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The Reasons For Five Reasons’ Success In Miami

“The arrogance of traditional media, which has always been the case, has been really good for us. We’re just building, building, building, and eventually as they regress the advertising money will start to come to us.”

Tyler McComas

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Ethan Skolnick knows what the Miami sports fan wants. Even better, he knows the most effective way to get it to them. To have that strong of a belief, takes a whole lot of experience and a vision that nobody else has. Luckily, he has both. 

Image result for Ethan Skolnick

To truly understand why Skolnick feels so strongly about what the Miami sports fan wants, you have to know about both his present and his past. 

For 20 years, Skolnick was one of the best sports media talents in South Florida. Whether it was stops at the Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post, Sun Sentinel or even 790 The Ticket where he replaced Dan Le Batard, he’s always seemed to have a direct pulse on what content the sports fans in the city want to consume. Along with that experience, plus the tireless work of many others, Skolnick is brining Miami sports on demand in the form of podcasts, videos, news stories, etc. to the city like it’s never seen before. 

The Five Reasons Sports Network has taken Miami by storm. 

The Climb

In 2018, Skolnick was out of sports media. After a successful career that saw him have, at one time, the highest rated radio show in South Florida behind Dan Le Batard, he was looking for his next venture. Then, Chris Wittyngham, a former host with Skolnick at 790 The Ticket, came with the idea to start a podcast. The duo started with one to try and get into the swing of things. It was a success. Soon enough, people were all over the idea of hearing the two back together talking sports. Then, things started to expand more once Skolnick took his new product to Twitter. 

“I had built up over 75,000 followers at one point,” said Skolnick. “I’m at like 72,000 now, but I always engaged with people, because I thought it was a big part of my job. Basically I just started using my Twitter account again, created a Five Reasons Sports account, then retweeted a bunch of stuff on that page from my personal account to accelerate the growth and build a following.”

It worked. Shortly after, people who had built a social media following with the Dolphins and Heat started to reach out. But out of everyone that reached out, there was one in particular that stood out. 

“Alfredo Arteaga, “said Skolnick. “He basically said that he and his two buddies, one of them living in England and one of them living in Tampa Bay, they had all this info about the Dolphins, it was incredible, but Alfredo came to me and said he and his two friends were thinking of starting a podcast and asked how I did it. I said I had a better idea, why don’t we work together?” 

Image result for Alfredo Arteaga five reasons

With that conversation, Three Yards per Carry was born. It took off instantly. Today, it’s one of the most successful podcasts in the Five Reasons Sports Network and considered as the possibly the best podcast when it comes to the Miami Dolphins. 

“Those guys nailed 5 of the 7 draft picks a year ago,” Skolnick said “They’re just on top of everything and I don’t touch them. They have this chemistry that’s totally organic. It just works.”

Soon after, others in the social media space reached out to get a better understanding how Skolnick and his new team were creating an in-demand product. The people asking, quickly became a part of the Five Reasons Sports Network. The growth was happening.  

The Secret

Skolnick isn’t shy about his vision of winning Miami in the next two years. That’s not winning in just the podcast space, that’s winning over every single newspaper and sports radio station in the city. He wants to be the destination for every sports fan in Miami. But what’s his plan to get there? 

Social media is a massive component with Five Reasons Sports Network. It’s probably even fair to say it’s the livelihood of the brand with how much emphasis is put on it. 

“We generate anywhere between 5-10 million impressions a month off our Twitter account,” Skolnick said. “Basically by posting polls throughout the day, retweeting everybody’s episodes and posting other content.”

Image result for five reasons network twitter

The Five Reasons Sports Network Twitter account has a little over 12,000 followers. With that page, as well as the other podcaster’s pages, Skolnick feels he’s captured every South Florida sports fan who’s on Twitter. The goal isn’t just to bombard the internet with local sports content, it’s to capture the audience in a way the other outlets in the city are failing to reach. That’s by owning Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and every other social media platform that’s out there. 

“We want South Florida content that’s quick-hitting and draws people in,” said Skolnick. “That’s what I want and I also think that’s what people want these days. I know who we’re competing with, because I worked at all of them and they haven’t taken us seriously yet. We completely out-work them on Twitter and they don’t engage, just post.

