Conway makes history in press box for Edenton Steamers
By Malcolm Shields
Saturday, June 22, 2019
EDENTON — It was another busy day for Victoria Conway.
Along with handling her normal responsibilities as the Edenton Steamers' director of broadcasting and media relations, there was a youth camp earlier Monday that had local kids learn the basics of baseball from the Steamers.
With the team nearing the finish of a seven-day stretch that featured a four-day road trip to Peninsula in Hampton, Virginia, Wilson and a doubleheader at Morehead City Sunday night, Monday was the end of the stretch with a home game at Hicks Field against Peninsula at 7:05 p.m.
Every summer, the Edenton Steamers along with other teams in the Coastal Plain League hire individuals to handle the team's broadcasting and media relations.
Conway is unique in the fact that she is the first female broadcaster not only in the history of the Edenton Steamers, but in the history of the CPL.
The current Coastal Plain League college wood bat summer league marks its first season to the summer of 1997, while the Steamers began in 1998.
Conway, who attended Hofstra University in New York, pinpoints her love of baseball and broadcasting to her youth and the New York Mets.
“Watching Mets games growing up, I watched Gary Cohen do play-by-play for them and just his passion, the way I felt like even if the Mets were 10 games out of first place, we were still in a pennant race," she said. "That was a really cool feeling.”
According the the New York Mets, Cohen has served as the play-by-play-announcer for all regular-season SportsNet New York (SNY) produced Mets telecasts since 2006.
Before 2006, Cohen was a member of the Mets WFAN Radio team for 17 years.
When Conway realized that playing sports at the college level would not be available to her, she gravitated to sports broadcast journalism.
It also didn't hurt that Conway has the gift of gab.
“I realized that I liked to talk. I like to tell stories and the passion that I have for sports and Gary Cohen really inspired me to want to bring that to any audience; whether it be the MLB or little leaguers playing.”
Conway, who has roots in Puerto Rico and Miami, Florida, was attracted to Hofstra because of its location in the Northeast.
The numerous opportunities to engage sports properties from the college to the professional level was also a draw to Conway about Hofstra.
Although she did not have prior broadcasting experience entering college, as a freshman, Conway said she got the opportunity to cover games.
During her time at Hofstra, she has also been behind the microphone for Hofstra basketball, volleyball and softball games.
Conway got word of the opportunity to work with the Edenton Steamers from fellow Hofstra broadcaster PJ Potter.
Potter served in Conway's position with the Steamers last summer.
After hearing positive reviews about the Steamers and the town of Edenton from Potter, Conway applied for the position with the Steamers.
“From the very beginning when she applied for the job, she immediately stood out to me,” Edenton Steamers general manager Tyler Russell said. “She was a front contender from the very beginning. She was highly referred by PJ Potter our broadcaster from last year. She had worked with him at Hofstra University. I knew that she was a good fit from day 1.”
On a typical day, Conway said that she gets to work between 10 to 11 a.m.
One of the tasks for Conway is finding new and unique stories to tell about the players.
“The biggest thing with me in getting the opportunity to be with the team for 52 games is getting to know them besides their stats,” she said.
She added that stats about players are important, but noted that people like stories about the players and their background in baseball.
Other tasks include preparing game notes and charts on the visiting team, chatting with the visiting broadcasters for tidbits on their team and finding unique stats or trends on a player.
During Monday's game, a 13-2 win by the Steamers, Conway was joined in the press box in the third inning by Edenton Steamers pitcher Jack Eisenbarger from Rockhurst University.
While handling the play-by-play and color by herself, Conway held a conversation with Eisenbarger about his time with the Steamers and jokingly asked about his mustache.
Conway was reflective when she was informed recently that she is the first female play-by-play broadcaster in the history of the CPL.
“This league has been around for 22 years and to be entrusted with that... it's an honor,” she said. “It's something that I take extreme pride in continuing to narrow that gap between men and women.”
Conway noted that she hopes that she is the first of many more women that will get the opportunity to broadcast games in the CPL.
Every broadcast is another opportunity for Conway to reaffirm her abilities as a broadcaster.
When it comes to play-by-play announcers, men still hold the majority of the positions in sports broadcasting.
Last year, veteran television broadcasters Andrea Kremer and Hannah Storm were part of the first female only play-by-play and color analyst booth to cover a National Football League game for Amazon's Thursday Night Football internet stream.
ESPN's Beth Mowins became the first women to broadcast a nationally televised NFL game in 2017 on Monday Night Football.
Major League Baseball has had an earlier history of inclusion of women broadcasting games.
Mary Shane is credited as the first woman to do play-by-play for a MLB team for the Chicago White Sox in 1977.
Suzyn Waldman has been a member of the New York Yankees radio broadcasts as a color commentator since 2005.
Former USA softball standout and Jessica Mendoza has served as a color analyst on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball since 2016.
Conway noted that when she was growing up, her parents told her she could do whatever she wanted, regardless of what gender was in the majority.
Conway added that she played baseball with her brother in Puerto Rico when she was 4-years-old.
Conway acknowledged that when she began college, she knew she wanted to be in a career where she could talk about sports.
The play-by-play route eventually became her path.
Conway is aware of the perceptions that some may have about women in sports broadcasting.
The one thing Conway said she has been confident in for most of her entire life is talking about baseball.
Being treated like an equal in comparison to her male counterparts has been important to Conway.
“I think I've been lucky everywhere I've gone, I've been treated as an equal,” she said.
The moment of the season for her personally was the Steamers' walk-off win against the Pilots — a 3-2 victory in 10 innings — on June 12 in Edenton.
In the top of the 10th inning, Edenton pitcher Grant Crosby escaped a second and third with no out situation to keep the game tied at 2-2.
In the bottom of the inning, Edenton's Justin Drpich hit the game-winning single to give the Clams the win.
“I was really happy with that call,” Conway said. “I was happy with that entire inning.”
Not only does Conway self-critique her broadcasts, but she sends audio of her broadcasts to other announcers she knows for feedback.
Conway said she also listens to other broadcasters to learn ways that she can improve.
Conway has plans to continue her career professionally when the 2019 Steamers season comes to an end in August.
She noted that she has sacrificed a lot of time with family and friends over the past few years to become a play-by-play announcer.
“I have completely sold out to chasing this dream,” she said. “If I can still be on-air telling stories somewhere, no matter what the sport, I'll be happy.”