It’s still over an hour until the first pitch in Veseli, on a somewhat cool and breezy June evening, as the St. Benedict Saints have come to town to take on the Warriors. The ballpark stands are still empty and all is generally quiet with not much to hear or see except for some intermittent cracks of a bat from pre-game batting practice, and the sights of light smoke drifting towards the field as the grill has just been fired up. But Aaron Worm is already at the ballpark, readying himself for the work ahead of him. It’ll be his job on this summer evening to describe all of the sights and sounds the ballpark has to offer to those listening at home, in the car, on the lake, and all points in between.
Aaron Worm is in his 6th year of broadcasting DRS League baseball games for KCHK Radio (95.5 FM/1350 AM) located near New Prague. He is a Marketing Representative, working with clients on advertising, but also doing play-by-play of various sports as well as producing commercials. While KCHK has historically had a presence broadcasting DRS League games, there has been a renewed focus since Aaron’s arrival at the station. Over the years, fans and followers of the league have come to rely on and enjoy the ever-growing number of games broadcast on the station. With each broadcast, Aaron has provided listeners not only the play-by-play, but he’s expanded his repertoire to provide insight on the “characters” of the games (players and coaches), by giving listeners a sense of his deep passion for amateur baseball.
First exposed to amateur baseball in Young America, MN, he’d spend time watching his dad, Mark Worm, who played for the Young America Cardinals. He’d help hang the wooden numbers on the scoreboard at Willkommen Park, but unlike other 9 or 10-year-olds, he also spent time in the grandstand with a mic and tape recorder practicing his play-by-play. His future in radio seemed only to be a matter of time. His family moved to Montgomery, MN where Aaron and his family followed their dad as he suited up for the Montgomery Mallards, and eventually Over 35 and Over 50 teams. While Aaron never played amateur baseball himself, he recently joined the Over 35 Lonsdale Jokers, and with a smirk says, “I still can’t hit, can’t pitch, and I’m as slow as a turtle, but just love being around the ballpark.”
Aaron went on to graduate from Montgomery-Lonsdale, and soon after from St. Cloud State. In 1999, a year after graduation from St. Cloud State, he found himself in Oberlin, Kansas for his first job in radio. KFNF was a country music station in the middle of farm fields and cow pastures, but Aaron was there to join the morning show. Looking back, he recalls his inauspicious first impressions, “I knew nothing about country music; did my first morning show and played country artists that no one had probably heard of. The next morning my boss went through all of the CDs and circled the songs I was allowed to play. The first time the President of our company saw me, I was running down the hallway chasing a mouse with a broom.”
His career has included stops in Watertown, WI, Austin, MN, Mankato, Owatonna, Albert Lea, and now New Prague. Working in Austin (KAUS) is where he got his start with sports, doing play-by-play of high school baseball. There, he also gained experiences covering the Minnesota Timberwolves’ training camp where he received the opportunity to interview players and coaches. His most memorable interview at KAUS came in his first week on the job, and involved Minnesota Twins players Kirby Puckett, Doug Mientkiewicz, Jacque Jones, and LaTroy Hawkins, all at once in the same studio. “Doug, Jacque, and LaTroy knew I was nervous and they picked on me a little. I kept calling Jacque “Jacques”, like the French name, not ‘Jock’. Again, nerves were high, Kirby stepped in a couple times to settle the guys down. Not my best interview, but one of the most memorable,” he recalls.
Since then, Aaron has gone on to broadcast a wide variety of sports, including football, volleyball, basketball, wresting, hockey, softball, and of course baseball, which is one of his favorites. “Baseball was made for radio, other sports are great on the radio, but nothing compares to baseball. You have time to tell stories, paint the picture of what is happening at the ballpark. You don’t have to have your ear glued to the radio to get the most out of the broadcast because the pace isn’t like basketball or hockey. I would rather listen to a game on the radio as opposed to watching on TV anytime.”
Back in Veseli for the upcoming game’s broadcast, Aaron gets prepared with his phone and small microphone to record interviews with both team’s Managers. He’ll play the recorded interviews during the 30-minute pre-game show while he does other final preparations. In the interview, he’s sure to ask Veseli’s Manager, Chris Hertaus, about their starting pitcher and what’s expected from his line-up. But Aaron has his finger on the pulse of the league, and notes earlier in the day Veseli signed Nate Novak, a veteran player who recently “retired”, but was back on the roster. Pointing out the fact elicits a chuckle from Hertaus, who was happy to have Novak back. Aaron also asked about the upcoming Veseli team fundraiser, and how fans could learn more about the event. In the world of amateur baseball, Aaron understands the importance of connecting the listeners to the people involved in the game, and how to ensure its continued vitality.
Publicity and exposure is very helpful in amateur baseball, and since Aaron has been broadcasting DRS League games, League and team officials have noticed an increase in fan interest. St. Benedict Saints Manager Wade Olsen states, “Aaron has an intimate relationship with baseball and it shows during his broadcasts. I don’t think Aaron realizes how much of a factor he has been to the success of DRS Baseball. We all know it, hopefully he will soon as well.”
Aaron understands how amateur baseball unites a community and is always touting the great family atmosphere the game offers, “The family atmosphere around amateur baseball is amazing. Players watch their kids grow up around other player’s kids at the ballpark. Kids make money chasing foul balls, where else can you go for something like that?”
Broadcasting games is a family event for Aaron. As the game in Veseli begins, Aaron starts the broadcast by himself. His typical sidekick and color commentator is his dad, Mark Worm, who he affectionately and professionally refers to on the radio as “Mark Worm, AKA ‘my dad.’” On this night, like most other nights, Mark will arrive a few innings late to the game as he was umpiring a different game in a nearby town. Mark has a deep knowledge of the game from many perspectives, and enjoys the opportunity to call games alongside his son. While Mark is not paid for his time, he adds, “I get in the games for free and usually have the best seat in the ballpark!”
The family connection doesn’t end with his dad. Usually Aaron’s 11-year-old son Isaak tags along and chases foul balls to earn a good night’s wage. Isaak’s also been known to offer up a key stat or two for Aaron to mix in to the broadcast. Although the Worms have a connection to the Montgomery Mallards, it is widely known that Isaak’s favorite team in the DRS League is the St. Benedict Saints. On this night even though the Saints are playing, Isaak was unable to be at the game due to a previously scheduled sleep over at a friend’s house. Aaron adds, “Isaak is getting a similar experience that I did as a kid, and he loves it!”
As the game in Veseli comes to a close, Aaron and Mark wrap up the night's broadcast for those tuning in, even though the final score has become a bit lop-sided and the clock moves ever closer to 11 p.m. on a weeknight. But for those lucky enough to have listened, they were able to hear a slice of Americana, with Aaron and Mark painting the picture of such a wonderful game.