Tag Archives: Bruce Beck

Cam Manna: Staples Sportscaster Is A Winner

Cameron Manna is a talented, passionate sportscaster at WWPT-FM, Staples High School’s award-winning radio station.

He just won a full scholarship to Ithaca College’s prestigious Roy H. Park School of Communications.

That’s quite an achievement. It’s even more remarkable because from 3rd to 8th grade, he had speech therapy. Cam stuttered.

Cam Manna

His determination and grit are as powerful as his passions. An athlete all his life — baseball, football, basketball, you name it — he was equally fascinated by broadcasting.

“In my backyard, I pretended to be Derek Jeter,” he remembers. “But at the same time I wanted to be John Sterling” — the New York Yankees’ announcer.

At Greens Farms Elementary School, 5th grade teacher Moira Matthews encouraged him to follow his dreams. He never forgot that.

The summer before 9th grade, Cam attended a broadcasting camp run by Bruce Beck. The lead sports anchor for WNBC-TV has covered Super Bowls, World Series, NBA and NHL finals, US Open golf and tennis, the NCAA Final Four and the Olympics.

That could be intimidating for a young teen. Especially one who would stammer at the beginnings of sentences, and over certain words.

He was teased at GFS and Bedford Middle School. “People made jokes,” Cam says. “But I just used that as motivation.” He now wears a bracelet with 2 sayings: “Never give up” and “Stay scrappy.”

He never thought his stutter would prevent him from being a broadcaster. In high school, a teacher suggested he consider another career. But he had much more support — including his parents, and radio production teacher Geno Heiter.

“He never says no to an idea,” Cam says of his mentor. “He loves what he does. He gives us his absolute all, from the time he gets up till he goes to bed. He teaches leadership skills, and grooms us to be better people.”

Heiter returns the praise. “Since freshman year I have had the privilege to witness Cam evolve exponentially in areas of leadership, organization and empathy. He always delivers.”

From day one of 9th grade, Cam found a home in Heiter’s classroom and studio. The more he learned, the more confident he became. And the more responsibility he was given, the more he grew.

He was mentored by older students. He got to school at 6 a.m., for early morning shows. As a sophomore, he and longtime friend and broadcast partner Jake Gersh called some games. Last year, they won awards.

This year, as a senior, Cam is a WWPT executive coordinator.

Cam manna, in action.

“When I put my headset on, I’m in a different world,” Cam explains. “I turn on the intensity, and bring people in.

“I know I won’t play in the NFL or MLB. But there’s nothing better than talking about sports. When I’m broadcasting. I’m almost a part of the game. Just in a different way.”

Staples’ girls basketball’s double overtime loss in the 2020 FCIAC championship game was one of his highlights. “Jake and I were courtside at Trumbull,” Cam recalls. “We were in the center of all that intensity.”

Cam loves the WWPT team. But throughout Staples, he has continued to play on other teams. There’s football in the fall. This spring he’s part of Wrecker baseball, hoping to repeat as state champions.

The young broadcaster is grateful for the opportunities he’s had in Westport: mentors, technology, speech therapy. He gives a shout-out too to WWPT sportscasters who preceded him — role models like Cooper Boardman and Jack Caldwell.

Meanwhile, Cam returned every summer to Beck’s sportscasting camp. Beck returns the favor. He listened to Cam’s call of that FCIAC basketball game, and sent the audio file to ESPN. That earned him a spot on the network’s “Kidscast” of a New York Nets-Los Angeles Clippers game last spring. COVID canceled the chance. But more will come.

At Bruce Beck’s broadcasting camp.

Ithaca boasts one of the nation’s top communications schools. It’s Beck’s alma mater — and he told Cam about the Park Scholar program.

Over 500 students applied for the award, which covers all tuition, room and board. Only 20 were selected for interviews. Eight — including Cam — were ultimately selected.

Park Scholars are passionate about broadcasting and related fields, and thrive on personal challenges. Cam’s ability to conquer his stutter certainly counts.

Park Scholars are also involved in community service. At Staples, he and friend Owen Ziegler started Renew Sports. They collected used equipment at the Westport Y and ASF, then donated it to organizations like Wakeman Boys Club.

