Sports Journalism Student Turns Childhood Hobby Into Career Ambition

Zach Surdenik, a sports journalism senior, recalls childhood memories of muting the sounds from his television and performing his own play-by-play commentary of video games. Later on, he realized this was something he could pursue as a career, not just an act he could put on in front of the TV. Now, after completing a broadcasting internship with the top summer collegiate baseball league in the country, it’s safe to say he’s come a long way from those imaginary narrations. 

This summer, Surdenik worked with the Falmouth Commodores in the Cape Cod Baseball League. The prestige of the league was not lost on Surdenik, who noted that two of the league’s players are projected to be top picks in the upcoming Major League Baseball draft and many renowned broadcasters have also come through the program.  

“There was a lot of talent in that group, as well as a lot of talent on the broadcast side,” Surdenik said. “It was just a really cool experience to be out there and do games with people that were good at it and had done a lot of it. Being able to learn from everybody was a really, really valuable experience.” 

Throughout the summer, he did play-by-play, broadcast games on YouTube, set up camera and radio equipment and gathered stories on coaches and players. Making connections with the team, he said, allowed him to create the best stories possible. 

“A big part of my job was prep for the games, so I had these backgrounds on people,” he said. “I’d get to the park, watch batting practice, talk to players and coaches—just to see if I could find stories. I found that the best time to do that was during batting practice, because a lot of the time, one guy is sitting and the rest are just standing around, so you can talk with them and build relationships. The better relationships you have, the better stories you’re able to tell. That was a really key thing for me and a big part of my day.” 

In a group with such an abundance of talent, Surdenik was able to soak up the knowledge of those around him. 

“I don’t come from one of the top powerhouse programs in this field, so it was really important for me to show that I belonged out there,” he said. “When everybody is talented and has done it for a while, they get used to what they’ve done. Working with those people is something I’ve always valued. I’m always trying to find out how other people do things and learn from them.” 

Getting the internship itself required persistence, even for someone with as many experiences as Surdenik. He originally applied for this position his sophomore year, enjoyed his conversations with the team, got very close to receiving an offer, but fell just short. Regardless, he maintained those relationships, re-applied and ultimately got an offer on the second go-around. 

“It’s not always easy—especially in a field like this,” he said. “It’s kind of a numbers game in terms of sending out a lot of different applications, but it really can work. I applied for eight of the 10 teams in the league, and only heard back from two both years. It was something where I tried to keep my head up and keep working at things. I’ve tried to keep the mentality that, as tough as it can be, it’s going to work out.” 

Affording the internship was a whole other beast. Aside from receiving discounted housing, the program was unpaid. However, the Career Center Internship Award aided Surdenik in moving to Cape Cod and pursuing the program. 

“I didn’t know for sure if I was going to have the money to do it,” he said. “I was going to figure it out and do what I needed to do. It was something that was really stressful for a little while, but it ended up working out. The internship award helped in a massive way because it allowed me to go out there, then I was able to use the money I’d saved up to get me through the summer.” 

Ultimately, this experience—and his past internship opportunities—affirmed his career aspirations. Surdenik will be working for the Detroit Tigers this summer as a broadcasting assistant, taking one more step toward his future. 

“I want to broadcast games,” he said. “I know that’s the most basic part of it, but I think there are some people that I would really enjoy doing what they do. I’m really excited to work with Jason Benetti this summer with the Tigers because he’s somebody that does it. I want to be around this at the highest level that I can. I grew up an athlete, I’ve always been really competitive and I know this is a competitive field. I’m going to push myself to get where I can and I truly believe that I can do this at the highest level.” 

Surdenik’s method for reaching that level is simple: chase after it relentlessly and swing for the fences. 

“I’ve got a really good support system and I’ve been blessed with a lot of great opportunities, but I’m going to keep pushing, do what I can do and meet whoever I need to meet with,” he said. “Reach out to people and continue to reach out to people, because as the cliché goes, it’s not necessarily what you know, but more who you know. Honestly, it’s more who knows you, likes you and respects you.”