Meet Tim Catalfamo, JMS ’18. He’s a Public Address announcer for NASCAR and Turn Announcer for the Motor Racing Network in addition to calling games for Rutgers Athletics.
He credits much of his success in the field of broadcasting to the knowledge and experience he gained at SC&I and while working as a student at Rutgers’s radio station, WRSU-FM 88.7 New Brunswick. There, he was able to learn about broadcasting from Mike Pavlichko, the broadcast administrator at WRSU and a part-time faculty member at SC&I. Catalfamo developed his skills by working with the sports broadcasting department at the station to prepare for calling Big Ten Rutgers games live on the radio.
From there, Catalfamo said he joined the announcer team rotation, where he traveled with other student announcers to home and away games across the country and called games for Rutgers Athletics on WRSU, including soccer, football, basketball, lacrosse, and baseball.
“You couldn't put a price on how valuable that whole experience was for me. I learned so much and got to see and witness what it was actually like to be a roaming sports announcer at a very young age,” he said. “Many of those same young student announcers I called games together with and worked with are still good friends of mine to this day.”
As a Journalism and Media Studies major, he also credits SC&I for preparing him for his role. “My education at SC&I helped me tremendously because of the variety of classes you can take under the SC&I umbrella. For example, when I first got to Rutgers, I really didn't know much about video editing or how to put together a news package. There was a class for that. I knew how to write but I wasn't all that familiar with how to write a profile story or a sports article about a game. There was a class for that as well. And those classes weren't just teaching us the skills in a textbook, they were giving us opportunities around campus to put those newly-learned skills to the test. I learned how to be a multimedia reporter in the digital age. I can't tell you how many times I've used a technique or I remember a lesson from one of my classes at SC&I and I apply it to a task at hand.
“My favorite classes were definitely those taught by the greatest of all time, Steve Miller,” Catalfamo said. “ I think I took every single class Steve taught and enjoyed every single one of them. Besides his classes, Steve was also someone I could go to during his office hours to share my joys or concerns with while in-between classes. Steve was always, and still is, one of my biggest cheerleaders. He is simply the best!”
Catalfamo said while he was working at WRSU the only thing he wanted to do but couldn’t at the time was announce for motorsports, a sport he has been a fan of since he was about two years old. As a child, Catalfamo said he would race his Hot Wheels “around on the living room floor for hours” and watch the “Herbie the Love Bug” movies “over and over again.” He said his first exposure to NASCAR was watching the 1998 NASCAR Cup Series Texas 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway with his parents, which he still has a VHS tape of.
“From that point on, I fell in love with NASCAR and would sit down every weekend to watch the race,” he said. “It was the best part of the week for me and became a major part of who I am. It's more than just a pastime for me.”
Listening to shows on stations like WFAN growing up, he said he always thought it would be “awesome” to host his own program. So he pitched the idea of hosting a NASCAR radio show on WRSU to the station’s sports department and it was approved.
“The next week, I went in and talked about NASCAR for an hour. I cut up highlights from the radio and TV calls of the past weekend's race, driver soundbites from various interviews on TV, and planned out a schedule for what I wanted to talk about during the show. I would then play the audio clips during the show as part of a topic I was discussing. I also always made sure I said where the audio came from!”
While hosting his own NASCAR show on WRSU, Catalfamo said he then applied to get media credentials so that he could go to local NASCAR tracks during race weekends to interview drivers for his show and to network with people in the industry.
“It was on one of those weekends I got the chance to meet Alex Hayden of MRN Radio, who was one of the pit reporters for the network at the time. I had asked MRN a few days before if I could tag along with one of the pit reporters while they worked the pits during the race to learn and get to see how they did their job. Alex agreed and off we went.
“As a result of meeting Alex and getting to know him and many of the other crew at the network over the next few trips to the track, I was fortunate to be able to audition for the network the following year and start work as a turn announcer. It has been a dream come true for me and a job that has meant more to me than many people realize.”
As a result of his work at MRN, Catalfamo said he was asked by NASCAR Productions if he was interested in doing public address at many of the NASCAR-owned tracks in 2021.
“I of course jumped at the opportunity and have truly been enjoying and living the dream working for both MRN Radio and NASCAR this season,” he said. “Everyone has been so kind and welcoming to me.”
Catalfamo said he has always been fascinated with the idea of connecting on-air with an audience you can’t see on television or radio. “In television, even though viewers tuning in can see and hear you through their screen, you can't look into the other side of the camera and see them. In radio, the only thing the listener can hear is your voice. That's amazing...and intimidating to me all at the same time.
“Despite this, you have to find a way to connect with the audience members and make it worth their time to continue watching or listening to you. The best way I've found to do this is to go into the broadcast with the frame of mind that you are broadcasting to your best friend and you are trying to explain what is happening in the simplest and most descriptive terms, while also educating and entertaining in the process. It's a really cool challenge. It can also be one of the most thrilling and rewarding jobs in the world when you nail the call and walk out of the broadcast feeling like you have told the story of the event and connected with the audience you can't see.
“I also get excited anytime I get to go back up to Rutgers to either help call games for R-Vision on Big Ten Network Plus or walk into the public address booth for a Rutgers Athletics event. Those are always days I enjoy very much.”