As a youngster growing up in the shadow of ESPN’s sprawling Bristol, Connecticut., studios, Paul Severino received frequent visual reminders about what he wanted to do with life.
“ESPN was on the other side of town, 10 minutes away, but we drove by it often enough to know it was something I wanted to do,” the Marlins’ new TV play-by-play man said. “We toured ESPN and I ran into [now-deceased] Stuart Scott when I was 10 years old. It fueled the passion being able to do that someday.
“ESPN was my first paid job after college … but [being a sports anchor] was never the ultimate career goal. The ultimate goal was to be the voice of a major-league team. I knew I wanted to do play-by-play without even knowing it was a real job.”
At 34, Severino has achieved that “ultimate goal;” he will debut as the Marlins’ new TV voice at 7 p.m. Friday on Fox Sports Florida, when the Marlins play the Cardinals in a spring training game.
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He replaces Rich Waltz, whose contract was not renewed, and will call 158 games alongside second-year analyst Todd Hollandsworth.
Severino has announced only four major-league games, all nationally on MLB Network: two with Joe Magrane in 2013 and two with Jon Smoltz last year.
Bob Costas sent him a good-luck text before his first game with Smoltz last summer, telling him “to go out and deliver.”
But despite the limited experience in a big-league booth, Severino has extensive baseball experience, having hosted hundreds of studio shows for ESPN and MLB Network and calling World Baseball Classic games, six Triple A All-Star Games and a bunch of Arizona Fall League games in seven years working for MLB Network.
The play-by-play seeds were planted at an early age.
“The famous story I always tell is I was probably 7 or 8 years old, my son’s age now, and we had gotten a new basement freezer,” he said. “A huge box comes to the door, and mom is ready to throw it outside, and I said I want that box. I set it up in front of the TV with video games and I made a sports desk out of it. I did play-by-play of all the baseball video games I had. That was kind of where it really started. I didn’t think it was an actual job until I was 10 or 12 years old.”
When he played baseball growing up, and through high school, he always asked to wear No. 23 because he loved Don Mattingly, then the Yankees first baseman. He also had a Mattingly poster on the back door of his bedroom in his mother’s house.
He was a big Yankees fan and his deceased father, Paul, was named after Yankees legend Joe Paul DiMaggio.
So Severino appreciates that his first big-league team job is for a franchise managed by Mattingly and owned by Yankees icon Derek Jeter, though the Marlins said they had no role in his hiring.
He holds a bunch of baseball announcers in high regard – Joe Buck among them - but isn’t inclined to pattern himself after anyone.
“In terms of saying I want to be the next so and so, I don’t want to be the next guy,” he said. “I want to be the first me….
“Todd and I will try our best to be honest and fair. It’s not my job to call guys out on any mistakes that are made. I am going to make my fair share of mistakes. I am not going to go out of my way to bury any of these players.”
How will be handle broadcasts if the team is losing big and well below .500?
“Those are going to be perfect scenarios for Todd and I to really be able to teach the game,” he said.
And hopefully, add some levity, too. Fox never should have dumped Waltz or Hutton, but the Severino/Hollandsworth pairing deserves a chance to grow.
“This,” Severino said, “is something I dreamt of my whole life.”
AROUND THE DIAL
Peyton Manning reportedly will let Fox know this week whether he will accept the analyst role on the network’s 11-game Thursday night NFL package. Retired quarterback Carson Palmer and Cowboys tight end Jason Witten reportedly were also given auditions.
Retired Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas auditioned for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” analyst role, vacated when Jon Gruden left to coach the Raiders. CBS Radio/Westwood One analyst Kurt Warner also is a candidate. Louis Riddick and Matt Hasselbeck are among internal options.
▪ The most interesting aspect of Sean McDonough’s departure from ESPN’s MNF booth has been the aftermath, with McDonough indirectly criticizing the NFL on a Boston radio station.
“If you go back and look at the schedule, generally we got one of the worst NFL games each week,” McDonough said. “You’re trying to make something sound interesting and exciting that isn’t.”
McDonough will return to calling college football, as the network’s No. 2 voice behind Chris Fowler. Joe Tessitore will replace him on “Monday Night Football,” according to the New York Post.
▪ For those wondering if NBC is phasing out Costas, that is not the case. Costas didn’t appear on NBC’s coverage of the Super Bowl or Olympics because he had the right contractually to move into an emeritus role in 2016.
He could have hosted this year’s Olympics but opted to pass the torch to Mike Tirico. His emeritus role includes a few select events, such as hosting the Kentucky Derby and offer essays and perspective as warranted. He’s also doing extensive work for MLB Network.