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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Bruce Wawrzyniak

Gordon. Please share with our readers your experience as a Benedictine Oblate at the St. Leo Abbey in west central Florida.

Bruce: This has been such a tremendous complement to my faith life. While the Oblate program is designed to help you in your daily life (work and personal) in terms of incorporating your faith into everything you do and trying to keep a schedule similar to how the monks do at the Abbey, it's the on-site observation of the Benedictine lifestyle and the classes from the Abbot that are really impactful. In addition, doing self-imposed spiritual retreats there are a fantastic exercise in "going off the grid," as the saying goes, and really just immersing yourself in your one-on-one relationship with God.

Gordon: What did you enjoy most as Co-Station Manager and sports director at your college radio station?

Bruce: That was such a fun time. Being Co-Station Manager allowed me to learn various facets of the operation and interact with so many others, from students to advisors, and even outside parties in the real world who were doing radio for a living. I have a lot of memories from those days, and they're overwhelmingly good memories.

Gordon: When were you Adjunct Professor at Medaille University and what did you teach"

Bruce: I taught a Promotions Techniques course to juniors and seniors when I was VP/Public Relations at the league office for North America's premier pro indoor lacrosse league, which is still around today, the National Lacrosse League. I often think of how much more I could lend to such a class, having so much more experience under my belt now than I did back then.

Gordon: Please share with our readers an overview of your work for ten seasons at a National Hockey League team doing public relations and six of which you served concurrently as the Director of Public Relations for the pro indoor lacrosse team that the organization operated.

Bruce: This was such a busy time in my professional career, essentially doing two full-time jobs at once. It had been kind of a dream come true to work (in the PR department) for a National Hockey League team, but the indoor lacrosse opportunity was interesting in that I knew nothing about the sport, yet the players were so impressed that the NHL team was taking care of operating and promoting their games that they took me under their wing and taught me the sport as best they could and I fell in love with it. I still have my three world championship rings from those years with the lacrosse team and actually remember the exact attendance figures from the first year because no one knew what the sport was, so organizationally we didn't know what to expect.

I remember my boss telling me we'd have to hit 5,500 (attendance-wise) (per game) to break even. The first home game was 9,052 and then the second was 13,581 and after that they were all sellout crowds (over 16 thousand). I actually ended up leaving the hockey team to become VP/Public Relations at the league office for the National Lacrosse League because I'd fallen in love with the sport so much. Present day, I am in my eleventh year broadcasting the University of Tampa men's (field) lacrosse games and my tenth season broadcasting the women's lacrosse team's games there.

Gordon: When did you serve as Director of Communications for the International Softball Federation (the world governing body for the sport of softball), including being the Chief Press Officer at two Summer Olympics, and what was one of the most memorable games that you covered?

Bruce: I was with the ISF for ten-and-a-half years, traveling to 17 different countries (some of them more than once). I was the Chief Press Officer at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, and the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. The gold medal game in China was quite memorable because Japan defeated Team USA, which ended a streak of three straight Olympics where the Americans had won the gold in women’s softball.

That said, I remember being in Athens in 2004 and actress Kristin Davis was at the USA vs. Canada game and I got to sit with her for a couple innings to explain the rules, the Olympic softball competition itself, and tell her about not only the players she was watching on the field but others in the tournament as well as the efforts we were making to develop and promote the sport worldwide.

I have a video on the YouTube channel for Catholic Sports Radio talking about hearing the voice of God during my last business trip for the ISF, which was in Brazil. In the video I show pictures of my having been on a river boat that was out on the Amazon River when I got the calling that is responsible for the weekly show that I do today.

Gordon: Please share with our readers an overview of your podcasts.

Bruce: I have been doing "Now Hear This Entertainment" (music interviews) every week since February 2014, and in February 2019 I started "Catholic Sports Radio," which, like NHTE, is a weekly podcast too.

On CSR I don't report scores or talk about wins and losses or statistics. Instead, I interview guests who are Catholics in sports -- current or former athletes, coaches, referees/umpires, clergy, administrators, and more, from the pro, amateur, and scholastic ranks -- about the intersection of their faith life and their sports life.

It's so fulfilling to have a front row seat to listen to people from actor Mark Wahlberg to TV personality Mario Lopez to auto racing icon Mario Andretti to college football coaching legend Lou Holtz, not to mention current NFL and MLB players -- among many others -- talking about their faith life instead of hearing them answer the same old sports questions that they're used to getting asked.

Gordon: When did you launch Now Hear This as President? Pease share with our readers some of the most memorable highlights from that role.

Bruce: I actually created Now Hear This, Inc. after success I had getting results for a singer who I heard singing in church every week. We needed a national anthem singer for a tournament being held at the ISF world headquarters, and she did great at that and other events away from church. So, as I saw what I was able to accomplish for her, I recognized that I could provide these services to others, which helped me start up Now Hear This, Inc.

My "star client" ended up being someone I discovered in her high school's "Idol" competition, and we went on to great success around the country. She is a singer, songwriter, guitar player and I was able to get her booked to perform at the House of Blues inside Mandalay Bay on the Las Vegas "Strip" as well as at various venues in Nashville, plus the Rodeo Opry in Oklahoma, some songwriters festivals, and more. Now Hear This, Inc. still exists today although the clients aren't just performers; they're authors, entrepreneurs, and others too.

Gordon: What impact has your faith had upon your sports coverage?

Bruce: I keep a closer eye on guests that I've interviewed on "Catholic Sports Radio" to see how they're doing, both individually and their team. I also watch for signs of athletes' faith, such as if they make the sign of the cross and/or participate in a post-game prayer circle or talk about God in a post-game interview. When I broadcast the games at the University of Tampa and they play against St. Leo University, I can't resist making a reference during the broadcast to St. Leo, "the team, not the actual saint."

Gordon: Thank you for an exceptional interview.

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