SIXTEEN YEARS AGO, DURING THE SUMMER of 1998, I had an amazing opportunity to create and develop Baltimore’s first all sports radio station – a dream come true for a Dundalk guy who was a fanatic and devotee of journalism, learning and all things local sports. WNST-AM 1570 – affectionately dubbed “The Station With Balls” – was to be “all day, all night, all sports.” There were only a handful of radio stations in America that had such a format.
Roch Kubatko, now an employee of Peter Angelos and MASN, inked a mostly skeptical and mostly accurate front-page sports story in The Baltimore Sun three months after we launched. It even allowed then market-leading WBAL general manager Jeff Beauchamp and others in the marketplace to scoff at me, pile on and go on the record as giving “Nasty Nestor” very little chance to succeed. (WKDB was the original call sign for our AM signal.) You can read it here.
As we quietly celebrated our 16th anniversary at WNST on August 3rd, and now in our seventh year of partnership with Super Bowl winning head coach Brian Billick and offering 5% of all of our company’s operating profits to The Living Classroom Foundation to benefit Baltimore youth initiatives, I can’t help but stand tall and proud of all that we’ve accomplished over the past two decades. We’ve given many aspiring journalists and sportscasters a chance to follow a dream, sit in front of their first microphone and start a career. That was my goal and dream all along – to create something great and to give others a chance that folks like me weren’t given on my way into the business.
Sure, I fought the power. If I hadn’t, nothing good would’ve ever come from my life. And I certainly wouldn’t now have the power that you’ve given me to help other people and pay forward all of those deeds and endorsements from the many who have supported me during my darkest hours.
And now, entering 2015, via the power of new media and no longer encumbered by a 5,000-watt AM radio signal with 1948 FCC rules and regulations – I’ve been given the chance to chronicle every moment of Baltimore sports moving forward in real time.
Beginning with my first broadcast in December 1991 with Kenny Albert at WITH-AM 1230, I’ve seen modern day media morph into something much larger and more useful than just “local radio.” I remember back in the 1980s when the only way the public could know what I was thinking was if my editor at The Baltimore Sun would send me on an assignment. And my byline would be in the newspaper the next day with a few paragraphs of information in black and white words. Now, every tweet, status, video and thought is instantaneous and in high definition, like something I could only then imagine on an episode of The Jetsons.
And through all of the accomplishments of my employees, our reputation for excellence and accuracy and my own personal achievements over 30 years in doing Baltimore sports media beginning at The News American in January 1984, I’m proudest of what WNST has done in the community over the years. With your help and love and support, we’ve raised nearly $1 million in goods, services, coats, food, donations, checks, goodwill, promotion, publicity and power for too many local causes to list. I’d also like to believe that we’ve helped create many magical memories for tens of thousands of Baltimore sports fans over the years. Somehow, someway, you’ve been affected by what we do at WNST and I’m very grateful to have shared that experience and to have your trust and loyalty after all of these years.
Maybe it was at Whiskey Joe’s in Tampa in 2001 or on the Natchez or during the Super Bowl march in New Orleans in 2013? Maybe you were in the upper deck at “Free The Birds” doing the right thing in 2006? Or maybe you just called in one time or met us on a road trip – we’ve now taken over 10,000 people on trips with the Ravens, Orioles, Terps, Caps and others – or at one of our hundreds of live Ravens players shows since The Barn in 1996 that began, appropriately, with Ray Lewis.
And if we’ve made you smile, you probably have the pictures and same incredible memories that I do of all that we’ve accomplished, celebrated, discussed, grieved and protested over the years since I took the microphone on Dec. 13, 1991.
If you’re here reading this – in some way – WNST has had some positive effect on you to keep you here through all of the years. Please let me begin this note with a gigantic THANK YOU for all that you’ve done to support me – and my family – over the past three decades.
As you might have heard, I’m going through some changes in my life these days.
Today, I announced the departure of several veteran folks – Drew Forrester, Glenn Clark, Ryan Chell and my office staff of general manager Paul Kopelke and Ashley Bishoff – in effort to create a basic change in the way we’re doing content and our radio format at WNST.net & AM 1570. They came to work every day and they gave everything they had to WNST. They’re good, hard-working, honest people and I wish them absolutely nothing but the best in their future.
I also want to thank everyone who has worked at WNST over the past 16 years. Many staffers and interns have come through our doors and learned the sports media and radio business from me, and several have gone on to further careers in the business, here in Baltimore and in other markets. All of them helped in some way to build WNST and make it great.
As most of you probably know by now, my wife was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia on March 20 and this sent my life into a place I’ve never encountered and could never recommend. She’s been fighting for her life every day over the past 160 days and it’s been an honor to serve her and watch her battle cancer. Every facet of my life – and my life together with my wife – has been put on hold through her remarkable journey except for the comeback of my daily radio show, The Happy Hours, from 3-6 p.m. on WNST.net & AM 1570, which was something we planned together for many months.
Since returning to the radio on April 1 as host of The Happy Hours, WNST.net has retained 17 new sponsors directly related to me coming back on the radio on a daily basis. All of these companies stepped up to help