“Ogunbowale, for the win! GOOD!” was the call from ESPN play-by-play broadcaster Adam Amin, standing to watch the shot before falling back into his seat, speechless, as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrated their newfound national title.
The game was just the latest high-profile assignment for Amin, who has covered basketball; football, both college and the NFL; baseball; and softball, among other sports, for ESPN over the last several years. In 2015, Amin began serving as the play-by-play broadcaster for the daytime telecasts from the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
Primarily partnered with color commentator Amanda Scarborough and sideline reporter Laura Rutledge, Amin endeared himself to softball fans from the beginning, thanks to his smooth, easy-going style and artistic way of describing a play. As his career continues to climb, the Valparaiso University graduate finds himself in a place that many dream of.
A Chicago native, Amin says that his interest in sports was nurtured not only from his own playing, but thanks to growing up around the sports melting pot that is the Windy City sports scene.
“I think it definitely had an impact on me, growing up around so many great sports team,” Amin said. “To be honest, I really was not a collegiate sports fan growing up… Northwestern football was big back in the 90s, but pro sports was where it was at for me. I still root for the Blackhawks, since hockey is the one sport that I don’t really cover… when you’re exposed to that sports scene, you kind of latch onto those things and you have to have a method on how you process athletics and for me, it was about the competition, finding the people that you like to watch and figuring out why you like to watch those people. Because I liked Greg Maddux, I started reading about Greg Maddux and he was a really intuitive guy, a smart guy. To me, that was big. For Michael Jordan, his competitive nature was what made him great. I wasn’t an idolator by any means, but I certainly looked up to those guys, just like a lot of other people did, but maybe for a slightly different reason.”
Entering the world of broadcasting was not always Amin’s career goal; instead, he took the court and the field as a young athlete himself and the notion of becoming a broadcaster only came in his later teenage years.
“I didn’t really begin to think about it until I was probably eighteen or nineteen,” Amin said. “I’m sure there are a lot of folks out there who knew when they were five or six that this was what they wanted to do, but my story isn’t like that. I wish I had that; I envy that. But it didn’t really come to me until I had done a couple of public access broadcasts in high school for our football team. After I was no longer playing, I would go up to the booth and would do the public access call of the game.”
After being bitten by the broadcasting “bug”, a friend approached Amin with a proposal – the friend, a student at Valparaiso, was the general manager of a radio station on campus and he offered Amin a job.
“He said ‘If you want to do it, I’ll put you on,’” Amin shared. “I started doing that, and I really began to think that this was something I enjoyed and that I might want to do more permanently.”
While at Valparaiso, Amin was twice named the Indiana Collegiate Sportscaster of the Year, an honor given by the state association of broadcasters. In 2009, he was chosen as one of the top five collegiate sportscasters in America and was a finalist for the Jim Nantz Award, bestowed upon the nation’s top student broadcasters.
Before his senior year of college, Amin got his first taste of the broadcasting world outside of the collegiate realm. After calling up Andy Viano, an old friend from Valparaiso who worked with the Gary Railcats, an independent minor league team in Gary, Indiana, Amin secured a part-time position with the team. He would make the thirty-mile trek to the stadium and join the broadcast for the 4th, 5th, and 6th innings each night. Even after moving home from school after the semester and his trip doubled in length, Amin still made the drive, feeding his passion for calling live baseball.
“I wasn’t even an intern. They never even hired me,” Amin said. “I would just drive to Gary, Indiana every night that they had a game and they’d let me do the middle three innings every time that I came. I didn’t get paid for it, but Andy didn’t question it. He would always just be like, ‘yeah, come on in, let’s go.’”
That internship would come the next year, after Amin graduated from Valparaiso. A summer intern with the Railcats, he kept on as the middle-innings broadcaster for the team, and added other duties to his plate, including preparing game notes.
As the time came to move on to other endeavors, Amin made a 500-mile trek to Spirit Lake, Iowa, a town of around 3,000 people. The position was as the sports director for a cluster of small-town stations scattered seemingly amidst the Iowa cornfields, while borrowed furniture and a small, one-bedroom apartment made up Amin’s living space during his tenure in Iowa. True humble beginnings, the position did offer experience in various areas – not only play-by-play for live games, but other programming also included a coaches show and hosting a morning show that branched out beyond sports into pop culture and music.
“I remember interviewing Nick Offerman,” Amin mused. “That was just when Parks and Recreation was starting to get going, so we’d interview these celebrities on these shows. I would do weather, I would do reporting from expo shows about tractors and tools and a bunch of stuff like that. It was Iowa. You have to know that stuff. That was part of the gig.”
