Lost in the shuffle of the Saskatchewan Roughriders condensed preseason was the debut of their new radio broadcast team.
Derek Taylor’s off-season move to Winnipeg sparked a game of musical chairs that moved Michael Ball from the postgame show to the play-by-play microphone.
‘Ballsy,’ as he is better known to Regina listeners, made his Riders debut for the Green and White’s 25-16 loss to Winnipeg and then flew over western Canada to make his first road broadcast when Saskatchewan capped the preseason with a 20-18 loss to the B.C. Lions.
Ball, who grew up in Regina, played junior football for the Regina Rams in the early 1990’s and later broadcast their games for many years, admits he’s had some rust to shake off in the early going of his CFL play-by-play run.
“It was a surreal moment to be in the booth realizing a childhood dream. It couldn’t have gone any better except I was losing my voice since it was the first time I called a football game in three years, but it was the preseason for me too,” Ball said.
“All in all, it can only get better from here, I take this job very seriously and I have passion for this league and this team.”
Ball’s colour partner in the booth is retired Roughriders’ defensive lineman Luc Mullinder, who is already working with his third play-by-play caller in just his fifth season in the booth. Despite going from being the new guy to grizzled veteran in such a short time, Mullinder doesn’t treat it that way.
“I’ll never consider myself a ‘grizzled vet’ simply because I see myself as a student of the game that is always going to try and find ways to get better,” Mullinder said.
“You had to have that mentality as a player and I think it serves me well as someone who really enjoys engaging with the best fan base in Canada.”
As for how the new guy is working out, so far so good, according to Mullinder.
“Michael Ball has an exciting mix of passion for the game of football and passion for the province of Saskatchewan,” Mullinder said. “It’s a great fit for the role and I think he’s going to surprise everyone.”
Being the voice of the Riders puts Ball in exclusive company, indeed, becoming just the sixth person to fill that role on a full-time basis in the last 40 years. That short list includes the late Tim Dancy (1983-1985), Geoff Currier (1986-1997), Steve Brown (1998), Rod Pedersen (1999-2018) and Derek Taylor (2019, 2021).
The merry-go-round of broadcaster changes has had big time implications for the popular post-game show, Rider Roundtable, also heard on the Riders’ flagship station, 620 CKRM.
Ball had hosted that program off and on for more than 20 years. His role has been filled by Daniella Ponticelli, who on both of her debut preseason broadcasts was joined by former Riders’ star running back Wes Cates and legendary CTV Regina sports reporter, Don Hewitt.