Jeff Jacobs: Ludlowe’s Blanc knows chance to call Little League World Series for ESPN is huge opportunity
Aiden Blanc was riding on the Merritt Parkway with his dad Chris a little after 7 o’clock the night of July 25. He had just finished broadcasting an American Legion playoff game at Cubeta Stadium in Stamford and was on his way home to Fairfield when he got a text.
It was Bruce Beck.
“He wanted to know where my dad and I were,” Aiden said. “I told him we’re in the car. So he called and said, ‘How would you like to do the Little League World Series on ESPN?’ I was shocked. I had no idea. Apparently, it had been in the works since April, but they didn’t want to say anything at his camp because nothing had been finalized.
“I was told since they were trying to do something like this for years with kids from the teams, but no one has been able to do it.”
Can you imagine being 16 years old with dreams of becoming a nationally known sportscaster and out of nowhere getting the chance to broadcast a game from Williamsport?
How cool is this?
How big is that?
“Huge,” said Aiden, who’ll be a junior at Fairfield Ludlowe.
Next Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Aiden and three other high school kids will announce Game 24 in the U.S. Winner’s Bracket on ESPN2. It’s the last double-elimination game of the tournament, with the winner moving directly to the U.S. championship. It is billed as the Kidscast alternative experience. Aiden will do the play-by-play alongside Eddie Kalegi, also 16. Rahill Jaiswal, from Greenwich, and Zoe Alter, both 15 will work as sideline reporters. Mo’ne Davis, the 2014 World Series pitching sensation from Philadelphia, will work as an analyst. Karl Ravech, David Ross and their crew, meanwhile, will do the regular broadcast on ESPN.
Said Blanc: “We’re going to open up their broadcast on ESPN, basically saying, “Hi. Welcome to Williamsport and the Little League World Series. We’ve got the Kidscast over on ESPN2. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.”
The young announcers were recruited from the Bruce Beck Sports Broadcasting Camp at Iona College in New Rochelle. Beck, the longtime lead sports anchor at WNBC in New York, Mike Quick, formerly with MSG Varsity, and Ed Cohen, Knicks radio play-by-play man, have mentored Blanc over the past three years at the camp.
“This is going to be unbelievable,” Aiden said. “It’s going to look great on my reel. What I’m looking to get out of it most obviously are the connections. We’ll have the chance to hang around all these big people. They’ve got SportsCenter down there, all sorts of ESPN things.”
Aiden will head out to Williamsport early Sunday with Chris and his brother Liam. Aiden wants to get there by 11, because the winner of that game will advance to the one he’s calling. Tuesday, there’ll be a practice game. Wednesday is the real deal. He expects to return home Friday.
“I think Mike Quick put it best when he said, ‘They’re not going to offer you a job on the spot, but you’ll be in their minds.’ My hope is to do as good a job as possible and hopefully get asked back next year. It would be a very good idea from their perspective, I think, if they expand it to other sports and events.”
Already, Aiden has put together quite the budding resume. For the past three years he has run the Falcon Sports Network, livestreaming Ludlowe sports on FairTV (Channel 78) or on demand on the YouTube Channel. He has broadcast more than 100 games. Football, soccer, field hockey, volleyball, basketball, ice hockey, baseball, lacrosse and even a cheer meet. You name it, he has done it. He has broadcast American Legion games online the past two summers.
Aiden worked for Noah Finz and Marc Robbins at Vantage Sports Network on Fridays during the school year, getting scores, doing production, presenting some highlights. He has done public address for Fairfield American Little League, but has never done Little League play-by-play. Vantage did send him to Williamsport when Fairfield American made it to the Little League World Series in 2017. He was its beat reporter for the first week.
So this will be his fifth trip to Williamsport. He also went with Chris and Liam to Williamsport in 2012 and 2013 as a fan when Fairfield and Westport advanced there, and again in 2015.
The kid is a hustler. He has been talking to Colony Grill, whose four owners played on the celebrated 1989 Little League world champions from Trumbull, about being a sponsor for Falcon Sports Network this coming school year.
“As soon as I’m coming back, I’m working on Ludlowe athletics,” Aiden said. “We’re doing a new magazine style show this year with feature stories.”
Aiden played in Fairfield American Little League, done soccer and rec basketball. He doesn’t play a sport at Ludlowe. He says he doesn’t have an athletic bone in his body.
He already has some serious play-by-play chops though. He started playing around announcing when he was three or four. While other kids were watching the ball on television, he started paying attention to how plays were set up, how stats were introduced, how they were throwing to commercial breaks.
He lists Joe Davis, TV play by play announcer for the Dodgers, Adam Amin of ESPN and Ryan Ruocco and Michael Kay, who do Yankees television, among many favorite announcers. The first three are under 33-years old.
From the sixth grade he has looked at colleges. It started with Syracuse, a cradle of broadcasters, but realizes even the best kids might not get on air as a freshman. So he has opened his process to several schools.
“My dream long-term is a combination of being the voice of a team, the voice of the Yankees, Nets or Jets — my favorite teams — and being heard nationally,” Aiden said. “So it’s a mix.”
And this week?
“My dad and my brother were joking around that maybe we’ll meet A-Rod,” Aiden said. “They’re putting us up in a hotel with ESPN people and the (Little League Classic broadcast between the Pirates and Cubs) is on ESPN Sunday night. So maybe we’ll cross paths.”
Sixteen candles and calling a national game.
How cool is this?
How big is that?
Aiden Blanc knows.