“I’m a little stunned they’ve watched us do this, because everyone knows about us here now. We’re credentialed with all the teams. The arrogance of traditional media, which has always been the case, has been really good for us. We’re just building, building, building, and eventually as they regress the advertising money will start to come to us. That’s when things start to really happen.”

The Podcasts

12 total podcasts can be found on the Five Reasons Sports Network. From covering the Heat with the Five on the Floor podcast to A Canes Thing that covers the Miami Hurricanes to even a few podcasts that focus more on culture, South Florida coverage is locked up with multiple podcasts. With Skolnick and other hosts having big connections in the sports world, you’ll often hear riveting content as well as big name guests that both play and cover a respective sport. 

Five Reasons will put its ability to pump podcasts on social media against anyone. But, more importantly, it will put its content against anyone else, too. 

“The consumers want content on demand,” said Skolnick. “They want content that’s tailored to them, on their schedule and they want to be able to stop it and go back to it later. The biggest thing I always tell people about podcasting, literally, if you’re in the car and you have your GPS on, the podcast will stop for you until the GPS is done talking. The radio doesn’t do that. 

“Honestly there’s no reason to listen to radio over podcast anymore. I don’t listen to radio anymore and most people who have switched over to us don’t listen to radio anymore either. We studied the numbers on this. 40% of people leave when you go to a seven minute break. I won’t have a break that’s more than one minute on our podcast.”

More than Just Podcasts

Videos, quick-hitting local stories, there’s a lot you’ll find outside of the 12 podcasts featured on Five Reasons Sports Network. For instance, during halftime of last Saturday’s Miami vs. Florida game, two staff members posted a quick video on Twitter with instant thoughts of the first 30 minutes of action. That was met with 10,000 views and 50 retweets. All from a simple video that featured the quick, halftime thoughts of two fans.  

Image result for five reasons miami vs florida first half thoughts

Skolnick even brought in writers that have no podcast duties to write stories on the front page of the website that pertain to local teams. On the front page of fivereasonssports.com you’ll see several local stories with headlines that pop and catch the reader. This isn’t just about audio, the goal is to be the ultimate destination for south Florida sports fans. 

“I brought in all these people and I’m not even paying them a salary,” Skolnick said. “It’s just people who want a platform. Now, I have more than 70 contributors total if you include the website folks. I’m not paying salary to anybody, it’s all self-generated and it’s all people believing in it. The people we have here are incredible.”

Last night on Twitter, a video was put up on the company’s official page that creatively highlighted the brand, along with all the podcasts the network has to offer. From the music, to the highlights, it truly had a professional look and feel to it. Most of the time, there’s money and resources that go into making a video like that but Skolnick revealed it was made by a newly hired intern who did it for free. Though it’s just one video, it’s the tireless work of free help that’s put the network in the situation it’s in. 

https://twitter.com/5ReasonsSports/status/1166528076911644673

Expansion 

Though the goal is to win Miami, that doesn’t mean the dream stops there. In fact, the end goal might be to win all of Florida. Initially, Skolnick wanted to be in Tampa Bay, Orlando, Tallahassee, Gainesville and Jacksonville by the fall. However, time ran out with so many things happening across the network.

That desire only grew deeper after Skolnick was recently approached by a member of the PR staff of the Atlanta Hawks. While he was inside the Hawks’ locker room, the PR man came up to Skolnick and asked when Five Reasons was coming to Atlanta. The thought behind the question, is that the team could use more coverage and the ever-growing network based in south Florida might be just the thing to help. 

But whereas several other podcasts networks have chosen to go national with several different podcasts in several different markets, Five Reasons believes in a localized product. 

“I think we’re the only localized podcast network in the country,” said Skolnick. “There’s a lot of national ones, but what I found with those, is that, and this is no disrespect to any of them, I’m friends with a lot of people who run them, but it’s very difficult to understand what the local podcast needs.”

Though expansion is in the cards for Five Reasons, don’t expect a move to a market considerably bigger than Miami. Why? Skolnick is adamant about not going to Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia or Los Angeles because it’s too competitive and the other media outlets in those cities are still relatively healthy. 

“To me, this only works from the ground up in places like South Florida, north central Florida or Atlanta,” said Skolnick. “Places that don’t have the healthiest or most competitive media operations.”

