When Charlotte 49ers fans can’t make it out to a game, Matt Swierad, Josh Feldman and Jackson Kaplan get to do what they love while helping to bring the game to life for fans listening at home.
For these three, it’s more than a job, it’s a passion, and their love for sports carries over into their calls.
“It’s really been a dream come true. You get to do something that’s not really a job. We all work hard but it’s fun. This is what I dream to do. I get to watch sporting events and that’s my job,” said Swierad. “I’ve met some great, great people and I’ve got some fantastic friends that have come out of it and some great memories, so we’re also getting a chance to give the listeners memories as well and to be a part of that. To be a part of what we have here at the 49ers is really special.”
Swierad speaks for all of them when he says it’s really special. Each of these men have been in all kinds of different areas of the sports world and are fortunate to still be deep in it. Each one has a pretty different story as to how they got into broadcasting in the first place. Swierad actually began with Charlotte after college and after a series of broadcasting positions in baseball, basketball and other sports, he returned to Charlotte to call 49ers football and men’s basketball games and help to call Charlotte Knights baseball games as well.
“Well, I started doing it in college and my first job out of college was actually here at UNC Charlotte as a grad assistant in 1990. And when I got the Niners job, no one had done their baseball games on the radio, so what I did was get permission from my boss in sports information and he said, ‘If you can get the games on the radio then you can do them,’” said Swierad. “So I went out with my own credit card, I bought airtime on two radio stations in Charlotte and then I went out and sold the advertising to pay my credit card off and I put 26 games on the radio and that’s how I got started.”
Feldman spent some time as a walk-on for the University of Southern California’s men’s volleyball team and after that he stayed connected to the sport by calling the volleyball matches on the radio. Having called games for USC, play-by-play for the Kannapolis Intimidators, holding countless other sports positions and now having called for Charlotte 49ers volleyball and women’s basketball, he’s working on a lengthy career himself.
“Broadcasting for Charlotte has been incredible because you can see that this place is a family. The people that you’re working for, the people that you’re representing, they care about you well beyond statistics, well beyond wins and losses and it is clearly built on relationships that I don’t think exist in other places I’ve broadcast.” said Feldman.
Each one of them may regularly don a headset, but when it’s for the Charlotte 49ers, there’s something different about it than any of those other jobs.
Kaplan’s story for getting into broadcasting isn’t quite so intentional, though. His obvious passion for baseball led to multiple opportunities in the minor leagues and quickly turned into a passion for both the sport and for calling the play-by-play of it.
“I won’t give you the whole story because we’d be here all day, or a couple of hours at least. Basically, I got my start in the sports business right out of high school where I was an intern for the Morehead City Marlins in the Coastal Plain league. I was their social media intern, stats intern, and that’s how I kind of got interested in working in sports. And then I was an intern for the league office in Holly Springs the summer after. During that internship, the commissioner of the league recommended me for the fill-in spot for the Holly Springs Salamanders, which is a team that was right down the street from the league office. If he had never asked me to do that, I may not have ever done play-by-play,” said Kaplan.
Even though he’s taken stabs at volleyball, soccer, softball and baseball, his heart probably lies in the booth at Hayes Stadium for now. Or really anywhere on campus.
“I just love this place. I love the student athletes, I love the fact that this place is an up-and-coming athletic department, in my opinion. I love the setup of Hayes Stadium, I love the program. All of the games are exciting and I love the people too,” said Kaplan. “I just think that the relationships here that you gain from being a broadcaster while getting to know the people in the pressbox, getting to know the media relations directors here, it all kind of feels like a family atmosphere. Just going to Hayes stadium everyday is a thrill for me. I love college baseball, not just Charlotte, but I love college baseball in general. Baseball’s my thing.”
Of course, Kaplan’s love for the other sports he spent time calling grew quickly, in fact, much more than he expected it to. He just has fun doing it and is excited to see where it takes him and to see where the athletic department itself goes in the future. That’s for sure.
“I love describing the action, I actually always envisioned myself as a broadcaster because I grew up just a huge sports fan. I played sports my whole life until after high school, I wasn’t exactly going to be playing college sports so I always envisioned myself in some sports capacity. The more games I did, it’s kind of hard to describe, I just feel like calling the action out as it’s happening and describing the scenery and the play is just riveting to me.” said Kaplan.
Feldman, along with his fellow broadcasters, feels more than just lucky to be doing what they do. It’s a dream come true for them, but they still may have their own reasons as to why they love broadcasting so much.
“Anyone can call a game-winning shot, and I’ve screwed up a few of those too, but to me, capturing the moments that you know are going to mean more to the players on the floor and to the fans that are supporting them, those are the ones that I’ll remember.” said Feldman.
Whether it is a game-winning shot, a record-breaking play or some other incredible moment in history, the way it is called will be different every time. Fans listening at home surely wouldn’t be disappointed by any of the calls from Swierad, Feldman or Kaplan.
“You know, it’s something different every time. There’s always a different game; you never get to see the same game twice. You may get to see the same result, you may see the same final score, but it never unfolds the exact same way and so I never know what I’m going to be talking about until the game unfolds in front of me,” said Feldman. “And whether that’s with the basketball team, whether that’s with the volleyball team or any other game that I’m calling, it’s exciting to see how the game unfolds and that’s the fun part about it, is the unexpected.”