As we’ve been doing of late, today’s While We’re Waiting is another “Getting to Know You” Q&A with a member of the Ohio sports industry. Previous features include Allie Raymond of the Cleveland Browns, Kevin Kleps of Crain’s Cleveland and Bobby Hoekstra of the Cleveland Indians.
This week’s guest: Ryan Pritt, frequent on-field host for the Cleveland Indians and co-founder of his own company, Pritt Entertainment Group, based in Akron. You can follow Ryan on Twitter at @RyanPritt and on Instagram at @RyanPritt.
WFNY: In a nutshell, how would you explain Pritt Entertainment Group?
Ryan Pritt: We’re a creative agency. We specialize in intro videos, animations and graphics packages when we work with sports teams. But we also work with corporations and organizations in other industries, from all over from Ohio to California to Texas. We’re all over the place with what we do and we have a very lucky situation here where we have a very versatile staff and we’ve got it covered whether doing work in corporate or sports.
WFNY: When did the company get started?
Ryan Pritt: We founded the company in 2008, so this is actually our 10-year anniversary this year, which is crazy. It was a little bit of a coincidence in terms of how it all got started. I never really had planned on starting a company. My brother Jeffrey and I co-own the company.
At the time, I had been working with the Indians, The Q, back then the Cleveland Barons, and a hockey team in Youngstown which were then the SteelHounds in the Central Hockey League, sort of like the Double-A of hockey. But after the SteelHounds folded, then I took a full-time job running the video board productions for Kent State University. I thought it would be a good fit. I grew up in Suffield, which wasn’t far away. But in the end, I was only there at Kent for a short period of time.
It was kind of a weird convergence of situations and within a matter of a week, the new Lake Erie Monsters approached me about whether I’d come back to do the PA for them. It definitely intrigued me as the Barons were my first pro sports job in Cleveland. When the Barons left, I felt there was some unfinished business for me in terms of hockey in Cleveland. And with the Cavs backing the Monsters, I felt there was a real possibility to succeed. I thought that was a really cool opportunity.
And within that same week, a new hockey team signed a contract to move into the Covelli Centre in Youngstown. And they also called me out of the blue and asked if I’d be interested in running game ops for them, too. So, I felt there was a little unfinished business with the hockey situation in Youngstown too, like the Barons.
Basically, at the time, when this all happened, I remember being pretty overwhelmed about the right thing to do. I remember talking with my brother Jeffrey as all these things were lining up. Jeffrey had actually worked for me at the SteelHounds previously, too. He’s better than me at producing and the like; I’m better at scripting and such. And from there, we decided to go in together and start this company. I left the full-time position at Kent State, and 10 years later, we’re still around. It was a really crazy set of circumstances and I wasn’t unhappy at Kent State, but when these opportunities came up, it was just really exciting to me.
WFNY: Did you always envision yourself working in sports? How’d you first land these opportunities with the Indians and Barons, anyway?
Ryan Pritt: To go way back, it all started when I realized I wasn’t that good at playing sports. Growing up, I would eat, breathe and sleep all about sports. But I also was small and scrawny. Tom Hamilton’s job was my dream growing up. I would actually record myself doing play-by-play off video games and would try to perfect my skills at announcing. I always loved it.
When I was in high school, I did some of the announcing at the time for soccer, baseball, and football. I was actually doing a summer high school baseball league at Kent State. I had done baseball PA announcing for Field High School previously. Somebody had taken notice of me that worked for that summer league and they asked if I was willing to come and do the jobs at Kent State. I’m sure they paid me like $25, which when I was in high school, that was just great.
Ironically, I was 15 at the time. So, doing that summer league, the Indians actually had a scout at one of the games. And they would like to come up and sit in the press box at times because it was sunny and 90 degrees. And one of the scouts came up and said, “Hey, you’re really good. I think the Scrappers may have an opening.” So, I reached out, but the Scrappers had just made their decision for that year.
But they said they’d keep me in mind for the future. And since they’re short-season and start in late June, I remember I had auditioned when it was just too late. But the following year, they reached out and asked if I was still interested. So, at 16, I took the job and that was my first venture into doing it professionally.
