Jon Rish, the fill-in play-by-play voice and host for WEEI’s Red Sox broadcasts, resigned Monday after being asked to take a pay cut by parent company Entercom.
Rish, who had been working without a contract since the end of the year, informed WEEI program director Jason Wolfe of his decision three hours before the first pitch of the Red Sox home opener.
“I didn’t want to tell Jason by phone. I wanted to tell him in person,” said Rish, whose relationship with Wolfe goes back to 1993, when Rish was an intern on Dale Arnold’s program, which Wolfe produced. “He was speechless.”
Rish, who has been the pregame and postgame host on the network since 2006, did not want to comment on the specifics of his compensation.
But industry sources said he was asked to take a 30 percent reduction in salary, the latest of several instances of cost-cutting by Entercom, the most notable of which was the firing of afternoon drive host Glenn Ordway in mid-February.
“I will say I could no longer justify working for Entercom,” Rish said. “It wasn’t fair to me and it wasn’t workable for my family. It’s a very difficult decision to explain to other people because calling Red Sox games is viewed as a dream job. But it was not as difficult a decision for me as you might think. It was not a difficult decision to explain to my wife.”
While the decision to leave a prominent broadcasting gig during the season may seem an emotional choice, Rish is convincing when he says it was actually a practical one.
“I’m 40. I’ve been doing this for a long time,” he said. “More than 20 years if you include student radio. It’s been great. I don’t regret a single second of it.
“But I have four kids [a son, who turns 12 in May, and three daughters, ages 8, 7, and 2]. The first one is going to be going to college in six years and then the parade continues after that. And the state of the radio industry isn’t what it used to be.”
Rish, who has been called upon to team with Joe Castiglione for a few broadcasts this season already with Dave O’Brien calling the women’s Final Four for ESPN, has been the fill-in voice on the game broadcasts since 2008.
He often has filled in on Wednesdays in recent years when O’Brien has been away calling “Wednesday Night Baseball” for ESPN.
This season, he was scheduled to do the same on Mondays with O’Brien’s ESPN duties having been switched to that day. He will remain on the job until April 24. His remaining play-by-play duties will include Monday’s Patriots Day game.
While Rish’s decision, which was first reported by Boston Sports Media Watch, may have surprised his WEEI colleagues, he said he had prepared for his departure for several months.
“I wasn’t blindsided at all,” he said. “It was completely foreseeable. I could see it coming from a mile away. Which is why I think I’m at peace with the decision. I’ve had so long to see it coming, process it, and come to a good place with it.”
Rish has decided to leave the business altogether. He has been accepted into a training program to become a software developer and will begin that career path May 1.
“I’m looking forward to something different,” he said. “It’s the right time for me and my family.”
Castiglione, whom Rish referred to as a mentor, said he will miss working with Rish.
“I’m sorry to lose Jon,” Castiglione said. “He did a great job with us. Such a professional. He did a very solid job on play-by-play and has so many things going for him. He’s a very bright guy. He had his own computer program for keeping score at a ballgame, and I’m sure he’ll be very good at what he’s pursuing. He’ll be missed a lot.”
It’s uncertain who will replace Rish, though Celtics pregame and postgame host John Ryder is a logical choice.
Dale Arnold has handled the fill-in play-by-play duties in the past, but his responsibilities as NESN’s Bruins studio host would seem to preclude him from doing so again, especially in the condensed NHL season. As of Tuesday afternoon, he had not been asked to step in by WEEI.