Living the dream: Yreka grad Anthony Rifenburg reflects on pro baseball broadcasting gig
Since he was a young boy growing up in Yreka and listening to San Francisco Giants broadcasts, Anthony Rifenburg knew he wanted to be a baseball broadcaster.
"I remember when he was little, and he would sit in his room with his PlayStation and broadcast baseball games while he was playing the game," recalled his mother, Theresa Rifenburg. "His knowledge and passion for the game developed at a young age as he would spend hours learning as much as he could about baseball."
Now 25, Rifenburg has been living his dream.
First, he broadcast Yreka Miners baseball games all four years of high school and graduated in 2014. Then, he went to Sacramento State University, where he became the play-by-play announcer for the Hornets baseball team and traveled all over the country covering games.
After graduation from Sac State in December 2019, he landed a year-long job/internship with the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas, the San Diego Padres affiliate, as the No. 2 broadcaster and media relations assistant.
While COVID-19 called off the 2020 season, Rifenburg still worked for the Chihuahuas and helped broadcast live online shows about the team.
He was retained for another year and helped behind the scenes, including working in the press box and gathering stats. He also did media relations for the club.
Rifenburg was mentored by Chihuahuas play-by-play announcer Tim Hagerty and got a chance to be on the air 12 times during the season. He was the sole broadcaster during six games on the road in Albuquerque when Hagerty was on vacation.
"My goal is to be in the big leagues broadcasting someday," Rifenburg said. "This experience gave me a taste of what it takes to get there and to be part of an organization and a team."
The 2021 season concluded Oct. 3. Rifenburg said he had been blessed to have had this opportunity to start his career.
"It went really well," he said, adding the Chihuahuas organization treated him well and gave him many chances to learn and grow as a young broadcaster.
Looking to continue his dream
Rifenburg is applying to minor league baseball clubs with openings and is hopeful to continue his career path.
Eventually, Rifenburg's dream is to work as a professional MLB broadcaster. During the pandemic, to supplement his income, he worked as a licensed financial advisor at World Financial Group. Starting mid-October, he's working full-time with the company in El Paso.
He hopes to land a minor league broadcasting job in the near future and is optimistic about his chances.
He said he believes in himself and feels he will find a team that will give him a chance, and is looking forward to the next step in his career.
"I wouldn't trade it for anything," Rifenburg said about working for the Chihuahuas. "It's a great organization to work for, and the fans are great. It was a good experience for me."
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and things shut down in March of 2020, the Chihuahuas team was at a standstill. The club's entire 2020 season eventually was called off.
Rifenburg said that some minor ballclubs cut back with people being furloughed or losing their jobs. However, he said he was fortunate because El Paso kept its employees. He performed a lot of media relations work and went out into the community, including distributing food to homeless veterans.
He was part of an online broadcast that kept fans connected to the team and gave them updates. Rifenburg was a host and contributed to Chihuahuas Chatter, a weekly show produced live for social media. Rifenburg also broadcast online video game segments, featuring staff members and sponsors, which streamed on social media.
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During the season that started in May, he was part of the broadcast team for some games, which he said was memorable. He said he learned a lot from Hagerty about how to conduct himself as a professional, such as properly interviewing players and other facets of broadcasting.
"It was extremely helpful to me," Rifenburg said. "He went out of his way to mentor me."
Broadcasting in Albuquerque
A highlight for him was getting the opportunity to broadcast by himself for road games in Albuquerque when Hagerty went on vacation. He called six games, although due to weather, one was delayed until the next day and the other one was finished in September. And Hagerty completed the game a month later.
One of the games was on the Fourth of July. While it was delayed after five innings due to rain, one of the El Paso players, Luke Westfall, was throwing a no-hitter. Unfortunately, the game didn't because the game was delayed. A game needs to be nine innings long to be considered an official no-hitter, and the game went only six innings.
"It was amazing to get hands-on experience and be a part of games like this," Rifenburg said. "I learned so much."
Proud mom thanks fans
Theresa Riffenburg was able to head to El Paso for a few days last month and see where her son worked.
"It was amazing to spend time watching Anthony work and the respect his co-workers have for him," she said. "It was a privilege to be able to sit close by and watch him work. He has truly perfected his craft in how he calls a game."
She said she is proud of her son and how he is following his dream.
"Words cannot even express how proud I am of what he has accomplished," she said. "I'm so excited to see what the future holds for him. It warms my heart and makes me smile to see him living that dream he had as a little boy."
Since he began broadcasting games at YHS, "there has been so much community support," which means a lot to her and her son, his mother said.
"He has quite a fan base — way too many individuals to list — from our little town," she said. "I just want to say thank you to all of you from the bottom of my heart for all the support you have given Anthony."
Bill Choy covers sports and general news for the Siskiyou Daily News/Mount Shasta Herald/USA Today Network. Follow him on Twitter at@SDNBillChoy. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism by subscribing today.