From Durham to Tokyo: Bulls radio broadcaster calling Olympics swimming

WRAL-TV is featuring stories about local connections to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on the nightly half-hour Olympic Zone.  A story on Monday, July 26, 2021, hits particularly close to home for Capitol Broadcasting: an interview with Patrick Kinas, play-by-play announcer and the voice of the Durham Bulls, who is calling swimming at the 2020 Olympic games:

As the radio voice for the Durham Bulls, Patrick Kinas makes a living with his words, and he summed up the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic last year succinctly: “It was awful.”

Rather than the hustle and bustle of a minor league baseball season and his other radio gigs, Kinas was left with nothing to do as sports shut down for months.

“Literally, I had zero on my schedule,” he said recently. “The Tokyo Olympics for Westwood One, the Bulls, college football in the fall – everything was wiped off.”

But the pandemic helped change his outlook on life and also led to an unprecedented opportunity.

A trip to a Panda Express restaurant in Raleigh and an interaction with a homeless man at the Wake Forest Road interchange for Interstate 440 led Kinas to buy the man lunch and listen to his story. That, in turn, led to routine food deliveries to the needy and a change of perspective.

“I felt like my heart was always in a good spot before, but I think I’ve really grown to understand that there’s so much more that I can do,” Kinas said. “As an adult in the community with a bit of a voice, [I had] to figure out what I can do to service my community, and that’s something I really never thought about. I was more worried about who’s starting tomorrow night for the Bulls.”

Such humanity is the strength of his broadcasting, he said.

“I’ve always been somebody whose broadcasting style was more about stories, less about stats, more about cool human anecdotes and less about batting average with runners in scoring position,” he said, adding that the pandemic only reinforced that.

“Now, getting through the pandemic, the stories are much more magnified, and we all have gone through this together,” he said.

When the Olympics shifted to 2021, Kinas figured he wouldn’t be involved. Westwood One had decided not cover the postponed Games on the radio.

That changed while waiting at a McDonald’s drive-thru on his way to Greenville in April to cover an East Carolina University baseball game.

“I will never screen a call from a New York area code again,” he said of deciding not to answer the call.

The caller, an NBC executive, wanted to know if Kinas was interested in broadcasting the U.S. Olympic swimming trials and preliminary swimming heats in Tokyo.

“I was just stunned,” he said. “I had to listen to [the voicemail] a second time. One, to just affirm I heard what I thought I heard, and then, two, to make sure I had her name right because I wasn’t going to call her back and then misidentify her and then have the offer rescinded.”

Kinas is no stranger to Olympic coverage. He covered the 2016 Games in Brazil on radio, highlighted by calling the finish of swimming legend Michael Phelps’ final gold medal. But he said he cannot believe his good fortune this time, working on television at an event like no other.

“Last summer, had the games taken place, [NBC] had their portfolio of broadcasters set, and I wasn’t on it, nor did I expect to be,” he said. “Parents and some coaches and teammates of these athletes, they can’t go. So, all of these athletes, all of these family members, all these fans, are going to be watching this – us.”

The opportunity created a new set of challenges, however. Instead of finding stories on a handful of swimmers who were likely to medal, Kinas has had to research hundreds of swimmers from around the world.

“I’ve been spending probably eight or 10 hours a day for the last month working through these athletes and working through some of these stories,” he said. “A fair number of these athletes aren’t your well-known household names, like Katy Ledecky and Caeleb Dressell and others. They will be from countries that we may or may not have necessarily heard of.”

While the pandemic separated people for months, Kinas said he hopes the experience can also bring everyone together during the Games.

“You start talking about how this player got through the pandemic or how this swimmer trained to get ready for the Tokyo Olympics when they didn’t have access to gyms and pools. We all can understand that,” he said. “My job is to be that voice, find those stories and package them in a way that’s makes the people watching and listening root for them a little bit more.”

Kinas said he understands how the athletes feel, living out their Olympic dreams,

“This is something I’ve been hoping for and dreaming about for years and years and years,” he said.

Thanks to WRALSportsFan and WRAL-TV’s Cullen Browder for this Capcom story & video.

Tune in to WRAL-TV’s Olympic Zone nightly for more stories like this one about Kinas. The live half-hour special will air Monday – Saturday at 7:30pm ET during the Tokyo Olympics.

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