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Clearwater Threshers Kirsten Karbach is blazing a trail
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Photo by JEFF ROSENFIELD
Clearwater Threshers play-by-play announcer Kirsten Karbach calls a game from the Spectrum Field booth in June.
CLEARWATER – Kirsten Karbach’s work day starts with a short trip to Spectrum Field a few hours before the Clearwater Threshers’ game time.

Once there, the USF grad conducts interviews with players and coaches that will be shown on the stadium scoreboard and team website, goes over the starting lineups and stats for the game broadcast and reviews the meticulous notes she compiled at home the night before.

In this respect, Karbach appears to be like any typical young, aspiring journalist with a love of sports and a knack for broadcast communications.

Only, the 26-year-old is anything but typical.

Karbach, a native of Englewood, Florida, who attended the University of Tampa as a psychology major before transferring to USF to study mass communications, is believed to be the only female play-by-play announcer currently working in Minor League Baseball, and she is one of a select few women working in a booth at any level of the sport. But despite the unique distinction Karbach says she is not trying to be a pioneer, she’s just doing what she loves.

“I didn’t originally want to be a broadcaster, but I was a big baseball fan growing up,” Karbach said prior to a game in June. “Actually, I wanted to work in a front office. Even when I interned at USF’s sports radio station, I never saw myself as a broadcaster. I was just looking for something to do.”

As it turned out, Karbach took to the airwaves like a southpaw to a pitcher’s mound.

“In 2011, I had a mass communications assignment to interview someone in the field, and I learned there were not many broadcasters in the (Florida State) league,” she said. “I reached out to the Dunedin Blue Jays and interviewed their broadcaster, and it was played on the air a couple of times, and that was my big break.”

With so few FSL teams at the time having any type of announcing team, Karbach found job opportunities in the field were limited when she graduated in 2013. But the Threshers gave her a chance to work under lead announcer Ben Gellman, and when Gellman left the following year, officials in the organization offered Karbach the position.

“They were satisfied with my work and they offered me the position,” she recalled. “At the time, I was the only woman in all of Minor League Baseball in that position, but I didn’t really think about it until I did a Phillies Spring Training game this year. Then it hit me. I was like this is really, really cool.”

Now in her fifth year in the Threshers’ booth, Karbach has steadily grown into her role as a multifaceted, multimedia specialist, where putting in long hours and handling a variety of tasks is part of the job.

“I usually get here between one and two in the afternoon for night games, and I’ll get home at around eleven,” she said. “I do so much more than play-by-play; I’ve interviewed players, written features for the website, done audio and video interviews and fun features like what it’s like to be a catcher. I love broadcasting and play-by-play, but I love that other stuff, too. My job here is baseball coverage, and that allows me to do so much more. It’s different every day, and it’s fun.”

Karbach’s employers are as thrilled with her work as she is to have the position.

“Four seasons of working with Kirsten and the biggest takeaway I have is how prepared she is,” Rob Stretch, Threshers PR/media relations assistant, said via email. “It sounds effortless on the air because of how much time she puts in and how ready she is. Kirsten is dedicated to her craft and is the consummate professional. She is interesting and engaging to listen to as broadcaster, not just because of how ridiculously talented she is, but her hard work and preparation come through every game. Kirsten has a very bright future and I’m sure one day we’ll all be saying, ‘I knew her when’.”   

While Karbach isn’t looking to leave the cozy confines of the Spectrum Field press box any time soon, she does have plans for the future.

“In five years, I want to be in the majors,” she acknowledged. “Absolutely, that’s the goal, the dream. But it’s hard to set a trajectory. Everyone has a different path.”

And although she doesn’t see herself as a trailblazer or a role model, she understands that being a woman in what has traditionally been a male dominated field will cast her in that role regardless.

“I don’t see myself as a role model, but one positive aspect of my job is maybe if more people know I’m doing this, they’ll realize it’s not important (that I’m a woman),” she said. “I don’t think it makes a difference, as long as you know what you’re doing.”
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