Merchandise

If you’re able to sell merchandise in the sports media world, it’s a sure sign you have a pretty healthy audience. Almost always a profitable venture, Five Reasons Sports Network has ventured into selling merchandise such as shirts, hats, jackets and even socks on its website. 

“It’s really done well and that’s an easy play for us,” said Skolnick. “I’m very lucky, because a lot of the guys we have are really talented in doing other things. One of the producers of our podcasts, happens to be an extraordinarily good designer that works really fast. When something happens in sports or Miami sports, he literally sends me a T-shirt in the next hour.”

Talk about a potential money making venture. With the cheap cost of making a T-shirt combined with a designer that’s already on staff and puts out creations at a given notice, Five Reasons has found a source of revenue that most in its spot strive for. 

“Some of the stuff we do is for giveaways at watch parties to help with our name building,” Skolnick said. “But when we have a player who’s hot like Preston Williams for the Dolphins, who has taken off as an undrafted free agent, my guy will just send me a design in an hour and we get it up. We just react to trends. Some people may regret buying a shirt if he doesn’t make the team but we’re just trying to have fun with it and be current.”

Monetizing

Ahh, the real question, right?

Everything might sound good up to this point, but how do you make money with it. Well, for starters, Five Reasons Sports Network is already off to a great start with the merchandise sales it has. No, that probably can’t fund the entire network’s ambitious plans, but it’s a steady stream of revenue that can be used. But as for finding money for podcasts, there’s many out there wondering how they can be profitable, even if the download rates are high. 

“Well, this has been the hardest part right?” said Skolnick. “It always is, the monetizing. We’ve kind of gone about it a couple of different ways. I had an ad firm and it didn’t really work out, they just weren’t in position to sell us properly. We didn’t have the numbers at that point to really make it worth their while and drop their other business. 

But what I did, was I went to Twitter and found people with sales experience who are already engaging with us and I’ve been giving them commission to sell us, so they reach out to the companies for me.”

Five Reasons’ plan to sell has landed with good reception. Bigger companies such as AutoNation and BetDSI have signed on, as well as local car dealerships and several south Florida restaurants. Combine that with ads soon coming on the website and the network just might have a solid path to carving out a nice pay day. 

“Are we where we need to be, no, but that is the big push,” Skolnick said. “But my point is that we’re not just selling podcasts, we’re selling content. That means video, tweets, podcasts, it means several things. There’s a lot of different ways you can make money off this.”

Final Word from Skolnick

Though Skolnick might be the face of the company, he strives to make it very clear it’s not just about him. In fact, he says it’s very little about him.

Image result for five reasons network miami

“There are so many people who are devoting a lot of their time, a lot of it for free, this is about having really talented contributors that should have been snapped up by other outlets. And we’re so fortunate to have them. It amazes me the work they put in.”

The journey is just beginning and nowhere near being completed, but thanks are still in order to the people who helped get the company off the ground. 

“Chris Wittyngham is no longer with us,” Skolnick said. “He was my original partner and he did incredible work to get us started he just decided to pursue soccer play-by-play full-time, which he’s really good at. He’s a really talented person. His role was really major.”

BSM Writers

Sports Talkers Podcast – Carl Dukes

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Carl Dukes went from DJing clubs to holding every job there is in a radio building. Now he is dominating 92.9 The Game in Atlanta. Check out his conversation with Stephen Strom.

iTunes: https://buff.ly/3xYq3Oe 

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3JVYgDp   

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3JWPFQS 

Google: https://buff.ly/3w9RBzX 

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3psPDGZ  

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Terry Ford Couldn’t Say No To 107.5 The Game

“In Columbia, South Carolina Gamecock fans are in 150 percent. These people love football. The Atlanta experience, the taste of it in Lexington really gave me a good foundation for what we have here in Columbia.”

Tyler McComas

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If he had to put a number on the big decision he made last year it would be 150 percent. Sure, leaving Lexington, KY and 96.1 WZNN didn’t happen without thought and consideration for Terry Ford, but the opportunity to work for one of the most respected names in the business was too much to pass up. 

