Mike Kincaid had no idea holding a camera light for an ESPN sideline reporter would have led to this.
The Sykesville native thought it sounded like fun, taking a gig as a production assistant for the network's broadcast of a Penn State football game.
He was a sophomore in college at the time, a few years graduated from South Carroll High School (Class of 2003). But Kincaid said he soon realized he loved helping make the broadcast run smoothly.
"All I did was hold a little light for [ESPN's] Lisa Salters," Kincaid said. "I followed her around all day, but I worked hard and I just fell in love with the sports industry. TV is awesome."
Kincaid, 29, lives in Perry Hall and teaches part-time at Aberdeen High School by day. He helps coach football, basketball and wrestling at the school. But he's able to leave school early and make the trip to Camden Yards, where his job description takes a sharp turn.
Kincaid is in his second year as a ballpark camera technician for MLB Network, which means it's his responsibility to make sure video and sound equipment is tested and ready to go for baseball broadcasts. Same goes for instant replays, which have become state-of-the-art in a hurry now that Major League Baseball uses them to review controversial plays during games.
Kincaid estimated he has logged in more than 100 games this year between Baltimore and Washington working Orioles and Nationals broadcasts.
"I love it," he said. "I think my career in TV is getting more and more [important] than my teaching career too. I'm going to have to make some decisions here pretty soon."
MLB Network has cameras in all 32 big league ballparks, so it's up to Kincaid and his co-workers to ensure they're set for live look-ins during the year. The same goes for connections with sideline reporters and studio interviews, which is where Kincaid gained some recent celebrity status.
He was on hand to oversee a TV interview in Baltimore with Detroit's Torii Hunter, who was talking with Chris Rose and former Orioles player Kevin Millar on the MLB Network show "Intentional Talk." Rose and Millar joked with Hunter about Tigers pitcher Joba Chamberlain's unruly beard, which he had been growing since the start of the season.
Suddenly, a headset-wearing Kincaid came into view with Hunter to show off his own shaggy facial hair, and Hunter yelled for Chamberlain to come over to compare scruffs.
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"It was awkward, but it was fun. I enjoyed it," Kincaid said. "They had been making fun of me all year. I started growing my beard at the beginning of the baseball season just like Joba did. All throughout the year they were like, 'What's up Joba?' He's awesome. I thought he had a great sense of humor. It was freakish how much alike we looked with beards.
"I always remind [Millar] what he looked like in the '90s though, with his highlights. I won't let him get away with too much."
Kincaid said this year has been a blast being able to watch two playoff teams and not travel very far in the process. When baseball season ends, Kincaid said he'll switch to basketball. He has a similar job working college basketball games at the University of Maryland, and Kincaid said there's a good chance he'll be working for both ESPN and the Big Ten Network during the winter months.
And he's already looking forward to 2015 — Kincaid said he'll be helping MLB Network introduce a GPS-like tracking graphic that will allow viewers to see everything from how fast it takes a baserunner to get from first to second to the way a pitcher throws the ball and an outfielder's desired route to catch a fly.
Seems like holding that camera light years ago has turned into a passion for the Carroll County native.
"That's how this business works. You freelance," Kincaid said. "That's the reason why I got the beard, man. Nobody really knows you by your first name. You've got to have some kind of characteristic that people know you by other than your work ethic."
Reach staff writer Pat Stoetzer at 410-857-7894 or firstname.lastname@example.org.