By KAMRYN ELLIOTT
USFSP Student Reporter
ST. PETERSBURG – A small, wooden pallet is positioned in the left corner beneath a TV screen that hangs on a wall inside the press box at Al Lang Stadium.
It’s called the “apple box,” and it is used as a stool to make Ryan Davis, the color analyst on the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ TV broadcasts, look taller.
“It looks unnatural when he’s standing next to Drew Fellios, who covers play-by-play, on air. This helps him look the same height,” said Mike Manganello, the Rowdies’ communications coordinator.
Manganello graduated from the University of South Florida Tampa with a degree in international relations and a minor in geography. He was an intern for the Rowdies during his sophomore year and sports editor at The Oracle, the campus paper, for 18 months in 2010-2012.
“I asked if they (the Rowdies) would hire me and they said, ‘Yes, but we don’t have the money,’” said Manganello.
They found the money somehow because he was hired shortly after that and has been working there since March 2014.
During the 10-month soccer season he is in perpetual motion.
“I run around the stadium making sure everything runs smoothly before the game starts, during the game, and after the game,” said Manganello.
All of the home games begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday because the team controls the facility. They are able to pick the day and time of the week for games.
Manganello arrives at the stadium around 3:30 p.m. to begin his day.
“It’s not that early to show up, but I do most of my prep work on Friday so I can stay home until 3 p.m. on Saturday watching college football,” said Manganello.
The first things he checks are his lights and setup at the press conference location. He then checks in with the coaches to make sure the lineup hasn’t changed overnight. This is important because he needs it to make the starting lineup graphics for social media.
After that, he helps set things up in the press box upstairs. Every week he writes a booklet of notes for the media.
“It basically tries to answer any question a reporter may have before they have to bother me by asking something,” said Manganello.
He said the media booklet contains the season’s schedule, what happened the previous week, coaches’ records, and notes about the team that might be mentioned during the broadcast.
This includes the team’s record each year since it started in 2010, the type of jerseys worn at each game, and goals scored. It’s like a study guide for a soccer team, except it’s called a media guide.
The players start arriving at 5:30 p.m. and Manganello checks in and wishes them good luck because, he said, “we are a family.”
The team operations staff will fill out the official lineup card and he uses this to create a clean version for the press. This is completed by 6 p.m. before any media shows up for the game.
On a typical game day, three reporters work in the press box, one from the Tampa Bay Times and two from a fan blog and podcast outfit. TV stations don’t attend since they are sent highlights as soon as the game ends.
Manganello works closely with the design team at Tropicana Field for graphics and visuals. The Tampa Bay Rays bought the Rowdies in 2018, and employees from both teams work together on marketing and design.
“We have a huge graphic design team at Tropicana Field that supports us so I’m fortunate to where I don’t have to do a lot of design, but I still make sure to learn basic design skills,” said Manganello.
Once his pre-game responsibilities are done and posted online, Manganello watches the players warm up. At kickoff he sits on a field-level platform between the coaches to live tweet the game.
“I try to get an update every three or four minutes of important things, but once a player scores I have to abandon that since I’m the only person in my job. I pull up highlights from the live broadcast that we have from sponsors and post those because we can’t miss those important moments,” said Manganello.
The goals are sponsored by Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, the tourism marketing department for Pinellas County, so he has to pull up the highlights as fast as he can and tag VSPC on all platforms.
Once this is completed, he can get back to live tweeting the game.
After the game, he meets the media at the tunnel in the stadium and asks which players they would like to interview. Manganello then escorts these players to the press conference area.
His final tasks are cutting full highlights of the game for media use, making a graphic on the final stats, writing a recap that goes on the team website and sending it out as a press release for all of the media, and updating the website to make sure everything is current.
“I get here around 3:30ish and leave around 12:30 a.m.,” said Manganello.
During the offseason the pace slows considerably.
The major events are usually player signings. Once he gets word of a signing, he makes a press release announcing it and calls the graphics department to make a graphic. He also calls the video department to create a highlight video on that player.
“I’m a one-man show. Sometimes it gets overwhelming, but I love what I do so I can’t complain,” said Manganello.