Reno Aces play-by-play announcer Ryan Radtke was a natural since he picked up a makeshift microphone.
“My mom likes to tell people that when I was a little kid I would mimic the sports broadcasters when we watched the game,” he said. “I would grab a bottle, cup or something and just copy what they were saying. She loves to brag about that. So I guess it just stuck with me.”
Radtke, 42, has carried that same unique tone and style for 14 years and counting with the Tucson Sidewinders and Triple-A Reno Aces. He’s served as an iconic voice on the airwaves at Greater Nevada Field since the stadium opened in 2009.
“I love where I’m at and I’m truly blessed,” he said. “I get to have fun and that’s something I cherish. It’s the little things that make what I do even better. There’s so many dynamics of coming to the ballpark and just soaking it in.”
Among his dynamic calls and thoughtful insight, Radtke informs listeners with his institutional knowledge. During breaks in the action, he’ll fill up the empty space with an interesting stat or a certain play from last night’s game to keep the flow of the broadcast.
Radtke has developed quite the knowledge base over the years.
“I think I’ve had an advantage being here since Day 1,” he said. “For me, it might be looking up the exact number for a stat, but I have an idea because I saw it and I was here for it. … I remember certain things happening so it helps when you’ve been with the team.”
He also serve as the Aces’ official scorekeeper from the broadcasting booth on occasion. Whenever a decisive play happens made on the field, Radtke is the first to give insight on how the play should be scored.
“I’m just trying to help for the most part,” he said. “I may have a different perspective on something that happens. … Being behind home plate, if I see something they don’t I try to impart that knowledge. It goes the other way too, there are plays where I look for the guys to give me a different angle. Everybody is helping each other get the call right and that’s the important thing.”
Radtke isn’t just a familiar voice for the Aces. He joined Westwood One in 2017 and serves as the network’s lead play-by-play announcer for NCAA football and basketball. Radtke was part of the network’s coverage of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games from PyeongChang, South Korea, doing play-by-play commentary of alpine skiing, luge and bobsled.
“I’m blessed to be in this situation,” he said. “They’re all different. It’s different doing basketball and football at Westwood One. So there’s always a different experience. It’s fun to be able to do that and be involved in all these sporting events.”
Growing up in the Bay Area, Radtke was focused on a professional career on the basketball court. He played basketball for De La Salle High School in Concord, California.
His basketball dreams were washed away when he was an upperclassman, but another opportunity —in sports broadcasting — came along. Radtke was hooked from Day 1.
“I was gonna play basketball my junior or senior year,” he said. “I knew I was either gonna ride the bench or not even make the team. … So my coach came back to me a couple weeks later and asked me to broadcast their games on the local cable channel. I don’t know if they actually made it to that channel, but it helped me get into it and I had a blast.”
Radtke had hopes of majoring in broadcasting at the University of Arizona. But the university dropped the program right before he stepped on campus. He majored in communications and was hired on as a full-time announcer for the Arizona Wildcat Radio Network.
For a decade, Radtke hosted pre-game, halftime and post-game shows for football and basketball and dabbled with some Arizona baseball play-by-play commentary as well.
“I got involved in the campus radio stations and a few internships here and there,” he said. “That was a huge help for me to get my foot in the door. By my senior year, they offered me a full-time job. … It was a great training for me to learn about the business and that just strengthened my resolve. I knew what I wanted to do.”
Following a successful stint covering Arizona athletics, Radtke joined the Nevada Wolf Pack in the 2008 football season and called almost 500 games during his nine-year tenure. He no longer calls Nevada games after his full-time role with Westwood One.
“I have so many great memories there,” he said. “I’m so appreciative of the support and how many fans filled that stadium during those years. … It made my job an absolute joy to do each and every day.”
Radtke also made a reunion with the baseball diamond. He served as the co-play-by-play radio announcer to Brett Dolan with the Tucson Sidewinders from 2003-05. (The Sidewinders were the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks from 1998-2008.)
Radtke’s pestering to Dolan for a chance in the booth ultimately paid off. Dolan left to take a gig with the Houston Astros, and Radtke stepped up to the plate.
“I just started bugging Brett at every possible opportunity,” he said. “I wanted to do games and really get after this. After three years of bugging him he called me up and said, ‘Alright, you can come in and do the middle innings.’ I was all-in, making 30 bucks a game and eating whatever dinner was in the press box.
“He let me make my mistakes,” he said. “He was hands off in a lot of ways, if I asked questions he answered them. But other than that, he let me do my thing. … I got to screw up some and would figure out how to be better. He was a true professional.”
Since Radtke became the lead voice in the booth, he’s connected with the Aces’ players and coaches. He’ll catch up with manager Chris Cron during pre-game batting practice.
“It’s fun to get to him on more of a personal level,” he said. “It’s good to establish relationships and they trust you. Some of the things I ask him around the (batting) cage I would never use on the air. I’m just curious and the team allows me to do that.”
Cron doesn’t take Radtke’s time for granted when they discuss aspects of the game.
“We really just bounce things off each other,” the skipper said. “It’s a good time. He’s a busy guy so it’s good to catch up during some long trips on the road.”
Radtke’s questions are not limited to the coaching staff. He likes to pick the players’ mind to get perspectives of what happens on the field.
“I can ask a guy who made an error the night before just to see his perspective,” he said. “It’s nothing malicious, I am genuinely curious. Maybe the ball took a bad hop we didn’t see or he could have just made a bad play. When you have a report, you can ask those things and get an honest answer. … I always try to treat guys fairly and hope they do the same.”
Radtke is more than just a voice. His insight of the game, active presence in the booth and friendly personality has kept fans from all over the globe entertained. The hours of work he dedicated toward his craft is evident in every single broadcast, there’s always something new to marvel at.
But even with his years of experience, Radtke still works on his game.
“I think you work toward getting better in anything you do,” he said. “Even a player that has great success will improve on their weaknesses and I think it’s the same for me. I’m always trying to get better and every year offers new challenges.”