After seven months on the Iowa Plains, Amin headed for New Jersey and a return to his first and best love, play-by-play baseball. Another 700-mile trip was in store, and Amin packed his bags and headed for Somerset, a town of around 20,000 people in the middle of New Jersey.
It was around that time that Amin met and began a mentoring relationship with Ian Eagle, who now broadcasts the NFL and other sports for CBS. Eagle took Amin under his wing and helped mentor him in the broadcasting world.
“I was immediately impressed by how well [Adam] carried himself for such a young broadcaster, and his positive disposition,” Eagle said. “His voice stood out from the beginning, resonant without forcing it. He wasn’t ‘trying’ to sound like a sportscaster; it was natural and organic.
“Adam was an information sponge; he enjoyed discussing the nuances of the profession and his genuine curiosity has helped him rise through the ranks… Adam’s versatility sets him apart. He is equally comfortable calling football, basketball, baseball, or wrestling. The bottom line is that he can call anything, and that’s the sign of a real pro.”
“I did every game of the entire Series except for the championship game, which was broadcast on CBSSports or some other network,” Amin said. “That was my first exposure to the tournament-style of softball. I had done some softball [at Valparaiso], but I just remember enjoying that tournament.”
It wasn’t long before the Worldwide Leader in Sports came calling. “I remember getting a call from my agent,” Amin shared. “He said ‘ESPN likes your [resume]reel; I think they’re going to have some games for you.’ I just couldn’t believe it. ESPN?! A few weeks later, I had just finished up a game in New Jersey and he called me again and goes, ‘This is your last season doing minor league baseball. ESPN wants to hire you full time.’
“I remember sitting in that booth and I don’t remember anything else that he said, because I just started crying. I was floored. Two years is not a long time to be out of college and get ESPN, but it felt like a long time. There are probably a lot of broadcasters who put in more than two years to get to some place like ESPN, but for me, it was after a lot of miles driven, a lot of prep hours logged. It was an emotional time. I remember being just overwhelmed by it.”
Since he joined ESPN in 2011, Amin has meteorically risen through the company ranks and received some of the network’s top assignments. Along with legendary former Texas coach Mack Brown, he announces Friday Night Football in the fall, showcasing one of the week’s primetime college football matchups. He has called the NFL and NBA on both radio and television and was a part of the College Football Playoff coverage in each of the last two seasons.
In 2017, and still just in his early thirties, Amin signed a multi-year contract extension to remain with ESPN. At a time that the company had just laid off talent in a cost-cutting maneuver, extending Amin’s contract unequivocally showed the network’s commitment to their rising star.
Beginning in 2015, Amin began calling the Women’s College World Series’ daytime matchups. The team of himself, Scarborough, and Rutledge instantly developed chemistry on camera and a friendship off of it.
“They are two of my favorite people in the world,” Amin said. “We have a group text and we chat all the time, even when we’re not working together.”
“Adam and I had immediate chemistry,” Scarborough said. “Years and years ago, I noticed how talented he was, and more importantly, how incredibly hard he worked. That was instant credibility in my book… and Adam has loved to learn softball. He loved to learn the history of it just as much as he has loved to learn the mechanics. To work with someone like Adam who continually wants to be better, no matter how much he already knows, has pushed ME to be better. He can handle any situation professionally and with poise, something that you HAVE to have as a broadcaster. No moment is too big for him, because of the confidence and preparation he has in his ability because of the crazy amount of games that he’s called and the time that he has spent to get to this position he is in now.”
Rutledge noted, “When I first met Adam, it was like I already knew him, but after working together for a few games, there were elements of him that really stood out. He had this incredible desire to make our team succeed. It didn’t matter what your role was, but if you were on Adam’s team, you were going to do well and have a blast all the while… I’ve worked with some of the best [play-by-play announcers] at this company and he is right up there with the best. Adam makes the moment feel as big as it should, as well as keeping it light and fun when the time calls for it. I love his conversational style, but also his ability to be serious and less verbose when a game calls for it… Adam never forgets where he came from. He’s constantly grateful, while still begin hungry for the next thing. That type of make-up leads to excellence, and he personifies all of it.”
Amin’s most endearing quality may be his engagement with fans. Rarely does an event – or even just a regular week day – go by when his Twitter feed doesn’t include responses to fans’ questions or other discussion and banter with viewers.
Amanda Scarborough might have put it best when she summed up the career of her frequent booth partner. “[Adam] lives and excels in the big moments of games,” she said. “He gets better when the moment gets bigger.”