In late November of 2021, Ford was named the new program director and host at 107.5 The Game in Columbia, SC. The opportunity originally came about during a conversation between Ford and Jason Barrett. That’s one of the benefits of being part of the Member Directory. Ford had always wanted to work with Bruce Gilbert. Barrett knew this, so when the position under the Cumulus umbrella opened, he urged Ford to consider the position.

“I’ve always wanted to work for Bruce,” Ford said. “Jason told me there was an opportunity to work with Bruce and I talked to the market manager Tammy O’Dell. She was fantastic. Everything was just too good. It was 150 percent the right decision. This has been nothing but a phenomenal experience.”

Columbia is the exact market you think it is. Situated in a college town, which breeds incredible passion for Gamecock athletics. South Carolina has had success in basketball and baseball, but to its core, it’s like most other SEC markets in that college football rules the day. To an outsider, that can sometimes be a challenge to immediately grasp and understand. But Ford is no outsider when it comes to the SEC. His previous stop was in Lexington and he even did a stint in Atlanta at 790 The Zone. He knows the landscape of the SEC.

“When I was at 790 The Zone, I’ll never forget the PD Bob Richards was like, ‘ok, you have to understand, we might have pro sports here but the Georgia Bulldogs are gigantic’,” Ford said. “This is SEC country. I kind of learned then and there that if Georgia was sniffing around some 9th grader that runs a 4.2 40-yard dash, that’s a story. When you’re in SEC country, everything is a story that matters to the local program. Atlanta gave me my first taste of the passion of the SEC football fan. Lexington was different because it’s a basketball school. And in Columbia, South Carolina Gamecock fans are in 150 percent. These people love football. The Atlanta experience, the taste of it in Lexington really gave me a good foundation for what we have here in Columbia.”

But there was much more to his new gig than just understanding how much passion there is in Columbia for Gamecock football. His biggest challenge was going to be to earn the respect and trust of his on-air staff as their new PD, as well as blend into the three-man show he was going to be a part of. So how did he do that?

“It’s kind of a tightrope,” Ford said. “You’re the PD, but you’re also in the octagon with them. I really think talking with hosts in ‘hosts talk’ is the best way to connect with them when you go to another market. We hosts are different. When you can sit and talk like hosts together I think it builds a connection. I think all hosts, when you get a new PD, you’re like, ‘ok, what the hell have you done’? You’re going to be in charge of me as a host, have you hosted? I think that’s natural for a host, whether it’s outward or internal. I’ve done the same thing.”

Ford has more than 20 years of experience in sports radio. That will garner him some respect in the building, but not as much as his continued eagerness to learn from others. That could very well be one of the best traits for any PD, no matter their age or experience. If you’re always eager to learn, you’ll undoubtedly be better. Ford is just that. He wants to learn from as many people as possible. 

“I’ve always wanted to learn from guys like Scott Masteller or Bruce Gilbert or Jason Barrett,” Ford said. “People who have done this successfully at a high level. And learning from guys who’ve done it in different size markets. You can’t take things from Philadelphia and apply them to Oklahoma City. It’s a different level. I wanted to learn how different guys in different markets program their brands. I wanted to learn all aspects of the business.”

Ford’s eagerness to learn isn’t where his characteristics of being a good PD ends. In the eyes of a host, it can be appreciated that the PD in the building has also seen things from their side. Ford has done exactly that. In a closed-door meeting, he’s now the one delivering the news, good or bad, to a host. But it wasn’t long ago when he was the one sitting on the opposite side of the desk. 

“I never want to forget when I went into programming, what it’s like to sit on the other side of the desk in that other chair,” Ford said. “Because it can suck. I’ve sat in that chair and gotten good news and I’ve sat in that chair and got some crappy news. I just never want to forget what it’s like to be the guy sitting there getting news. I want to take all those experiences and all that knowledge and you come in and deal with a Heath Cline, or a Jay Phillips, or Bill Gunter, or a Pearson Fowler, who’s under 30, or Patrick Perret, who’s under 30. I want to be able to relate to them and talk to them in their host language, where they say, ‘ok, this dude speaks the language. He gets where I’m coming from’. It’s just about finding a way to relate to everyone.”

