Like many young boys across the United States, Shawn Murnin dreamed of playing professional baseball. Growing up in the snowy Endless Mountain region of Pennsylvania, Shawn spent his Winters in the batting cages. He would take a few rolls of quarters to the local skating rink’s cages as much as he could, just working hard to get better. You’ll notice a trend of perseverance and determination as Shawn’s story unfolds.
Shawn compares the end of his playing days to a death in the family. It was a hard time for him, but he soon refocused his goal from playing the game to staying involved in baseball altogether. This led him to Lackawanna College for an associate degree in communications and then to East Stroudsburg University for his bachelor’s. Shawn originally set out to be a beat writer but switched gears to broadcasting while at ESU. He had fallen in love with baseball at an early age and had found his path to a career in the game.
Living in the Scranton area, Shawn decided to call the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Triple-A team to inquire about an internship with the club. He was initially deflected to Lehigh Valley but maintained that he could not afford the trip away from Scranton for an unpaid position. After persisting and getting a face-to-face interview, Shawn was given the internship with the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees in 2011, working during the day as a debt collector. There was an opportunity for Shawn to work in baseball in the Midwest the next season, but the timing was not yet right for Shawn to continue to pursue his dream.
At the time, Shawn had been dating his now wife, Sam, for around a year. She was in school, and felt the distance would be the end of their relationship. Shawn had a difficult decision to make. Sam had been there for him, before they were dating, to get him through the passing of a parent. He had pursued a romantic relationship with her for years, and chose to leave baseball and stay in Pennsylvania to be with her. She assured him, however, that this break from baseball was temporary.
After 4 years or so of working an array of jobs including more debt collection, sales, and quality assurance, Sam started to notice Shawn was not happy. They had relocated to Duluth, Minnesota after her schooling was complete, and she felt the time was right for Shawn to return to his dream of working in baseball. After reaching out to find a position, an opportunity arose in nearby Mankato. There was just one problem. Shawn needed a demo tape, he hadn’t called a baseball game in 5 years, and it was January in Minnesota.
“So, I threw MLB 2k14, I think it was, the one with David Price on the cover, into my Xbox, turned the commentary down, left the crowd noise up, and called a Scranton Wilkes-Barre Railriders game against the Rochester Red Wings.”
Despite the bootleg quality of the demo, Shawn was offered the Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations position with the Mankato MoonDogs of the collegiate Summer wood bat Northwoods league in 2015. At the outset of the season, in a sit down with the team’s Vice President, Shawn was asked his goals for the season. It was simple, really. He wanted to be voted the Northwoods League’s broadcaster of the year. But, after his first game behind the microphone for Mankato, Shawn realized he had a long way to go in achieving that goal. He started taking notes of things he felt he did well and not so well. He began listening back to games on bus rides in order to improve his broadcasts. He knew what a baseball game should sound like. Afterall, he grew up listening to Jon Miller and Harry Kalas. What he had to figure out was how to make HIS games sound the way they were supposed to. Through his own hard work and advice given to him by colleagues, mentors, and even some fans with radio backgrounds, Shawn talked himself out of giving up on his goal.
“Everything I had ever done at that point in my life, growing up in a small town, there was no “You’re gonna quit this.” It was “You better figure it out.” There’s an easy way, and there’s a hard way. Either way you do it, you have to finish it. So, the only way that I knew was to buckle down and try to figure out a way to get it done the right way.”
Gratification came in the form of a phone call telling Shawn his peers had voted him the 2015 Northwoods League broadcaster of the year. Mankato Moondogs Vice President Kyle Mrozek told the story of Shawn explaining that the award was his goal for the season to a stadium of fans when Shawn was recognized. Over the next year or so, Shawn would begin applying for jobs within affiliated baseball. This was the next step in his career. He even attended the Winter meetings to network and interview with as many teams as possible. The opportunity came in 2017 in the form of Broadcasting and Media Assistant for the Peoria Chiefs, the class-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals in the Midwest League.
Shawn called the middle innings of games, ran stats for lead broadcaster Nathan Baliva, and continued to learn the ins and outs of media relations in the minors. During one game, though, Shawn was thrust into an unfamiliar role. In the 5th inning of a close game, catcher Brian O’Keefe hit a home run in the pouring rain. After he touched home plate, the players were pulled off the field. The game was called shortly thereafter. Instead of handing the mic over to Nathan, Shawn was instructed to finish the broadcast and sign off. An impromptu sign off at the end of an unlikely walk-off home run. Only in baseball, right?
The following season, Shawn got his first opportunity to be “the guy,” taking a job as Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations for the Hagerstown Suns, a Washington Nationals class-A affiliate. Shawn recalls the fun he had with a great staff in an historic ballpark in 2018. This was the stop where Shawn learned the value of teamwork in Minor League Baseball, stating that everyone chipped in when it came to cleaning bathrooms, pulling tarp, and everything in between. While in his first season at the head of media relations for a ballclub, Shawn got the privilege of calling Juan Soto in his 16 games in Hagerstown, the most Soto played at any one stop in 2018 before making a big impact for the Nats that season. Shawn recalls Soto as a special, prodigal talent whose composure was striking.
Shawn had filled in on a couple games in 2017 for the Bowling Green Hot Rods, class-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays in the Midwest League, and when their head of broadcasting and media relations became available, they immediately thought of Shawn Murnin. He had shown up earlier than he was expected, made himself available, and even offered to help pull tarp during his short stint in Bowling Green. This clearly made an impression on the team. Now, as the voice of the Hot Rods, Shawn considers himself lucky. Although he is open to moving up the ranks if a better opportunity presents itself, Shawn understands that his connection with the team in Bowling Green is a rare one and says it will be difficult for him to find something better.
You can follow Shawn on Twitter @ShawnMurnin. Feel free to leave me a comment here or hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. I want to hear from you!