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Squan grad Zientek earns Emmy for work with MLB Network

August 4, 2011

Manasquan graduate Wesley Zientek knew he wanted to devote his professional life to sports, — he just didn’t know if it would be possible.

“I loved sports, but I wasn’t really sure if I could do it professionally [after college],” he said Monday. “I always heard you can’t make a living off of it.”

Just nine years later, Zientek would hold an Emmy Award for his work as an associate producer on the MLB [Major League Baseball] Network.

After graduating from Manasquan High School in 1997, Zientek went on to Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. There, Zientek played football for the Colonels, graduating in 2001 with a degree in sociology. Despite the doubt of others and a degree not related to the field, Zientek never let the dream of a job in sports travel too far from his mind, even when his prospects looked glum.

“I always wanted to work for a team, coach, anything like that,” he said. “But in the beginning, it didn’t work out like that.”

With bills to pay, Zientek temporarily put his dreams aside, joining the work force anywhere he could get an opportunity. Zientek even moved to Arizona, residing there for four years, but decided to come back to the Garden State.

“Arizona didn’t work out for many reasons, mainly the heat,” Zientek joked.

Depending on one’s beliefs, what happened next for Zientek could be considered either destiny or a lucky break, but nonetheless, an opportunity that would change his life forever.

“A friend of my dad’s knew the coordinating producer for College Sports Television in New York,” Zientek said. “I got in touch with him and went in for an interview. They hired me as a logger.”

Starting at the bottom of the totem pole at the network in 2005, Zientek did everything in his power to show he wanted to make the most of his opportunity.

“I watched games, wrote down time codes, and logged plays happening in the games,” said Zientek. “It was pretty much the lowest level you can get into.”

Zientek’s work ethic did not go unnoticed at the network, as he work his way up through the ranks at College Sports Television.

“Every year, I moved up a little bit,” he said. “I tried to get my hands into as many things as I could in the business, from running the prompter for the live shows to inputting information for the sports ticker.”

In the midst of a down economy, Zientek felt after four-years of work at College Sports Television, it was time to take on a new challenge. With the contacts he had made in the profession, Zientek was able to land a job working for a new network, the MLB Network, which was created by Major League Baseball in January 2009.

When he first arrived on set, it was hard for Zientek, an avid sports fan, not to be in awe of the famous sports figures he encountered in studio.

“You walk around the hallways and you see Joe Torre, C.C. Sabathia — I even ran into Stan Musial one day,” Zientek said. “You have to act professional and not gawk like a kid in the stands, but inside, you pretty much are that little kid in the stands.”

Zientek continued his stellar work in the field, earning a position as an associate producer in 2010.

“It honestly made me feel that everything I went through to get here paid off,” he said. “The commuting, the long hours I worked, and everything I have been through to get here just paid off.”

On what seemed to be a normal day at the office, Zientek found out his work on the show “MLB Tonight” had helped earn the station an Emmy Award.

“I was sitting in the control room when we all found out,” said Zientek. “The producers came in and brought in the Emmy Award they received on stage. We were ecstatic, because it was only our second year on air.”

Living the life he could only have imagined years ago, Zientek, now with an Emmy Award on his résumé, will continue to work just as hard as he did the day he stepped in the door at College Sports Television, hoping to reach even greater heights in the world of sports.

“I just want to keep moving up and get to the top,” said Zientek. “That is what my parents always taught me, and what Vic Kubu [the late, former Manasquan coach who died in 2007] taught me — you cannot be complacent, and you have to strive to be on top.”

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