Jason Benetti on the Awful Announcing’s podcast

You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger story in sports media this year than the one involving Kevin Brown and the Baltimore Orioles. Earlier this year, Awful Announcing reported Brown was removed from his role as Orioles’ TV play-by-play voice for citing the team’s recently improved record against the Tampa Bay Rays during a July 23 broadcast.

Brown’s fellow broadcasters, including Gary Cohen and John Sterling, came to his defense after he was suspended for an innocuous comment. It’s clear that, among other things, his colleagues were not going to put up with that treatment. It also likely made a lot of other young broadcasters wonder if they might face a similar situation in the future.

When it was announced that Jason Benetti was leaving the Chicago White Sox booth to become the voice of the Detroit Tigers, there were rumblings about a disconnect between him and team ownership. It became reasonable to wonder if what happened to Brown played a role in Benetti’s decision.

Benetti, who recently appeared on the latest episode of the Awful Announcing podcast, quickly shook his head in response to a question about that from host Brandon Contes.

“No, honestly, criticism-wise, that was never an issue with the White Sox,” said Benetti, who moved from one broadcast booth to another in the American League Central last month. “And I give them a great deal of credit for that. We were able to be honest about the situation. And (Steve Stone), I think, is fairly critical. Not like marginally critical, but when he’s critical, he’s very fair about it, and he is somebody who praises people when they deserve it as well. That was never a thing for me.”

Benetti also passionately defended Brown, whom he describes as one of his best friends, and highlighted his kindness and positive qualities. He further emphasized that Brown avoids negativity and “hot takes” in his work, making the Orioles’ decision to remove him from the booth even more absurd.

“The reason the Kevin Brown thing resonated with me is I love the guy,” Benetti said of his close friend and broadcasting counterpart. “He is one of my best friends, and he is one of the nicest people in America, and he never looks for hot take points. He never looks to snipe at people. He is way kinder than I ever am. He really is truly, one of the most marvelous people I’ve ever had a chance to meet and do games with. And so I was just pissed off because he doesn’t deserve any of that. He’ll be mad that I’ll be talking about this again because he just wants to go live his life with his newborn daughter and his wife. He just wants to go be a human being and this all became very all-encompassing.

Benetti was moved to tears as Orioles fans chanted Brown’s name in support, and he expressed his appreciation for their gesture.

“But I will say, it was pretty awesome to watch…I will always appreciate Orioles fans through the end of the earth for chanting his name in the stadium that night,” he added. “Yeah, I cried that night.”

Awful Announcing’s Contes refrained from putting Benetti in Brown’s shoes or making him answer for his friend. However, he did ask Benetti if he would find it challenging to work for a team in a hypothetical situation where he felt restricted from being critical or expressing his opinions.

“Uh, yeah. But the other thing people need to realize is why Gary (Cohen) and I, like, it’s hard to list everybody who took a shot at the Orioles that night, as you may recall. Again, this is your website,” Benetti said. “You all did this whole compendium of everything that everyone said, and I was really proud to be a play-by-play announcer that night. Because that’s why it was important we all stood up for each other that night, because there are only 30 of these. It’s great for me to be able to say, ‘Oh, I want to go somewhere that they let me say stuff,’ and again, that was not a thing with the White Sox. Ours was don’t eat on camera, don’t be so funny sort of thing, right? The stuff that really fires my brain specifically, so it’s really small photos compared to being able to be critical.

“The answer would be yes for me with my journalism background, but I also will say it is very, very, very difficult to get these jobs. And I will say, too, it requires people to take a chance on you. This is why no matter what happened with the White Sox — and I know I was being a little dodgy earlier — and here’s the reason why, honestly: even though I left. There have been all these discussions about my sense of humor, which is not a perfect ten anyway…they still hired me in 2016 when I wasn’t a Major League announcer. And I’m not saying I’m bowing to the feet of somebody who hired me, but they took a chance, man. Like they really took a chance on somebody who was not yet a Major League announcer, and I have no choice but to appreciate it deep in my heart because I do.”

As someone with cerebral palsy, Benetti reflected on the White Sox’s courage when they initially hired him. While he acknowledges some positive and negative aspects of the experience, he emphasizes that it ultimately led him to his dream job with the Tigers. He also highlighted the difficulty of becoming a Major League announcer and the responsibility he feels for his current position.

Because to hire somebody with (cerebral palsy) who has not done Major League games to be your announcer takes guts,” said Benetti. “And no matter where the relationship ended up — and I do have a lot of fond memories. And all the stuff we’re talking about really is small potatoes and pales in comparison to really why I left to take the Tigers job, and it’s because of the Tigers and because of what they wanted out of me and what they saw in me. Yeah, there are 30 of these, man. It’s way harder to become a Major League play-by-play announcer probabilistically than a Major League player. That is ridiculous, but it’s true. And it’s not something I take lightly.”

Benetti’s story highlights the importance of freedom of expression and the courage to support colleagues, such as Kevin Brown, in the face of unfair criticism. His success in landing his dream job with the Tigers demonstrates the power of resilience and believing in oneself.

The full episode of The Awful Announcing Podcast with Jason Benetti will be released Friday morning. Subscribe to the show on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and wherever you get your podcasts. For more content, subscribe to AA’s YouTube page.

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.