We see that you have javascript disabled. Please enable javascript and refresh the page to continue reading local news. If you feel you have received this message in error, please contact the customer support team at 1-833-248-7801.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Northwoods League: Huskies’ broadcasters aim for the big leagues

Sixteen of the team’s 68 games have been shown on the ESPN+ streaming platform.

Huskies broadcasters.
Evan Popalis, left, and Wyatt Kopelman in the press box on top of Wade Stadium on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
We are part of The Trust Project.

DULUTH — The Duluth Huskies have long touted the Northwoods League as a conduit to Major League Baseball but this year the team’s interns had the opportunity to show their skills off to a different big league.

For years, the Northwoods League has streamed all its games through its app, but in 2021 the league took down the paywall, allowing anyone to watch games at no cost. The change led to 1.3 million views of games in 2021, with the Huskies as the top-watched team in the league, according to production director Shania Krause.

The team was named the Northwoods League’s best webcast the last two seasons and this season the league raised its profile even further when they signed a contract this spring to show select games on ESPN+, the sports broadcasting behemoth’s streaming platform. 16 of the Huskies’ 68 regular season games were shown on ESPN+, giving the Huskies’ young broadcast team a good opportunity to showcase their skills to one of the biggest names in the business.

Huskies broadcasters.
Evan Popalis.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

“I think we’ve all been very fortunate with the opportunity to go forth this season with ESPN+,” Evan Popalis, a student at Penn State, said. “It’s just a fantastic opportunity for young broadcasters like us that are trying to take that next step to propel themselves into the sports broadcasting field. It’s going to look really good in the eyes of others and I think we’ve done a really good job putting forth some quality content on that streaming service.”

Popalis is part of a team of five paid interns that rotate between calling the games for webcasts, radio broadcasts and serving as the public address announcer. The team also has several camera operators and three directors, including Krause, that help produce the games each night at Wade Stadium.

ADVERTISEMENT

While calling baseball is a huge opportunity for all five, it is especially so for Max Stapleton, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Duluth Huskies radio broadcaster
Duluth Huskies broadcaster Max Stapleton, right, speaks into the microphone on a headset while delivering play-by-play for Duluth Huskies Radio while on the grandstand inside of Wade Stadium during the Huskies game against the La Crosse Loggers on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

“Wisconsin doesn’t have a baseball team, so I’ve been doing broadcasting for a year strictly with basketball and hockey,” Stapleton said. “I put together a demo reel and I recorded myself over a Yankees game — that’s how I got baseball in my demo reel. To be able to have clips not only for a really prestigious league like the Northwoods League, but also on ESPN as well, it’s a really incredible opportunity.”

A team effort

While the actual broadcast is the part of their jobs most people see, the team’s job starts much earlier in the day.

For every home game, the crew gathers early in the afternoon at Wade Stadium to start putting together stat packs for the club managers and to help out with the night’s broadcast. Early in the season, with less games completed the packs are fairly thin. As the games pile up, more information is added and the packets can swell to as many as 150 pages.

Wyatt Kopelman, a graduate student at the University of Miami, said it also takes time to develop an on-air rapport with his partners. He and Popalis called a game August 10 against La Crosse.

Huskies broadcaster.
Wyatt Kopelman.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

“It’s not just developing your knowledge of that broadcaster and his or her tendencies on and off the air, but also what are they like as people,” Kopelman said. “Do you go out to eat with them? Do you go out for a quick drink to sort of decompress after a long baseball broadcast…That’s something you have to be able to develop.”

They also have to learn to deal with on-air errors, whether it’s calling out the wrong batter or reading something wrong in the booth.

“We can’t really afford to get caught up in something like that because there’s always the next pitch,” Kopelman said.

ADVERTISEMENT

‘The best view in baseball’

Also unique is the crow’s nest press box perched on the roof of Wade Stadium just behind home plate.

Popalis said the crow’s nest is “one of the most unique things I’ve ever seen in any ballpark,” but it can also be a challenge.

Member of the Duluth Huskies broadcast team laughing
Duluth Huskies camera operator Jeffery McClure, center, shares a laugh with Duluth Huskies broadcast supervisor/director/producer Shania Krause, left, while Duluth Huskies broadcaster Evan Popalis looks out a window inside of the "crow's nest" at Wade Stadium in Duluth ahead of the Huskies game against the La Crosse Loggers on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

“The thing that I would say is most difficult from the crow’s nest … is just gauging those fly balls because you’re already up there pretty high,” Popalis said. “When that ball first gets up in the sky, you normally view it as a shorter fly ball, at least in my eyes, but normally they can carry a little bit more.”