To be completely transparent, the phone call I had with Ford only lasted 20 minutes. But even in that short time, I found myself saying, ‘wow, this is a PD I would love to work for’. He’s intelligent and passionate about the business, incredibly skilled and genuinely cares about relating to his hosts. He’s also really funny. Each question he answered was well-thought-out and insightful, but it wasn’t said without a short joke until he broke out with a serious answer. He’s a guy that knows what he’s doing but isn’t the dreadful guy that sucks the life out of the building. Columbia seems lucky to have him. 

“Sometimes you get good fortune from the radio gods and other times you feel like you can’t get any luck they’re taking a dump on you,” Ford said. “They smiled on me through circumstance and with the help of a guy like Jason Barrett I ended up with a good opportunity in Columbia. It was too good to turn down. It was one of the moments where, if I turn this down, I’m a dope. I’ve been a dope in my life and this time I decided not to be one.”

I’ve always been interested in the daily life of someone who’s both a host and a PD. I don’t envy it because you have to perfectly delegate your time to fulfill both duties. So how does Ford go about it?

“Massive chaos at high speed while blindfolded,” joked Ford. “I get up around 6:30 in the morning and away from the office, I try to put in a couple hours of prep. That way people aren’t asking me about stuff and I’m not doing PD things. All I’m doing is trying to prep like a host. I try to give myself a couple hours of that before I come into the office. I’ll be honest, prepping as a PD and prepping as a host, good luck. I tell the guys here, I’m probably about 75 percent of a host right now, in terms of effectiveness. I just can’t prep like I want to. I’m a prepping dork. I jump down all sorts of rabbit holes and I’m deep-diving into stuff. As a PD you don’t have that time to dive.”

Ford started his radio career outside of sports talk. But he was always captivated by the business and spent many nights debating sports with his friends. It was a passion, even though he wasn’t yet hosting a show. 

“I always was captivated by sports talk, but when I was growing up it was a certain way,” Ford said. “It really wasn’t the way that I wanted to do it. I said, man, if it ever becomes where you can be opinionated, compelling but you can also have some fun, I’m all in. I always had an eyeball on sports while doing music radio. Around 2000, I said, I love sports, talking sports, you know what, screw it, I’m going to start looking for sports talk openings.”

So he did, but while searching for openings, Ford had to refine his craft, while also building a demo. He did it in a way that perfectly sums up who he is as both a talent and a person. He made it fun 

“I was doing rock radio at the time, and you talk to dudes, and what I would do is start sports conversations with them and record it. I would save those and put a riff in front of it like a monologue and I would take these calls and I built a demo by talking to drunk guys at a rock station in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I got the gig off of that for Sporting News magazine in Seattle.”

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Anatomy of a Broadcaster: Kevin Burkhardt

He is always upbeat, but never over the top. No screaming, but his energy remains consistent and smooth throughout a broadcast.

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Anatomy of a Broadcaster, Kevin Burkhardt

It wasn’t all that long ago, that Kevin Burkhardt was selling cars in New Jersey. Now that’s all in his rearview mirror and Burkhardt is getting ready to enter his first season as the main play-by-play voice of the NFL on Fox. You could say he could be the definition of ‘perseverance’, doing whatever it took to chase a dream. That focus has certainly paid off nicely for Burkhardt. The leap he made in two decades time is amazing and not often duplicated. 

Growing up in Bloomfield, New Jersey, Burkhardt, would do play-by-play for his Nintendo games back in his Junior High days. He loved Gary Cohen and tried to emulate him as best he could. Strangely enough, he would end up working with Cohen on Mets broadcasts on SNY. 

A 1997 graduate of William Paterson University, Burkhardt earned a degree in broadcasting. He took that degree to radio station WGHT in Northern New Jersey, spending eight years working for the station. It was a 1,000-watt, daytime only AM station. Burkhardt delivered local news and called high school football. While at WGHT he also worked at Jukebox Radio, broadcasting New Jersey Jackals minor league games for WJUX. To make ends meet while doing freelance work, Burkhardt began working as a sales associate at Pine Belt Chevrolet in Eatontown, New Jersey. Over the next six-plus years Burkhardt could not find a larger station willing to take a chance on him. 

