If you’ve ever been to a Braves game, you know Mark Owens as the energetic gentleman who hosts the different games between innings. Owens is also a radio producer for Atlanta’s 92.9 The Game, as well as host of the David Greene College Show with local resident (and UGA legend) David Greene.
My brother Ryan recently sat down with Mark for a candid discussion about radio, the Braves, UGA, and life as a father.
Ryan: Can you tell us about how you decided that radio/communications was right for you and how your journey began?
Mark: I can thank my lack of baseball skills that lead me to radio. I played growing up but wasn’t good enough to make the high school team. I shifted my focus and energy to the drama department and found a love of the stage. I was also a music connoisseur and was intrigued how they provided a “theater of the mind” aspect. After high school I was offered an internship at a local traffic company, and that set my career in motion.
Ryan: If my memory is correct, I remember you doing traffic reports for a stint on a couple of different local Atlanta radio stations. How did that help develop your radio personality and on-air prowess that you have today?
Mark: Working as a traffic reporter taught the importance of timing and word play. I learned how to get a 3 min traffic report out in 60 seconds. Not to use 50 words when 25 will do and how to avoid radio cliches. Being a traffic reporter requires working a split shift, so you have to be awake and on your “A” game from 5 am – 9 am then again from 3 pm – 7 pm. It was exhausting but very educational.
Ryan: Most Braves fan know you as “the man on the big screen” or the “in-between innings guy” at Turner Field. Tell us — how did this job wind up in your hands? What was your reaction when you found out they wanted you?
Mark: I was working for the Bert Show on Q-100 when (then) co-host Jeff Dauler was the Braves In-Game Emcee. He mentioned they were looking for a new Plaza Host and recommended that I apply for the gig. (The Plaza Host gets the crowd fired up pre-game, much like a pep rally). I got the job and it was great preparation because Jeff quit the following year and they offered me the In-Game Host position. My first night in front of 45,000+ I was a sweaty, nervous kid. It was awesome.
Ryan: I imagine that most of those moments at the Ted are scripted for the most part, other than the fans reactions or answers, but can you tell us the most crazy, unforgettable moment that you’ve experienced while conducting an in-between innings session?
Mark: I’ve had proposals, losing fans curse at me and even a few kiss me out of excitement. But nothing is better than having my family come to a game. I think my parents get a kick out of watching their son, who loves the Braves, working for the Braves. I also really enjoy having a member of the Military join me for a feature. The Braves fans are so respectful and appreciative. One Season, we had a gentleman that was close to 90 years old in his original dress blues! We had to stop the feature and come back due to the crowd response.
Ryan: When you’re not at Turner Field, you’re the midday producer on 92.9 The Game. What’s it like on a day to day basis working with them? If you can, tell us how the typical show prep meetings go?
Mark: Working in Sports Radio is like being at a sports bar or barber shop every day; however, it’s a lot of work. Years past, we would spend hours doing prep before or after the show. Today we constantly monitor social media for breaking news and latest stories then format a show via texts and emails. Our job is to bring a different take on the story.
Ryan: Also, on Thursday evenings during the college football season, you co-host the David Greene College Show with former UGA quarterback David Greene. Tell us about how that show came to be.
Mark: David is a great guy with a brilliant mind for the sport of college football. In late 2012 he joined the afternoon show and it was an awesome interview. I thought it would be great to get a UGA Fan Favorite on our station and I wanted to host that show. It was a bit of a challenge to convince my bosses that we could produce a intriguing show, but after the first few episodes, we gained a following and formed a pretty good back and forth.
Ryan: Being a UGA super fan, what it’s like getting the chance to work with and interview some of the great college football players and coaches? Which was the most memorable and why?
Mark: Throughout the season I have many “fan boy” moments. Any time we had Coach Mark Richt on the show it was fun, because of his personal relationship with David. Towards the end of this season we had DJ Shockley hanging out and I was trying to contain my excitement sitting with 2 legendary QBs talking UGA.
Ryan: Tell us about Gretchen and your cute daughter. How has your family changed/focused you on your craft? How do you go about making them a priority in the day to day craziness of your schedule? What advice would you give fellow adults in this regard?
Mark: I’m blessed to have a wife that’s very accepting of my schedule. Radio is already a full time job and during the Braves Season, its like picking up another full time job. The long days can be challenging but Gretchen understands this is what I love to do. Our 3 year old Caroline is another element that makes me work harder. Years ago the Braves gig was income that provided extra beer and Vegas money, now its for diapers and princess dolls. The best advice to someone trying to balance job and family life is to always have some kind of trip or vacation planned. We like to have at least 2 beach trips on the calendar. It makes the long home stands tolerable knowing we have sand 3 weeks away.
Ryan: From your days at Shorter College, you developed a pretty good friendship with your then roommate in Grant McCauley who is now your colleague at 92.9 the game. How do you benefit from having a close friend in your business?
Mark: Its great to have a long time friend that has worked his way up with you in the industry. Furthermore its good to have someone you can trust, vent to and seek advice from. I’m really proud of Grant, he has worked hard at his craft and has one of the best baseball minds know. I want him to make it big, mainly so I can ride his coat tails.
Ryan: How often do you work together (if you do)?
Mark: Ironically, we don’t see each other at the radio station too often, but talk at almost every Braves home game. He’s my go to for Braves information. I’m his go to for Tool Race results.
Ryan: What would be the one thing that you would do over on your journey to where you are today?
Mark: Learn better money management. I wish I would have taken business classes at Shorter to help me understand my finances and how to keep more of what I earn.
Ryan: Lastly, what advice do you have for anyone pursuing this career path?
Mark: Have something to fall back on. Radio is incredibly cutthroat and gone are the days of guaranteed jobs after an internship. I’ve seen many interns come in, work for a few months then get upset when they don’t get a job immediately. You need a great work ethic and better attitude in this silly industry.