CONGENIAL RED SOX RESERVE A BOOTH FOR WILI RADIO TEAM

By John Howell 
August 8, 2003
Copyright The Hartford Courant 2003


Red Sox fans won't come right out and say it because either they don't want to jinx it or because hearing "19-18, 19-18" can tend to make you a little sensitive. But good vibes are radiating from Fenway these days.

The players are loose. The guitar-playing GM is loose. The folksy manager is maybe too loose. Even owners John Henry and Tom Werner, who recently barnstormed New England, including a stop at the Old State House July 21 to trumpet Connecticut Red Sox Day, want everyone to know that that was then and this is now.

"The current Red Sox ownership has been more fan friendly, and maybe it extends to being a little more [radio] affiliate friendly, too," WILI 1400's Wayne Norman said.

Norman, UConn's football and basketball radio analyst for more than two decades, will find out firsthand Sunday when he joins colleague John Tuite in Booth A at Fenway to call Orioles-Red Sox for their WILI listeners in northeastern Connecticut.

WILI vice president Colin Rice got the idea first.
"We were up there for a radio day, which is unusual in itself -- they haven't done that in years," Rice said. "And at lunch, [Sox president Larry] Lucchino stands up and says, `We don't want to take you guys for granted,' [and] `We're always looking for new and different ways to expand our popularity.'"
There are more than 60 stations in the Red Sox Radio Network.

This is WILI's 31st year carrying the Sox, so history helped. Norman and Sox business affairs executive Chuck Steedman also go back to Steedman's days in the UConn sports information office.

"I said [to Steedman], `You know what would be neat? If we could bring our broadcasters up here to do one game, just on our local station,'" Rice said.
After a couple of calls and a couple of e-mails, Norman and Tuite were in business. They will split the play-by-play. The warmup and wrap-up shows will still be produced by flagship WEEI, which also signed off on the deal.

"There will be a definite rush of adrenaline when that first pitch is thrown and you realize where you are and what you're doing and this is a one-shot deal and how special it is," Norman said.

Norman is on vacation, but that's about to change. On Monday, UConn returns to his radar.
"I'm already of the mind-set that I'll be doing more preparation this year than ever because this [Indiana] opener at Rentschler Field is just so big," Norman said.

Norman, who called his first UConn football game in 1979 at Navy, and Joe D'Ambrosio will start their 12th full season together Aug. 30 on flagship WTIC 1080. WVIT, Ch. 30 anchor Kevin Nathan is joining the team for pre- and postgame reports and halftime features.
"It will be much more extensive," Norman said. "Before, when the game was over, [sideline reporter] Bob Joyce would get somebody to come off the field and you would do one little four-question interview and they were gone. Now we'll be in both locker rooms after the game."

Norman is a longtime Sox season ticket holder, but he might need directions when he gets upstairs. "I don't know Booth A from Booth Z," Norman said.

Not to worry. The Sox, it seems, are there to help.

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