Monday, November 30, 2015

The Newest Twins Territorian: Audra Martin

In following the Minnesota Twins throughout the Major League Baseball season, there's always one person that remains synonymous with victory. Following a walk off win, or a dominant starting performance, there's always that one person there to break down just how impressive it was. Often being caught up in the Gatorade shower, that person is going to be a different face in the upcoming 2016 season.

After Fox Sports North announced the departure of Jamie Hersch near the end of the 2015 season, the role went into limbo. The face that would be sharing the excitement of each Twins win on the way to a hopeful playoff berth in 2016 was now void, until it wasn't. Enter Audra Martin.

A University of Central Florida graduate (we won't hold their current football struggles against her), Martin comes to Twins Territory from Nashville, Tennessee. Having Midwestern roots, both baseball and hockey rank at the top of her sports loves. There's no better way to understand what she will bring to the diamond however than to get those answers directly from herself.

I had the opportunity to speak with Audra on the Twins, the move to Minnesota, and the excitement that lies ahead. Here's what she had to say:

Off The Baggy: Minnesotans are familiar with UCF thanks to the popularity of Daunte Culpepper. As your alma mater, was it there that the decision to venture into sports broadcasting was born?

Audra Martin: It was! Most people are surprised to learn that I actually applied to college as a Criminal Justice major. For my entire life, as long as I can remember, my dream was to be a police officer. Then as I got older, the plan was to eventually get my Masters and apply for the FBI. After my first year at UCF, my GPA was high enough to allow me to apply to restricted programs and
when I was looking at the list, Radio-Television was the one that jumped out. I’m not sure why,
but a light bulb just went off. I changed my major to RTV- Broadcast Journalism but still graduated with a minor in Criminal Justice.

OTB: Having come to Fox Sports North from Tennessee, baseball wasn't something the market presented often. What do your baseball roots look like and what are you most excited about in
working with the Twins?

AM: I actually grew up a HUGE baseball fan. I know coming from Chicago has some
Minnesota fans a bit skeptical of my fandom...so I have to own it right? But at least I grew up a
Cubs fan and not a Sox fan right?? After college I decided I wasn’t ready to dive right into a
broadcasting career but I knew I wanted to work in sports so I took a job in the front office of the
Atlanta Braves. It was an awesome experience, but it also was an eye-opening experience in the
sense that it made me realize that I really did want to be in broadcasting and that the front office
type job wasn’t for me. Then once I was working in Nashville, I got to cover the Nashville
Sounds who were the Triple A affiliate for the Brewers and now the A’s.

As far as working with the Twins, the thing that most excites me is simply the fact of getting to
know a new team and organization that is certainly on the verge of some very exciting times.
Plus, I’ve heard nothing but AWESOME things about the whole organization...the employees,
players and the fans!

OTB: Covering the Wild currently, is there a sport you find yourself leaning towards most, or is there a relatively shared level of comfort across the board?

AM: That question is such a reminder of how blessed and lucky I feel to have gotten this job.
It whole-heartedly is my dream job. My two favorite sports have always been baseball and
hockey. Don’t get me wrong, I love football and had a blast covering the Titans the last two years,
but far and away, baseball and hockey are my first loves. To be covering those two sports year
round has me pinching myself everyday.

OTB: Looking ahead the the 2016 Twins season, it's shaping up to be one of the most important and
anticipated in the past five years. What has you most intrigued about the year ahead?

AM: How great is that! When I heard this job was opening up I knew a big focus would be on
hockey and then when I was reminded that I would get to cover the Twins as well, talk about an
amazing opportunity. To start this kind of job when the team is primed to make the playoffs...
again pinch me. I think was most excites me is to see how this team comes firing right out of the
gate. 

When you look at how last year ended, coming SO close but ending just short, you can’t
help but think back to some of the earlier games when things just weren’t clicking for some of
the team. Those early to mid-season games are a grind no doubt, but we saw that they can be the
difference from spending October in the dugout or on the couch. So I want to see them come out
with the same fervor and intensity that we saw towards the end of the season. And of course, who
isn’t excited to see what kind of sophomore season Sano can put together!

OTB: With Tennessee being surrounded by National League teams such as the Reds, Cardinals, and
Braves, the Twins probably weren't on your radar. Prior to taking the role with Fox Sports North,
what did your knowledge of the Twins look like?

AM: Well, just being a baseball fan I’ve always have a pretty good feel for what’s going on with most teams. The Twins are no exception, especially just because of what was going on towards the end of the season. I’m a sucker for a great underdog and watching a team like the Twins exceed a lot
of critics expectations was awesome. Have I spent more time around National League teams...
sure...but that just means Twins fans can rest assured knowing I’ll be working extra hard to learn
everything there is to know about this team. Again, that’s the fun part and I’m already well into
the process!

OTB: As a Midwestern native, and outside of the harsh Minnesota winter, what challenges
are you most looking forward to overcoming in working with a new market at Fox Sports North?

AM: Well, you definitely read my mind about the biggest concern. I am originally from
Chicago so I should be used to the cold, but living in the south for the last 11 years has made me
soft! Besides that, I think the biggest challenge is just learning a whole new market and new
teams. At the same time though, that’s the fun part. 

I also knew coming into this role that I was taking over for an incredibly talented and well liked person. I’ve always admired Jamie’s work, and I know the fans have too. I’m not here to replace Jamie, but instead take the awesome foundation she left behind and add my style and personality to it. It’s tough and I know some viewers may take some time to win over but I’m really honored to have been given the chance to do it!

OTB: Obviously with an already impressive resume coming to Twins Territory, there's plenty of
success in your past. What are you looking forward to bringing to the diamond with you?

AM: The two things I try to bring to everything I do is my passion and my personality. You can teach
anyone about the game, but you can’t teach passion or personality. The number one, most
important part of this job is delivering insight to the fans- sharing the stories and giving them the
information they may not know otherwise. If I can do that, while also allowing fans to get a
sense of who I am and how much I love the game, then I’m happy. 

Interacting with fans is my favorite part of working in sports. The fans are what it’s all about, so being the “middle man” between the fans and the team is awesome.

OTB: Finally, as 2015 ushered out a brief stint of failures for the Twins, 2016 looks to continue upon
the growth and have the Twins take the next step. Give me your playoff prediction and a way too
early short at the final record.

AM: Oh man! You’re going to put me on the spot already?? I just got here!

Alright if you insist. If the Royals weren’t a factor in all of this it would be much easier...but unfortunately they are so I will say the Twins clinch the first Wild Card with an 87-75 record. How’s that for a positive attitude to start the season!

It's clear that Audra is already well involved in the excitement that is Twins Territory, and with the impressive background behind her, there's little doubt what's to come won't also be great. Hopefully she's ready to duck plenty of Gatorade showers, because 2016 should produce a lot of them.

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