Upon graduating from Wesleyan, Susan Stone ‘81 decided to pursue acting in New York City, like many other ambitious young performers. When acting didn’t work out, however, Stone returned to her original passion: sports (since she was young, Stone has attended New York sports games with her father). She now works behind the cameras as the vice-president of operations for the MLB Network, a cable network for the Major League Baseball organization launched in July 2008.

Stone described her foray into sports broadcasting as “serendipitous.”

As a student, Stone was very involved with theater productions on and off stage. However, she became frustrated with the instability of the theater world post-college—she worked on a show for two years that opened and closed in one night in New York.  While working as a sous-chef for a catering company to make ends meet, a friend contacted her to cater her wedding. The friend turned out to be a production coordinator for football coverage at NBC. She encouraged Stone to enter into sports broadcasting.

“My friend said, what would you do if the sky was the limit,” Stone said. “I said I would own a baseball team because I love baseball.  It’s ironic that I’m at the MLB network now, because that’s how I originally decided to go into sports.”

Upon her friend’s suggestion, Stone applied for a production coordinator job at NBC.  First, she had to pass a typing test, and practiced incessantly on the Smith-Corona typewriter she used to type her college papers.  She passed the test, and after a few months, was offered a full time job at NBC Sports.

While her first job at NBC as a production manager involved typing up videotape work orders and submitting crew requests, Stone has moved up the career ladder. She moved to CBS Sports, the NFL network, and then to the MLB network last year. Stone’s advice to current students interested in broadcasting is to take advantage of internships, which can provide a valuable foothold in the industry.

At MLB, Stone oversees all the non-creative aspects of broadcasting—the extensive logistics of broadcasting a major league baseball game, which includes setting up equipment on location and overseeing the sets, lighting, wardrobe and crew of studio shows. A challenge of broadcasting baseball games is filling airtime during pauses and reacting quickly when a game takes shorter or longer than expected, Stone says.

Stone was on the field broadcasting the World Series this past year. Conveniently it was between New York and Philadelphia, an easy commute from MLB network’s headquarters in Secaucus, New Jersey. Apparently, the World Series can be frantic behind the scenes.

“The World Series is crazy,” Stone said.  “On the field you have all the various networks (YES, ESPN, local stations), you have your own dedicated position plus all of your equipment. We had a pretty simple setup, but it still took hours to get ready, and then we had to strike it off the field in 5 minutes before Fox came on the air. It took us 12 minutes to reset for the postgame show.”

With over 20 years in sports broadcasting, Stone has seen the industry change significantly. When she started in 1987, there were no computers or voicemail—not even Fedex. These days, the industry has been digitized and is now conducted on fiber optic cables. Stone noted that because the business has been simplified with technological changes, it is actually more difficult to break into the business because lower level, menial tasks can now be done by computers.

While Stone enjoys the excitement of being on the front lines of sports, being on the business side can change your perspective.

“In a way, it makes you a little less of a fan,” Stone said.  “You think of it from a company perspective. When I was at CBS and I would be covering a Pittsburgh-Jets game, maybe I would want Pittsburgh to win, because that would be the big game match up for us next week. So you sort of lose a little bit of your ability to be a fan…When I was at NFL, I was at Phoenix when the Giants won against the Patriots—I was totally a fan for that. I am still a Giants fan, and I was always a Mets fan. But I guess I’m more of a generic baseball fan now, since it behooves us to have all of the teams succeed.”

Stone was a spectator of small-time sports as a student.

“My fondest memories are sitting on Foss Hill and in front of the library during football games, and going to spring fling,” she said.

Stone also enjoyed the vibrant arts scene and academic atmosphere.

“I loved the intellectual stimulation of Wesleyan,” Stone said.  “I loved the creativity, the passion that people had for their political beliefs or what they were studying.  It was a great place to be for ideas, and to think about your place in the world, to get a good grounding in social justice, and really get a chance to get exposed to different viewpoints.”

One of Stone’s favorite college memories was simply the free time she had to ponder these philosophical ideas.

“All these ideas I never think about now,” Stone said. “With my family and my job, I don’t have the luxury to sit and think about these things. It was so wonderful and stimulating and exhilarating.”

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