When Bob Socci was younger, a career as the voice of the New England Patriots wasn’t even a thought.
“I was glued to baseball games, football games, basketball games, but particularly baseball it was my first love,” Socci said. “The New York Mets were my team.”
Socci grew up in Auburn, New York, and from age 3, was always propped in front of the television watching the Mets and other sports on all the cable superstations his home state had to offer. His passion for baseball drew him to the diamond to play himself.
“I played baseball all the time [as a kid,]” Socci said. “I lived in a neighborhood with a lot of kids, we congregated to play games and also my next door neighbor was the same age and his Dad was a huge fan.”
His next door neighbor and father took a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and with them, they brought Socci back a Tom Seaver replica home jersey. Socci wore the jersey every chance he got.
This sparked his eventual interest in broadcasting and from then on, he would find any chance he could to get behind a microphone.
“By the time I became a little leaguer and watching these games, listening to these games and admiring the players and becoming hooked on broadcasters that’s when I realized what I wanted to do,” Socci said. “I was fortunate enough in Auburn that we had a press box [at Stewart Field] and all these adults that ran little league realized that I had this love for broadcasting and they encouraged to me to pursue that love.”
So much so that the commissioner of his area’s little league would allow him to go up into the press box and announce batter’s names. After he would play his game, Socci in full uniform would go right up to the press box and take a seat next to the public address announcer.
This passion took off and he continued to pursue broadcasting at the University of Dayton. Here he worked behind the scenes in athletic and media relations. During an internship at the University of North Carolina, he concluded that relations was not for him.
“I realized during that year, working behind the scenes and helping broadcasters that I wanted to be the guy in front of the camera or behind the mic,” Socci said. “From that point on I was determined to do that.”
At the end of his 16-year tenure as Navy Football’s play-by-play broadcaster, he began a relationship with who would become his wife Dr. Monique Tello.
Wanting to start a family, Socci moved to Boston when Tello was offered her dream job.
“We wanted to have a family, grandparents nearby to help raise the family and there was only one place to do that and that was Boston,” Socci said. “We got engaged and she got an offer she couldn’t refuse in 2008, and I started knocking on doors and eventually I got an audience with [98.5 The Sports Hub] after they launched in 2009.”
Socci met with the program director Mike Thomas and assistant program director Rick Radzik voicing his interest to join the network. At the time however, there simply wasn’t any room.
“They didn’t have anything for me,” Socci said. “But I left a CD that featured samples of my work at Navy and part of that CD was a 10-15 minute excerpt from a Navy and Ohio State football game and lucky for me Rick [Radzik] listened to it.”
Three years later, in Dec, 2012 with only weeks left in the Patriots’ regular season, Socci received a fateful email from Patriots radio network executive producer Howie Sylvester. Around a week before that, Socci had interviewed with the Red Sox’ minor league affiliate in Pawtucket.
“I had interviewed within a week with the Pawtucket Red Sox for one of their two radio positions that were open,” Socci said. After I finished, one of the individuals who was interviewing me asked ‘Is there anything we should know about,’ And I said thinking that it was a complete long shot if not a no shot for the Patriots job I told them ‘You know it’s probably not gonna happen but I do have an interview with The Sports Hub next week for the Patriots opening’ And they were impressed by that and surprised.”
As fate would have it, Socci was offered the Patriots’ job and praised the Pawtucket organization for their understanding with 98.5 taking a little longer to make their decision.
“We started the season with the understanding that things could change for me,” Socci said. “About a week into the season, we were in Allentown, Pennsylvania and I was in the press box and Mike Thomas called me and said ‘I have some good news and bad news.'”
The good news of course was that Socci was chosen to be the next broadcaster for the Patriots and the bad news was giving up Pawtucket.
Socci continued to call the PawSox games from April to June as they worked on a seamless booth transition. In July, it was pedal to the metal on the Patriots job.
Before his first game, he had a conversation with late Patriots Hall of Fame commentator Gil Santos which helped him get through the first game jitters.
“[Santos] told me before my first broadcast with the Patriots ‘Look, there are going to be people that don’t like the way you do it because they liked the way I did it, but just remember there are people that are going to like the way you do it because they didn’t like the way I did it, so just be yourself.'”
From the start, Socci has called games with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak. Much like the “Lethal Weapon” duo Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, they couldn’t be more opposite.
“Zo and I are different in so many ways,” Socci said. “I mean we’re physically different, personalities extremely different, our viewpoints on a lot of things in life are different, he’s the jock with blond hair, outgoing, life of the party and kind of has a rockstar status and I’m the little guy who was too chubby and too slow and not athletic enough to advance beyond aspirations to play college baseball.”
Even in the way they do the job, Socci takes the “Murtaugh” route to Zolak’s “Riggs” type bombastic style to make a team that clashes well.
“My approach is more nuts and bolts and I’m the guy who plays it straight most of the time in the booth,” Socci said. “Over the course of the time we’ve related with one and other on-air, and we complement one and other and our broadcast I think has gained acceptance for the most part.”
Socci and Zolak have called three Patriots’ Super Bowl victories matching their predecessors. Even still, in the days of social media while Socci has taken criticism to heart like calling the down and distance on the field more, some comments he lets roll right off his shoulders.
“It’s a subjective profession and there are always going to be people that don’t like you,” Socci said. “I learn how to compartmentalize [the social media comments] because some are constructive, some are legitimate, and some are completely out of bounds and totally inaccurate and so personal, vulgar and vile that you don’t give them any credibility.”
With dreams at the start to become a baseball announcer, Socci is grateful that his career took another direction as he has been able to balance what are now his two loves. Family and football.
“There’s nothing to complain about in regards to my schedule,” Socci said. “I’m still very fortunate, I have dinner most nights at home, when we travel, we typically leave on a Saturday requiring me to be at the stadium late morning for an early afternoon departure and then we charter and we come home right after the game, so we can play a [1:00 p.m.] game in Buffalo or Cincinnati and I can still be home to tuck my kids in bed at night.”
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