The crow’s nest is a small space that has to fit two broadcasters as well as Krause and a camera operator, plus video monitors, computers and a few fans to keep it all cool.

“It really is a special place, but it’s tiny up there,” Krause said. “We definitely squeeze a lot of people in to do the job, but it’s the best view in baseball.”

‘A pretty good gig’

All five of the broadcasters said they are looking to make it their career after they finish with their education.

Duluth Huskies radio broadcaster
Duluth Huskies broadcaster Kyle Morrison looks on from the grandstand inside Wade Stadium during a stoppage in play while working on the Duluth Huskies radio broadcast team during the Huskies game against the La Crosse Loggers on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

Kyle Morrison, a student at Seattle Pacific University, writes regularly for the student newspaper, but he had no broadcasting experience when he arrived in Duluth. His dream is to become a Major League broadcaster. He said he went back to his earliest games this summer and listened to his calls and he can see the improvement.

“This is a pretty good gig, getting to show up to a baseball field and talk about baseball,” he said. “I think some of the other best things about this summer is just that I’ve grown a lot. I can definitely see myself now at the end of the summer coming into my own as a broadcaster. I think that where I am now compared to where I was at the very beginning — it’s just miles different.”

ADVERTISEMENT

This article originally listed an incorrect name for Kyle Morrison. It was originally posted at 6 a.m. Aug. 19. It was updated at 7:07 p.m. Aug. 25. The News Tribune regrets the error.

More from Jamey Malcomb
The three coaches graduated from the school in the early 1990s and ended up playing college football together at Valley City State in North Dakota.

Baseball player.
The Duluth Huskies' Jonathan Vastine throws the ball from first to second base to complete a double play during the Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, home game against La Crosse.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
Baseball player.
Duluth Huskies outfielder Jared Mettam catches a fly ball for an out during the Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, home game against La Crosse.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Duluth Huskies camera operator
Marisa Mulholland operates a camera along the first base side of Wade Stadium for the online video stream of the Huskies game against the La Crosse Loggers on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune
Duluth Huskies camera operator smiles
Jaeden Lizakowski smiles while posing between innings next to the camera she operated along the third base side of Wade Stadium for the online video stream of the Huskies game against the La Crosse Loggers on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune
Duluth Huskies camera operator
Jaeden Lizakowski operates a camera along the third base side of Wade Stadium for the online video stream of the Huskies game against the La Crosse Loggers on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune
Duluth Huskies staff member climbs to the top of Wade Stadium
Duluth Huskies broadcast supervisor/director/producer Shania Krause emerges from an opening after climbing to the top of Wade Stadium before heading to the "crow's nest" ahead of the Huskies game against the La Crosse Loggers on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune
Two members of the Duluth Huskies graphics team posing
Duluth Huskies graphics designer John Loomis, left, sits and highlights and graphics director Owen Kosanovich, stands while posing in front of monitors inside of the "crow's nest" at Wade Stadium in Duluth ahead of the Huskies game against the La Crosse Loggers on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune
Two broadcasters with the Duluth Huskies smiling
Duluth Huskies broadcasters Evan Popalis, left, and Wyatt Kopelman pose while standing inside of the "crow's nest" at Wade Stadium in Duluth before calling the action of the Huskies game against the La Crosse Loggers for the for the online video stream on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune
Two radio broadcasters for the Duluth Huskies
Duluth Huskies broadcaster Max Stapleton, right, speaks into the microphone on a headset while delivering play-by-play as broadcast partner Kyle Morrison looks on while on the grandstand inside Wade Stadium during the Huskies game against the La Crosse Loggers on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022. Stapleton and Morrison called the action for Duluth Huskies Radio.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune
Two member of the Duluth Huskies graphics team watching monitors
Duluth Huskies graphics designer John Loomis, left, and highlights and graphics director Owen Kosanovich, watch the monitors, which feature multiple camera angles, while inside of the "crow's nest" at Wade Stadium in Duluth ahead of the Huskies game against the La Crosse Loggers on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune
The crow's nest at Wade Stadium
The "crow's nest" above Wade Stadium in Duluth as seen Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022. The area is utilized by members of the Huskies broadcast team.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
What to read next
Minnesota will go for the sweep of the three-game series on Sunday afternoon.
The game-winner was his fifth goal of the season.
New England starter Mac Jones is likely to be out several weeks with a high ankle sprain.
The game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium kicks off at 8:30 a.m. Duluth time.