Pursuing a passion for broadcasting
Junior Jacob “JT” Toepfer is always running around these days.
He spent the summer as an intern with the Beloit Snappers, high-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins and recipient of a brand-new stadium in downtown Beloit in August 2021. This fall, the media studies and creative writing double major (with a journalism minor to boot) hardly has a second to breathe between rushing to and from classes, broadcasting sports games for the college, playing on the basketball team, covering sports for the Round Table, and penning his own TV shows. Did I mention that he also hosts a movie-themed radio show on WBCR and plays trumpet in the college jazz band?
To keep calm in the face of a hectic schedule, JT, who grew up in a small town outside of Madison, Wis., wears a Los Angeles Dodgers cap. Yes, a Dodgers cap.
“Over Covid, I didn’t appreciate life for what it was,” he explains. “I watched The Sandlot, and [the character Smalls] has his bass hat on when he commentates, and I have my Dodgers hat to remind me of The Sandlot and to enjoy the moment and live for everything [like Smalls does]. You never know when life can be taken from you. I know it’s corny. It’s funny, because I’m the biggest Brewers fan in the world, but sometimes I’ve gotta relax and ground myself.”
It’s no coincidence that JT represents the Dodgers when he announces games. Joe Davis’10, current play-by-play announcer for the National League West team, is not just an inspiration to the burgeoning broadcaster, but also a mentor. After beginning to follow Davis’s career, JT reached out to the sportscaster via email and “started freaking out” when he received encouragement and concrete advice from the seasoned announcer: Listen to other play-by-play announcers and practice as much as you can.
Channeling Joe Davis’s wide broadcasting repertoire — including calling college basketball, volleyball, and baseball games, and hosting his own local sports show, all while being a student athlete — is no small feat.
“Joe Davis started [broadcasting] here, and I was like, ‘Why don’t we have this program?’” says JT. “So I’m starting it from the ground up. I had to go through the athletic department and the school to make sure it was okay that we were there. We were super lucky that they let us be there and that the fans were there too. It was the first time life felt normal during the pandemic. I couldn’t be more thankful for the school and everyone who helped us out.”
Luckily, it isn’t entirely on JT’s shoulders. Many of the directors, producers, and members of the camera crew come from the Media Studies 300 course. JT and Jonathon Kelley, media studies professor and director of public access station BeloitTV, hope to integrate broadcast experience within the media studies curriculum more directly. JT is thankful for the media studies department — and Jonathon Kelley in particular — for letting him try everything.
“The guy is the perfect person to have in my corner,” says JT. “He knows everything about cameras and production, but he also knows about sports as well. During the baseball games, we do double headers, and at the half, we’ll talk, but he’ll also show me the production side. I can text or email him if I’m scared and he’ll always respond with something quick. We’re trying to grow this program together, it feels like, and I feel a part of something.”
One of the other somethings JT is involved in is writing his sitcom, which he hopes to start shooting as a special project credit in the spring. The show is loosely based on his difficulty deciding what he wanted to study at Beloit.
“I’ll do the Larry David [thing] where I keep a notebook or notes in my phone; I’ll get an idea and write it down,” he says. “Creative writing is so much fun. I wish I was better at it. I’m a super passionate person, so writing is just another way of expressing it. Being at Beloit College, where everyone is super smart, you just don’t feel up to par. I wish I was more confident with that. But I’m getting better at it, you know?”
Getting better with practice seems to be a theme in JT’s current activities. Hosting a radio show, writing and presenting a sports TV show — which covers college and local teams and what he calls pro sports “hot takes” — and giving admissions tours all revolve around talking in front of people, which still gets JT nervous from time to time.
“Even this year, we started and had our first soccer game, and I panicked,” JT says. “I freaked out and couldn’t get [the words] out. But now that I’ve been through the ringer — knowing where all the cables go, three cameras, two TVs and setting it all up and putting on this broadcast and trying to find students — it’s like you’re living these real-life scenarios already. My dad always tells me he’s proud of me because most people would rather die than speak in front of people. [I’m] trying to put myself out there and be uncomfortable.”