Bound for the booth

Javik Blake ’23 knew Elon would give him the opportunity to broadcast early and often, allowing him to pursue his dream of working in baseball.

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Leading up to an Elon women’s basketball broadcast, Javik Blake ’23 would meticulously craft his spotting board, spending up to four hours on each decorated sheet. “The board is essentially a detailed roster,” the recent Elon graduate explains, “with way more information than you’d likely ever need.”

Storylines, player stats, game notes, standings and schedules, Blake painstakingly designed and color coded his spotting board. Through the years, the board featured different iterations with borrowed ideas from fellow broadcasters and mentors. Those prep hours — some admittedly during class — could be the difference between a broadcast worth listening to, or someone changing the channel, Blake reasoned.

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Broadcasting partner and friend Chase Williams ’23 marveled at his classmate’s attention to detail. If an opponent, such as Davidson College, had a basketball player drafted by the women’s Australian rules football league, Blake knew about her, and had the details. How did Blake know a certain player’s scoring average doubled in the last five games? He got out a calculator and did the math himself.

“The thing that makes Javik so special is he knows how to prepare for a broadcast better than anyone,” Williams says. “I often asked myself, how did he get all this information? Did he know some website I didn’t? But there wasn’t a secret; he did the work. He knew it would make for a better broadcast, so he was willing to put in the hours.”

Blake savors the studying.

“There are always nuggets of information and details to find. That is the fun part of it, part of putting together the broadcast,” he says. He then lifted a nearby water bottle with a personalized sticker his mother, Jill, gifted him. It reads, “The key to a good broadcast — prep your (expletive) off.”

Blake has embraced that mantra since middle school when his broadcasting career began. And it has served him well this spring as the No. 1 announcer for the Biloxi (Mississippi) Shuckers, the Double A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Broadcasting in Biloxi

Blake has always known where his broadcasting career was headed — even if he missed his off-ramp on his first day of work. Albeit it was on his way home, not to work.

In mid-February, as many of his former classmates were settling into their final semester of college, Blake, who finished a semester early, officially began his professional announcing career. But it seems almost disingenuous to say “began” since the journalism major labored for years to land in the Biloxi broadcasting booth.

At 22 years old on opening day, Blake is one of the youngest on-the-mic broadcasters in professional, affiliated baseball. As the organization’s lone broadcaster, he will single-handedly call 1,200-plus innings this season. He also oversees media relations, hosts the team’s pre-game show, distributes game notes and stat packs, and helps produce the team’s media guide.

“To get on air as a freshman is not an opportunity you get at other universities,” Blake says. “And I wasn’t willing to wait until my junior year. That is what makes Elon special. I could start right away. It’s not like this everywhere else.”

Giddy seems most accurate to describe Blake’s mindset of calling 138 games this season. “Working in baseball is all I have ever wanted to do,” he says.

This season Blake’s office is the press box of MGM Park, a facility Forbes magazine once called the country’s most interesting new minor league park. Beyond the right-field fence shines the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, with waves crashing on the Gulf Coast behind it. But those tourist attractions won’t distract Blake. He’s dreamed of calling baseball since age 6 when he set his radio dial to his father’s beloved Yankees games.

Taylor Durham ’96, well known as “The Voice of the Elon Phoenix,” shared the baseball broadcast booth with Blake more than 50 times in the past three seasons. The Elon alumnus marvels at the young announcer’s ability to engage and inform, “painting a picture for those listening,” he says.

“Javik is very talented at calling a baseball game,” Durham explains. “You can listen to him call a baseball game, and it is a very comfortable listen. I am a big fan of someone turning a broadcast into a conversation. Of being prepared and informative but keeping it a conversation. Javik does that. He’s knowledgeable, conversational and he’s someone you want to listen to.”

No time to wait

Broadcasters like Vin Scully and Jack Buck weren’t born legends. They needed time on the microphone. So, Blake sought out opportunities behind the mic, even if he needed to produce the broadcast himself.

As a middle schooler in Norton, Massachusetts, Blake founded Lancer Sports Network, broadcasting live game coverage of his local high school’s athletic teams. With his father, Craig, handling video, equipment and transportation, Blake handled the call, broadcasting 135 games in five years. When he reached 100 broadcasts, the feat was celebrated with a Boston Globe feature.

