Click here for PDF Edition

2017-01-27 digital edition

TODAY in the Jewish World:

Click on logo for link:

Click on logo for link:

The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


January 27, 2017  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Like players, Solondz paid dues in minors before joining Rays radio team

By BRUCE LOWITT Jewish Press

Tampa Bay Rays pre-game, post-game radio host Neil Solondz in the broadcast booth with daughters, Emily, left, and Abby. Tampa Bay Rays pre-game, post-game radio host Neil Solondz in the broadcast booth with daughters, Emily, left, and Abby. The Daily Targum is the official student newspaper of Rutgers University. The word Targum refers to the Aramaic interpretation of Hebrew portions of the Bible, “but that wasn’t quite the reason I went there,” Neil Solondz said with a grin.

“It was a state school and I was a New Jersey resident who grew up in a middle class environment,” said the host of the Tampa Bay Rays’ pre-game and post-game radio programs on WDAE- 620 AM and the team’s This Week in Rays Baseball podcast.

“It’s more diverse than most state schools only because of where it’s located (New Brunswick is less than a one-hour drive to midtown Manhattan) and there was a significant enough Jewish population … and being in a diverse environment is helpful to any journalist. It gives you a base of experience.

“I was always told if you want to work in broadcasting the best way to do it is to be able to write well, so from the day I started at Rutgers I began working at the paper and the radio station,” Solondz said. “If you can’t put it on paper it’s hard to say that it’s going to come out of your mouth if they’re not words you commonly use.”

He, his wife Sari and their preteen daughters, Emily and Abby, are members of Congregation Kol Ami in Tampa and on Jan. 15 he discussed his sports broadcasting experiences in the “What’s Nu?” series at the Conservative synagogue.

Solondz also fills in on Rays broadcasts and between Rays seasons he does freelance play-by-play of college football, basketball and Olympic sports for a variety of regional networks.

But he is best known here as the before-and-after game voice of the Rays who does most shows from the ballpark or a studio but as many as 40 post-games on location – bars, restaurants, car dealerships and the Tradewinds resort, a corporate partner – riding herd on fans who have an opinion about the game, the team, whatever.

“Post-game allows me to explain a perspective that maybe they wouldn’t get otherwise and allows them to voice how they feel,” Solondz said. “Sometimes they’re angry, frustrated. But that’s part of being a sports fan. If you’re in this business long enough you understand the challenges.”

He thinks a better title for him, as opposed to broadcaster, might be “multi-media journalist,” what with tweets, blogs and podcasts. Fans don’t want to sit on hold on the phone when they can get their thoughts out there in a hurry.

Solondz’s broadcasting career began in New Brunswick as a drive-time news anchor, host of pre-game and post-game Rutgers football and basketball games and play-by-play of the women’s basketball team.

Then came two baseball seasons of play-by-play with the independent Somerset Patriots in Bridgewater, NJ, then three seasons with the Blue Claws in Lakewood, NJ, and one with the Quad City River Bandits in Davenport, IA, a pair of Class-A baseball teams.

“That year in Iowa, that was a shock to the system, so to speak,” Solondz said. According to a recent survey, the population of Davenport is 382,630 – including about 450 Jews, or 0.00117607 percent. Congregation Kol Ami’s membership: about 950.

“It’s about quality, not quantity, and no matter where you are you can still create an environment, a culture in which you feel comfortable,” said Solondz, who still maintains contact with Quad Cities families.

He moved up to the Rays’ Triple-A Durham Bulls in 2004, doing local radio and television play-by-play, and broadcasting USA Baseball events on the MLB Network and the Triple-AAll-Star Game and National Championships.

Before joining the Rays broadcast team in 2012, the road was a way of life, broadcasting both home and away in the minors, sometimes taking him away from home for as many as 10 games.

“I talk to the kids about quality over quantity,” he said. He may not be at all their events but sometimes he’ll get to a practice or rehearsal. “Those are the important things. I try to get across to them that you make certain sacrifices for family, for kids”

Solondz grew up in Maplewood, NJ, and from a Jewish standpoint, he said, “you grow up in a comfort level because you’re around people you’re familiar with and who understand who you are, and that makes it easier.”

His parents – Linda, a retired Hebrew schoolteacher, and Irvin, a practicing attorney - still live in the same house in which Neil and his younger brother and sister grew up.

He wouldn’t follow in his father’s footsteps. “I tremendously admire what my dad has done and does, but it wasn’t for me,” Solondz said. “Sometimes I joke that I’m an attorney on the air, building a case for a certain decision or situation.”

He became a bar mitzvah. He attended Hebrew school. He still can read Hebrew. He can’t converse in it as well as he once did. “Can I do an aliyah? Yes. Could I do my haftarah? Yes. I’d probably need a little more study to comfortably read Torah,” he said.

“Sitting in the service, I’m fine. … When I was in college I would come back sometimes and read Torah, especially during high holidays. I still feel comfortable with siddur.”

If her son had a flaw, Linda Solondz said, it was “messiness sometimes.” She laughed. “He would walk into the house and you’d know he was there because he left a trail of everything that was in his pockets all over.”

When he was 12 or 13 and it became obvious he wasn’t cut out to be a professional athlete but still loved sports, he figured he could stay connected by telling other people about it as it happened.

“I thought, if this was his passion, it would be terrific,” his mother said. “I think everyone has a passion and if this was what drove him, do it. Go for it.

“There was a time when I was upstairs and I heard talking,” she said. “I really thought somebody got into the house. And it was Neil, broadcasting the game.” He would sit in front of the television, turn off the sound and do play by play.

His mother still hears him. I have iHeart- Radio,” she said, “and I have the Tampa station on my iPhone and listen all the time.”

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Click ads below for larger version