September 21, 2014
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On the fast track
Hendricken senior makes his voice heard
BIG TIME: Hendricken senior Joel Sebastianelli stands on the field at Fenway Park prior to doing the play-by-play for the Providence College women's hockey game against Dartmouth on Tuesday.

You might not know Joel Sebastianelli personally, but if you’ve spent any time around Hendricken’s athletic programs, you probably know his voice.

It booms through the gym and over the football field with the type of presence that catches your attention. I’ve heard it when I’m out there covering the games, and apparently I’m not the only one who’s taken notice.

Sebastianelli, a senior who serves as the public address announcer at Hendricken, turned some heads when he was handling the PA duties at last week’s Hendricken-La Salle basketball game, and now he’s doing quite a bit more with his talents than just letting fans know who’s checking in and out of the game for the Hawks’ basketball team.

That game between the Hawks and Rams was televised by Cox Sports, and cameraman Tony Beretto heard Sebastianelli’s voice over the PA system. Beretto also runs a company called Sports Video Incorporated, known as SVI Sports, and he asked Sebastianelli if he was interested in trying out some play-by-play.

Fast-forward a few days.

This past Tuesday, Sebastianelli completed his second game as the play-by-play announcer for the Providence College women’s hockey team.

Only this wasn’t a normal hockey game. It was part of Fenway Park’s “Frozen Fenway” series, in which a temporary hockey rink is set up on the infield of the ballpark. High school and college teams then get a chance to play inside the historic stadium. Sebastianelli called the game from the press box.

“I wound up today at Fenway Park,” Sebastianelli said on Tuesday night. “Of all the places – going from high school basketball at Bishop Hendricken to the press box at Fenway Park in a matter of days.”

Wait, what?

It happened that fast. On the surface, it seems like it might have been a little too fast.

Why would a company allow a high school kid to take on that much responsibility, to be thrown right into the fire like that?

Well, for starters, Sebastianelli had been in the fire for quite some time.

And he’s known he’s wanted to be there for even longer.

It started early on, when he was growing up in Johnston.

“Like every kid, I wanted to be an athlete, then an astronaut,” Sebastianelli said. “I remember coming home crying to my mother one day because I realized I was absolutely terrible at sports. That was just not going to happen. I couldn’t kick a kickball then and I still can’t do it now.”

So athlete was out of the question. Apparently astronaut was out as well.

“So [my mother] said, just to calm me down and appease me, ‘You could be a sports announcer,’” he said. “I actually remember having that conversation with her. Ever since then it’s just completely stuck.”

That’s why the Providence College gig isn’t really a huge surprise. An accomplishment, for sure, but not a surprise.

You see, Sebastianelli has also served as the track announcer at the Seekonk Motor Speedway for the track’s Fast Friday Series for the last two years.

He does play-by-play over the public address system – and he’s been doing it since he was 15.

That made him the youngest person ever to handle the PA at the speedway, breaking the previous mark held by Allen Bestwick. If you’re a racing fan, you might know Bestwick from his work on ESPN as one of the Worldwide Leader’s top racing analysts.

So at that Hendricken-La Salle basketball game, when Sebastianelli told Beretto that he had some play-by-play experience, and a pretty lofty pedigree to boot, bringing him in to call the PC games wasn’t all that much of a risk.

“Racing is very similar to hockey in the sense that it’s rapid fire,” Sebastianelli said. “Lots of action. If you’re late in identifying a number by a quarter of a second, you’re a quarter of a second behind the entire play. You need to be on your toes the entire time. Because of that experience with the racing, it wasn’t that big a transition.”

He did his first game on Friday when the Lady Friars took on Robert Morris, and Tuesday’s Fenway experience was his second game behind the mic.

His play-by-play is heard on a video made up by SVI that is sent out to media, opposing teams and PC head coach Bob Deraney. It also streams on the PC athletic site.

It’s not the largest audience, but it’s a pretty important one.

And Sebastianelli wanted to make sure he was prepared.

When he does racing, he usually gets to the track about four hours prior to the race. There, he can walk around, talk to the racers and get an idea of certain talking points for that night’s broadcast.

“I’ve got sort of my own little Media Day,” he said.

Well, he hasn’t had that for the PC games, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.

He estimates that he went through over 100 pages of media guide material, highlighting information for both teams. He studied each team for close to four hours.

That might seem like a hardship for some. Not for Sebastianelli.

“I’ve just stuck with it, and it’s a real passion of mine now,” he said. “I love doing it.”

Being at Fenway didn’t hurt either.

“To have the ice rink out there – I grew up kind of weaned on the Bruins and Red Sox – to have those two aspects, hockey and baseball all in one place, it’s an experience I wouldn’t forget even if I wasn’t announcing,” he said. “But the fact that I was announcing it and fulfilling a dream at the same time made it even more special.”

He’s hoping that was just the beginning.

There is still the rest of his senior year, where he’ll continue to work the PA system at Hendricken, while balancing his PC and Seekonk duties as well.

Somehow, he also finds time to be the editor-in-chief of Hendricken’s student-run newspaper, The Talon, and also the co-station manager of the Hawks Broadcasting Network, while writing part-time for the boxing website ringnews24.com.

And he just turned 18 on Wednesday.

I would say the sky is the limit, but I think that might be setting the limit too low.

He still has college on the horizon, where his top choices are Syracuse, Missouri, Florida and Arizona State – all well-known places to pursue broadcast journalism as a career.

I’m betting that soon enough you’ll hear him in your living room on a Sunday or in your car as you drive home from work.

You still might not know him personally, but you’ll definitely recognize his voice.

Kevin Pomeroy is the assistant sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and kevinp@rhodybeat.com.


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