FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN
A career that began less than a decade ago, calling Wood bat summer league baseball game in tiny Elkhart, Ks., reaches a watershed moment for Jesse Agler on Friday night when the 31-year-old with the smooth, soothing pipes announces the Dolphins’ preseason game against Jacksonville on CBS-4.
Not to put any pressure on Agler, but here’s the deal: If Agler aces the biggest assignment of his life – calling the next four Dolphins exhibition games on TV, with Nat Moore and Bob Griese alongside – then he becomes a logical candidate to handle the package long-term and eventually succeed Jimmy Cefalo as the team’s radio voice.
Anything less? Well, Agler still would keep a gig that he enjoys, anchoring the Dolphins’ weekday Finsiders.com radio program, as well as pregame and postgame shows.
But Agler wants to do play-by-play long-term, much like two former South Florida talk show hosts who matriculated to marquee jobs elsewhere: New York Jets and ESPN announcer Bob Wischusen and ESPN announcer Jon Sciambi.
“Calling games is always what I wanted to do,” Agler said. “That’s the hardest job and the most difficult to get. I’m very excited about this.”
At least for this year and possibly beyond, Agler is following one of the most recognizable voices in the business: Dick Stockton, who could not work the Dolphins’ preseason package this month because of Fox conflicts. Stockton said the Dolphins have said he might return in 2014. But Agler’s performance could impact that.
Agler cracked open the door for a broadcasting career as a student at Spanish River High in Boca Raton, when he called Sun Sports and asked if he could simply observe or do anything to help. He remembers fetching water for Charles Davis, now Fox Sports’ lead college football analyst.
After graduating from UM, his gigs included Panthers and Marlins studio programming; a few fill-in assignments doing Marlins radio play-by-play; and anchoring the Dolphins’ weekday Finsiders show and TV specials. The Dolphins hired him after an on-air audition on the 2010 draft.
He capably handled play-by-play for a few Dolphins preseason games on radio the past two years, but this will be his first TV play-by-play of any kind.
“He earned it – he’s a brilliant young talent,” said Mike Dee, who picked Agler to do TV play-by-play this month before resigning as Dolphins CEO to become president of the San Diego Padres.
Dee said Agler “has a chance to be a modern day Rick Weaver” – referring to the team’s longtime radio play-by-play voice. “It won’t happen next year [but] it’s the next progression” in his career.
To prepare for this, Agler studied tapes of Al Michaels and playoff replays on NFL Network. “I enjoy my job, and this is a nice added bonus to do TV,” he said. “The Dolphins treat me well.”
He can continue to justify their faith over the next four weeks.
AROUND THE DIAL
### ESPN Radio likely will pick up Dan Le Batard’s 790 The Ticket radio show in the next few months, providing a national forum for the market’s highest-rated sports talk show. Le Batard and Jon Weiner do not plan to change anything from the way they do the show now, and The Ticket will continue to air it.
If a deal is finalized as expected, ESPN Radio would carry Le Batard's program from 4 to 7 p.m., followed by a 7-10 p.m. show with Jorge Sedano (who leaves WQAM at the end of the month) and former Broncos lineman Mark Schlereth.
From 3 to 4 p.m., LeBatard and Weiner would do a show only for their 790 audience.
### On Keith Olbermann’s new ESPN2 show debuting Aug. 26, he will present, nightly, a “Worst Person in the Sports World” – similar to a segment on his former news show on MSNBC. That’s no surprise. What’s unusual is that Fox Sports 1 – which launches Aug. 17 -- will try to counter that by presenting a “best person” of the day on its competing show at 11 p.m.
### Undeserved: The Lakers being awarded 25 national TV appearances on ABC/ESPN/TNT next season, tied with the Heat and Knicks for the most. That’s more than the Thunder and Bulls (24), Clippers (21) and Rockets (20). All that for a Lakers team that might not even make the playoffs.
### Tidbits: This didn’t take long: ESPN is producing a 60-minute documentary on Robert Griffin III to air Aug. 27…. Fox dropped former Rams coach Mike Martz as a game analyst and replaced him with Ronde Barber… Ray Lewis’ ESPN NFL deal includes weekly pregame and postgame appearances from the Monday night games and eight Sunday studio appearances, plus playoffs.
### Planning ahead? Some TV highlights from the first weekend of college football: Thursday, Aug. 29: North Carolina-South Carolina (ESPN, 6 p.m.); Friday, Aug. 30: FAU-UM (8 p.m., ESPNU); Saturday, Aug. 31: Alabama-Virginia Tech (5:30 p.m., ESPN), Georgia-Clemson (8 p.m., ABC), LSU-TCU (9 p.m., ESPN); Monday, Sept. 2: FSU-Pittsburgh (8 p.m., ESPN).