’s USFL Booth

John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reports that Curt Menefee and Joel Klatt will be Fox Sports’ top USFL announcing team this season. He writes: “Menefee and Klatt will be in the booth 12 days from now when the league kicks off with an opening game that will simulcast on both Fox and NBC.”

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