A 5-year-old boy and his grandfather sat down together to watch a game. The television was muted, and the grandson was speaking.
“My grandfather has been blind for 40 years,” said Morey Hershgordon, now a professional sports broadcaster.
“From a young age, I would go over to his house, mute the television, and broadcast him baseball, hockey, football, soccer – anything you could imagine. We shared a love and a bond over it.”
Hershgordon’s passion for sports broadcasting started with his grandfather, but was nurtured by Play By Play Sports Broadcasting Camp, a summer camp with 11 locations across the country, including one at UCLA.
Co-owners Jeremy Treatman and Steven Goldstein started the camp in Philadelphia in 2002, and brought it to Westwood seven years later. The two utilized Treatman’s experience in sports broadcasting and Goldstein’s time working on sports and entertainment events to get the camp off the ground and take it across the country.
“The original intent was to introduce kids to every facet of sportscasting,” Treatman said. “Sports journalism, sports broadcasting, writing, editing, reporting, play-by-play, color analysis, sports talk radio. Anything that I’ve done personally in sportscasting.”
Campers rotate through different activities throughout the week, all built to give them practice and reps. Over the years, the group has toured Pauley Pavilion and the Rose Bowl and heard from guest speakers like former Dodgers general manager and current broadcaster Ned Colletti, ESPN personalities Michelle Beadle and Michael Smith, and UCLA basketball alumni Tyus Edney and Jordan Adams. Last year, campers got to interview then-sophomore quarterback Josh Rosen as he left football practice.
“My favorite part of the experience is probably the PTI competition, which is like sports arguing, and I really like it because I do debate at school and it’s kind of right up my alley,” said camper John Soza, 14. “It’s different from at school where there’s two kids or three kids that are really into sports. There’s a whole group of kids and you can really learn stuff.”
Goldstein said that the kids who come to his camp are unique because they are sports fanatics and they want to be broadcasters, and added that many of them stay in touch with one another year-round.
“If you go to a basketball camp you have really good basketball players and kids who are not so good, so you kind of have the cliques that form,” Goldstein said. “At our camp, everyone shares one passion. … Whether they’re a good athlete, not a good athlete, boy, girl, they just come together from the moment they come to camp; they just start talking sports and they form a bond.”
Having this population of kids is part of what Treatman said makes his campers feel very special and very comfortable. He also believes that the skills they learn translate to much more than sports broadcasting.
“I’ve been secretly calling it ‘self-esteem camp’ for 16 years,” Treatman said. “I feel our campers are ahead of the game because they can speak in public, they’re comfortable in groups. They’re comfortable conveying their opinions because they’ve played our PTI drill.”
The camp also supplies its campers with opportunities to network and work toward their careers. The connections between campers and alumni have created a “pipeline” to undergraduate broadcasting programs across the nation, Treatman said.
Noah Friedman has attended the camp every year since he was one of the UCLA location’s first campers in 2009. He’s now a counselor, working for Treatman and Goldstein during his summer vacation from Arizona State, where he’s studying at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
“The 10 and 11 year olds are thinking about how much fun this camp is going to be, and they won’t take it as seriously yet,” Friedman said. “But as you start to progress – get into that 15-, 16-, 17-year-old range – you start to focus on that a little bit more and really decide that this is exactly what you want to do.”
This kind of environment allows 17-year-old Sofia Martinez – one of five girls at the Los Angeles camp this year – to feel hopeful about her goal of becoming a ESPN College GameDay anchor. And the camp has the success stories to give its campers much more than false hope.
Treatman said that there are “dozens and dozens” of Play By Play Sports Broadcasting camp alumni working in sports media, including MLB Network’s Scott Braun, ESPN’s Sarah Barshop, Bleacher Report’s Adam Lefkoe and Hershgordon – who secured a job as a weekend sports anchor and weekday reporter for an ABC affiliate in Wisconsin just two weeks after graduating from college.
But with as many eyes and ears as Hershgordon has reached since his time at camp, he still hasn’t forgotten about his days of calling games in front of a muted television set.
“I always say that my grandfather was my first audience.”