He recalled the frustrated feeling he had back then, when he spoke with Sports Illustrated in 2013. . “I thought I was good enough to make it [in broadcasting], but after so many years of busting my tail, I was making $18,000 a year and working all kinds of odd hours,” says Burkhardt. “It just wasn’t happening for me.”

Finally, Burkhardt got a part-time job working at WCBS-AM in New York, which in turn put him on the radar of the all sports station, WFAN. He began to work there part-time, then eventually became the station’s full-time New York Jets reporter. He got the break he needed. 

ROAD TO FOX

After his stint at WFAN, Burkhardt joined the Mets broadcast team starting the 2007 season for SNY. He appeared on shows such as Mets Hot Stove, Mets Pregame Live, Mets Postgame Live and Mets Year in Review. His main duties though were as the field reporter during Mets telecasts. He would also call select games during both Spring Training and the regular season. 

Also, while employed at SNY, he called Dallas Cowboys games on Compass Media Networks from 2011 until 2013. That’s when he left for Fox. But, sandwiched in between was an opportunity to be seen by Fox execs. He called a Mets/Braves game with SI’s Tom Verducci on their network. The Fox brass liked what they saw. 

According to that 2013 SI article, Burkhardt’s agent initially had discussions with the network about his client calling college football this season but those talks morphed into an NFL opportunity. “When my agent called me with that, I was floored,” Burkhardt says. “I’m sure you hear people say ‘this is my dream job’ all the time, but I literally dropped to one knee on the floor. I could not believe what he was saying on the other end.”

He started with the #4 broadcast team and of course has worked his way up from there. Now, some 9 years later he’s on the top crew. After Joe Buck left for ESPN earlier this year, Burkhardt was promoted to the #1 broadcast team for the NFL on Fox, alongside Greg Olsen. 

Football isn’t the only thing Burkhardt has exceled in at the network. He is the lead studio host for Major League Baseball coverage on Fox and FS1 during the regular season, for the MLB All-Star Game and throughout the entire MLB Postseason.

GOOD CHOICE

When Buck left for ESPN, in my opinion Burkhardt was the obvious choice to replace him. Buck leaves some big shoes to fill, but Burkhardt has the ability to make this work. It’s never easy to replace a well-known commodity like Buck, but Burkhardt himself has been featured prominently on the network. As mentioned, his other high-profile assignments have made him visible and appreciated by viewers. 

If social media is a good judge, I almost got that out without a chuckle, the choice was a good one. Even the outgoing play-by-play man was on board with the decision. 

Burkhardt will do a great job and will become a fixture on Sunday afternoons. 

WHY IS HE SO GOOD?

Maybe we’re finding out that he was a great car salesman through his work on television. I mean there’s a friendliness and something reassuring about the way he calls a game. It’s positive, almost downright cheerful in his delivery. You know what you’re going to get from a Burkhardt broadcast. He is always upbeat, but never over the top. No screaming, but his energy remains consistent and smooth throughout a broadcast. I really enjoy watching everything he does.

While the style may be more lighthearted in nature, the information and description are right on the mark. The presentation seems much more relaxed than some announcers that can be a little ‘in your face’ at times. I say relaxed as a compliment, because as much as you want, a broadcaster can’t be ‘hyped up’ all the time. That would be disconcerting to say the least to the viewer.  

The fact that he has such a diverse background in the business really helps. Having done radio, he can understand the importance of brevity. That comes in handy when calling a game on television, especially when you want your analyst to feel free to make points. The reporting and studio hosting on his resume allow him to be very conversational and at ease. Those assignments also tune up your listening skills, which helps when calling action and working with your analyst.  It didn’t hurt either that he had so much experience on the big stage of New York. 

I know I’ve said this a million times, but he genuinely sounds like he’s having the time of his life every time he works a game or hosts a show. Considering where he came from, I’m not surprised. 

DID YOU KNOW?

In 2019, he called select games for FOX Sports Sun, the television home of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Since getting his break, Burkhardt has appeared as the celebrity endorser of Pine Belt Chevrolet, his former employer, in Eatontown, N.J.

In 2019, Burkhardt and his wife established the Kevin and Rachel Burkhardt Scholarship at William Paterson University in New Jersey, their alma mater, for a fulltime student majoring in Communications and preparing for a career in broadcast journalism.

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