As he contemplated his college path, Blake knew he wasn’t content waiting for his turn on the mic. It’s why, he explains, Elon was his clear choice. He saw opportunities to broadcast at every turn. And within two weeks of arriving on campus, Blake was calling an Elon women’s soccer match against Liberty University.

Taylor Durham ’96, well known as “The Voice of the Elon Phoenix,” shared the baseball broadcast booth with Blake more than 50 times in the past three seasons.
Taylor Durham ’96, well known as “The Voice of the Elon Phoenix,” shared the baseball broadcast booth with Blake more than 50 times in the past three seasons.

“To get on air as a freshman is not an opportunity you get at other universities,” Blake says. “And I wasn’t willing to wait until my junior year. That is what makes Elon special. I could start right away. It’s not like this everywhere else.”

Blake found a mentor in Durham before he even enrolled, connecting with the Phoenix play-by-play announcer during a campus visit. The two chatted prior to an Elon football game, and Durham left their meeting impressed with the high schooler’s personality and line of questions.

In passing, he offered to look at Blake’s highlights. “Normally, I say something like this, and nothing really comes of it. That’s just how it is,” Durham says. “But about six weeks later, I get an email with some recent highlights. That’s Javik. He came to Elon knowing exactly what he wanted out of Elon — even before he started.”

In the next three-plus years, Blake called 129 athletic contests at Elon, including 73 women’s basketball games and 51 baseball matchups. When reflecting on the total, Blake can easily rattle off memorable games, including Elon baseball’s 2021 upset of eighth-ranked East Carolina University.

“Beating ECU is a great memory, but my call was just terrible. I was screaming. I was yelling. I was rushing through it,” he says. “But I’ve had something like 170 games since then to get better. Of course, when I listen to my tape from my last game last year, I can see where I could improve, too.”

Blake credits Durham for teaching him how to run a professional broadcast, and how to interact with teams, coaches and sport information departments. Durham also wasn’t afraid to tell the young broadcaster when he overstepped. In his first semester as WSOE’s sports director, Blake admittedly over-scheduled himself. “That was an obvious mistake, but I quickly fixed it — and learned from it,” Blake says. “Taylor helped me navigate a lot at Elon, and I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor. To get to tell the story of Elon baseball and women’s basketball with him for the past three years was incredible.”

Blake interviews women’s basketball head coach Charlotte Smith.

Blake also grew close to the coaching staff of the women’s basketball team, particularly head coach Charlotte Smith. Long bus trips, hotel breakfasts, shootarounds and pre- and post-game interviews led to a camaraderie evident during their interviews and interactions.

“I know that baseball is Javik’s first love, but he did just an outstanding job covering us, too,” Smith says. “He was always well prepared, and he could put you at ease. And I think our energy and chemistry — where we could bounce things off each other — made for a good interview.”

Blake’s on-the-mic talents don’t just materialize at game time, either. Smith fondly recalls Blake emceeing last year’s end-of-the-season banquet, where he displayed personality and poise, easily commanding the room. “I just remember thinking to myself in that moment, ‘Wow, he is going to be a star in his profession,’” Smith recalls.

Embracing the grind

Blake says he felt no nerves walking into the Biloxi press box for the first time. While he might be new to Mississippi, he’s familiar with his surroundings.

In each of the last three summers, Blake sharpened his skills in the booth, first interning and broadcasting with the Atlantic League’s High Point Rockers in 2020 and 2021, followed by last summer’s one-man broadcaster role with the Fond du Lac Dock Spiders. In total, he called 72 games in 76 days for the Wisconsin collegiate summer league team.

Blake started calling games at Elon within two weeks of arriving on campus.

“Looking at Javik’s path, it’s a lesson all of our students can take away,” says Assistant Professor of Sport Management Mark Cryan, who taught Blake in several courses, including a Winter Term program in the Dominican Republic. “He pursued every opportunity to get experience, whether that was on campus, off campus or over the summer. He sought out ways to improve and grow. It’s not luck that’s landed him a role in Double A this early in his career. Javik saw opportunities and made his own.”

While the ambition was his, Blake credits Elon for letting him and other aspiring broadcasters find their voice.

“My experiences over the last few summers have been incredible. Getting to call baseball almost every single day was a dream, and I only got these opportunities because Elon prepared me for them,” Blake says. “My time with Elon athletics, Learfield, WSOE, Elon Sports Vision, they all played a huge role in my growth, and they allowed me to do what I love. That is what makes Elon exceptional.”