West Ranch pitcher Timmy Josten has a grandfather in a nursing home. Outfielder Evan Gellatly has family in Nebraska and Florida.
They can’t be at the Wildcats’ baseball games, but there’s a pretty good substitute.
Play-by-play announcer Ronnie Wald has been doing an audio and video broadcast of all West Ranch baseball games for over three and a half years.
“It’s great because we all know as parents there’s at least that fallback when ‘Oh, no, I can’t make it to that game’ and then we know that we can at least listen to Ronnie,” says Karen Garelick, mother of pitcher/second baseman Brenden Fisher.
Casey Burrill, West Ranch’s coach, always had the ambition of creating a live visual feed of his team’s games.
He had been experimenting with different ways of streaming the game when he met Wald during the Wildcats’ 2012 CIF-Southern Section semifinal appearance.
Wald offered his services, but the Cats ultimately went with another company. Wald, a freelance broadcaster who worked with multiple schools at the time, kept in touch with Burrill.
Eventually, he was given a trial run with the team.
“It was an end of the season game,” Wald says. “They were battling it out with Valencia and they plopped me down right behind the plate and I didn’t know anyone behind me and … everyone hears me.
“Those moments (when) people don’t know you, you have to suck it up and just go for it.”
Wald, 57, is now a staple at home, away and playoff games.
It took a bit of adjusting.
“Before Ronnie, it’s a regular baseball game and all the things you would picture,” Burrill says.
“Ronnie for the first year or two, it’s kind of strange. I think the parents weren’t quite sure what this was all about. Now I think all the parents, and certainly the players, agree it wouldn’t be the same having a game without Ronnie there.”
Other obstacles like paying royalties to the CIF in order to broadcast playoff games, technological difficulties and criticism from opposing team’s parents that at one point caused Wald to completely stop his broadcast have all occurred.
Nevertheless, Wald supported West Ranch, which has, in turn, supported him.
He’s built connections with the players, who see him as an almost necessary part of the game.
“He’s kind of our guy and we always know he’s there,” Josten says. “Listening to him is comforting. He always has something nice to say on and off the field.”
Every night before a start, Josten receives a phone call from Wald, who is perfecting his preparation for the forthcoming game.
“I have a method to my madness,” Wald says. “And most of the time if you happen to show up at the Saugus Inn at 1 or 2 a.m. or Denny’s in Sylmar, I’ll be there doing my stats. Color-coordinated, voluminous stats.”
A new feature to the broadcast this year is the “media center.” It’s an elevated platform behind the bleachers at West Ranch’s baseball field that Wald uses as a press box.
“I just showed up there in February and there it was, built and ready to go,” Wald says. “It was a beautiful surprise. It was a nondescript platform, but to me, it looked like a brand new Rolls-Royce.”
As for the future, Burrill says he envisions a more elaborate broadcast involving an on-field camera for enhanced audio and video.
But for now, Wald is focused on making the players “feel like Dodgers for a day.”
“I come back every year because they care about me and I care about them and the product,” Wald says. “And I do better work because of that.”