That same year, I was interning at WTAM 1100, and I saw that the Barons were looking for a PA announcer at the Q. So, I went over to one of those voice recording studios and sent over a demo to the Barons. I went up against a guy who had worked for the Penguins previously and all these things and I thought it’d be going nowhere since I was just 16. But an hour after I interviewed, I remember they called and offered the job. I was out at dinner with my mom at the time.
From there, I made some connections and started out with the Indians. I started doing some graphics and some stadium music, then the in-park hosting for a couple of years. Over the years, I really did everything there was to do in terms of the scoreboard over there.
WFNY: So what years did you work for the Indians?
Ryan Pritt: I can’t recall off hand. Oh, well, funnily enough, somebody random created a Wikipedia page for me, so let me check that. … April 2006 is when I started. The Indians were awesome. It was the most fun job I ever had and being at all the games, interacting with all the fans, I loved it. But as our company got bigger, 81 games was a lot of games and it just became too much. But I still come in and host sometimes, a few games here or there when they need someone, like earlier this year. I’ve actually probably done a majority of the games this year.
WFNY: Wait a second … let’s get the timeline straight. How young were you when all this happened? When did you graduate from college?
Ryan Pritt: I graduated from Akron in 2008. That was the same year when we started PEG. In a matter of a few months, graduating from Akron, starting at Kent State, and then starting the company.
WFNY: Do you get recognized frequently in public from your work at the Indians?
Ryan Pritt: Yeah, definitely. Especially in that role, you are very visible. By nature, especially with baseball, there are those defined inning breaks and those are set aside two minutes to turn your attention to the video board. It’s definitely something where I do get recognized both inside and outside the ballpark.
But really, they’ve got a great group of fans, which makes it fun, because I’m always down to talk baseball with people. It’s always fun to talk with season-ticket holders and when you’re doing that for 81 games a year like I was doing for a while, you get to know people. We’ve had people that would see us out there all the time. People would bring home-baked goods for us at the end of the year! And I’m not just saying this, but they really do have a great group of fans. Baseball, in particular, compared to all the other sports, it’s just such a relaxed atmosphere. It’s nice in baseball where you have a lot more time to relax, get to know people and even talk a bit while the game is going on.
WFNY: How many individuals work for Pritt Entertainment Group now?
Ryan Pritt: We have seven full-time employees at the moment. Which, obviously when we started 10 years ago, it was just myself and Jeffrey and we worked out of the guest bedroom of my house. But it’s cool, we have a building in downtown Akron where our office is located. It’s been fun over the years to watch our team grow and thinking back to moving out of that guest bedroom to our first office and now to this full building on the corner of Main and Cedar. The quality of work that we’ve been able to produce has just grown leaps and bounds.
WFNY: What is your favorite thing about what you do?
Ryan Pritt: Obviously, the people that I work with are awesome. They make great stuff and they’re a blast. But from a workflow perspective, every single day is different. There are days that are laidback. We have an NBA Jam machine in our office and it’s fun to play around with. But there are other days when it’s crazy and proposals are everywhere, and you don’t know what you’re going to walk into. But it’s a lot of fun. We really do get to work with such a diverse group of clients, from doing product videos with corporations to intro videos with NHL teams to live game production with college teams, it’s really all over the place and it’s always different. That’s probably why 10 years have gone so fast.
WFNY: What neighborhood do you live in now?
Ryan Pritt: I live in Akron, about a 10-minute drive from work downtown. I grew up in Suffield, but then moved to Akron after that and have been here ever since. I’ve always been a Northeast Ohio guy. Northeast Ohio is certainly in my blood.
WFNY: Aside from work, what are some of your favorite things to do?
Ryan Pritt: I love to travel. And I think I’ve been fortunate to do a lot of traveling, both for fun and for work projects. Traveling, hanging out with friends, I’m always down for a cookout or going out to the lakes. Or also, obviously, the downtown eating challenge. I never say no to eating out anywhere. When I travel, it’s a lot less about doing the touristy things and more so about where can I go out to eat and drink.
WFNY: Finally, what are some of your favorite places to eat in downtown Akron?
Ryan Pritt: I’m always a sucker for D.B.A. That’s probably my No. 1 place where I like to go for food. I also like Nuevo a lot. The Lockview is still a staple and that was my college bar before it got popular, so I’ll always have a soft spot for that. That would probably be my top-3, but if you’re ever looking for a late-night pizza at 1 a.m., there’s always Luigi’s, of course.