Cam will continue initiatives like that at Ithaca. He also hopes to talk to youngsters with speech impediments, inspiring them just as Moira Matthews, Geno Heiter and Bruce Beck did for him.

His dream is be the New York Knicks’ play-by-play announcer. He knows there’s a long road to Madison Square Garden, and will be happy at every stop along the way.

“I love doing this,” Cam says. “It doesn’t matter where, or what the money is. I’m just so happy bringing stories to life, and helping a community.”

(Hat tip: Victoria Capozzi)

WWPT-FM (90.3) broadcasts Staples baseball games this spring. Cam Manna will be on the diamond — not behind the mic.

Jack Caldwell Covers The Super Bowl

WWPT-FM — Staples High School’s award-winning radio station — produces great sports broadcasters as regularly as the New England Patriots used to win Super Bowls.

Jack Caldwell is the latest in that long and storied line. He’s smooth and steady. He prepares well. He knows his stuff. He’s good.

In addition to play-by-play, he does music and news. This year’s, he’s WWPT’s executive director. In his spare time, he’s broadcast director for the student newspaper Inklings.

His sports cred comes naturally. He comes from a long line of baseball fans. His grandmother told stories of listening to Vin Scully call Brooklyn Dodgers games; together, Jack and she discussed their favorite (and least favorite) announcers.

His father Chris is in sports marketing. He’s worked at every Super Bowl since XXXIV (that was in 2000, for you non-sports fans). So Jack and his dad have never had a chance to watch the big game together.

This year — as an early graduation present — Chris took Jack to Minnesota. He tried to get 2 tickets, but wasn’t sure if he could. They decided they’d watch Super Bowl LII together — even if that meant doing it at the hotel.

Sunday morning, Jack’s dad surprised him with 2 tickets.

Jack Caldwell and his dad at the Super Bowl.

Before the game on Sunday morning, Jack attended an event with broadcast personalities Trey Wingo, Tony Romo and Cris Carter. After, he chatted with them. When he said he was an aspiring broadcaster, Romo and Carter posed for this photo with him.

You’ll notice Jack’s wearing his WWPT logowear. Fans were allowed to do “mock” broadcasts on a set at US Bank Stadium. This was Jack’s first broadcast ever with his father.

I’m not a betting guy, but I bet Jack’s broadcast was better than any other fan who stepped into that booth.

It was a working weekend for Jack. He watched and learned as much as he could.

WNBC reporter Bruce Beck — an avid WWPT-FM supporter and mentor — allowed Jack to shadow him as he worked.

On Saturday — despite 6 inches of snow — he explored many media sites, and visited the ESPN set. The Lombardi Trophy was there. Well, an ice sculpture replica of it, anyway.

As for the game: Jack’s a Jets fan; his dad likes the Lions. Going in, they were “reluctantly” rooting for the Eagles. But when the training scene from “Rocky II” was shown as Philadelphia’s hype video, they were won over for the night.

It was a fantastic weekend. There’s nothing like sharing the Super Bowl with your dad.

Especially when you can take a photo like this, moments after the final whistle.

BONUS STORY ON JACK CALDWELLAs a sophomore, knee surgery forced Jack into a wheelchair for 6  months.

His favorite sport to call is ice hockey. When the Wreckers made the state semifinals — at the “Yale Whale” arena — he worried he could not get to the press box.

WWPT friends and family helped him up, then helped him set up equipment. He called the game — an overtime Staples win.

That support meant a lot to Jack. It meant even more when that broadcast earned him a 2nd-place award in the national John Drury radio competition.

Last year, Jack and the station won honors in every Drury category they entered.

WWPT-FM faculty advisor Geno Heiter (left) and student broadcasters jump for joy after earning 12 John Drury Awards.

The Super Bowl — seeing media row and shadowing Bruce Beck — was a fantastic experience. Jack learned a lot about “real world media,” and looks forward to sharing that knowledge with everyone involved in media at Staples.

For his senior internship at May, he’ll work on the “Anna & Raven Show” on Star 99.9 FM. He hopes to study broadcast journalism in college (he will hear from schools in March).

After that — well, like other WWPT sportscasters, the sky’s the limit.

The Super Bowl was an important weekend, Jack says.

“I got to have a real fan experience,” he notes. “So if I begin to cover events for real in broadcasting, now they won’t seem as daunting.”