Jeffries overcomes long odds, lands dream job with Nashville Sounds

Thursday, July 4, 2024
J.T. Jeffries, a Northview High School alum, will be working 30-40 games as one of three on-field emcees for the Nashville Sounds, the Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, this summer.
Contributed photo/Nashville Sounds

Being instrumental members of the Big Fun Band, Ric and Linda Jeffries introduced their son, J.T., to the world of entertainment at a young age.

Jeffries said that lit a passion inside of him.

And being a massive sports fan, he would attend Northview boys basketball games during the early 2000s and listen intently to Frank Misner on the mic. It was then Jeffries made the choice that he would pour his heart and soul into sports entertainment, which began with him announcing North Clay Middle School games and then turned into Northview and Clay City High School games for the Brazil Times.

“I became interested in entertaining very early. My parents, Ric and Linda Jeffries, are local musicians and watching them entertain and having me on stage with them really instilled a passion in me,” said Jeffries. “I began listening to Frank Misner as he announced Northview basketball during the Logan Whitman-Zack Keyes years. I knew then I wanted to be a part of sports announcing and entertainment.

“Dana Harlan, one of my seventh-grade teachers at Honey Creek Middle School, gave me my first opportunity to announce basketball while Charley Jackson was coaching at North Clay Middle School. Charley met me one of my first days after transferring to Northview and gave me the opportunity to announce sports at Northview,” Jeffries continued. “Later in high school, John Brush asked me to do color commentary with him for ESPN and then Jason Moon and Jeanne Burris gave me the opportunity to, what is now known as live stream, both Northview and Clay City games for the Brazil Times. That was long before livestreaming was common.”

After graduating from Northview, Jeffries spent two years at Vincennes University. And while he was getting all of his transcripts and other paperwork rounded up to transfer to Indiana State University the next fall, he was introduced to Casey DeGroote, the then-General Manager for the Terre Haute Rex of the Prospect League, who hired Jeffries as the team’s on-field emcee.

“I completed my associate’s degree in Sports Management at Vincennes University and was preparing to transfer to ISU when Brock Leslie had his wife, Rachel, introduce me to Casey DeGroote, who was then-General Manager for the Terre Haute Rex. Casey hired me and I felt as if my dreams were finally taking off,” Jeffries recalled.

Feeling like his dreams of working in the sports entertainment industry were finally taking off, Jeffries, going about his business in a manner that he viewed as being normal, was in for an even bigger surprise.

“At the end of my first game with the Terre Haute Rex, I noticed John Newton, an owner of the Rex and working for the ISU Foundation, shaking hands with guests as they left the ballpark, so I stood alongside him and shook hands too. While that seemed the natural thing to do, it caught his attention. He took me under his wing and from there, ISU Athletic Director Ron Prettyman hired me to emcee Indiana State Athletics,” said Jeffries. “Those four years at ISU really solidified my desire to work in entertainment, particularly fan engagement.”

As Jeffries worked towards his master’s degree at Indiana State, he was also honing his craft in the business he always dreamed of working in, which opened doors for other sports entertainment opportunities for the Clay County native.

“While completing my master’s, I began to understand how important bringing the fans into the game was to the business side. Until then, I only knew that I loved getting people involved in the game,” Jeffries said. “During that time Todd Weber, a former coach of mine from the Terre Haute Boys and Girls Club, encouraged me to do a video application for a contest called ‘Face of myFox10.’ This amazing opportunity gave me an opportunity to work within the media, the community, and Division-I college sports at the same time. Learning how each of these components work independently was challenging, but seeing how they worked together provided the experience I needed to succeed at a major sport level.”

However, after graduation, Jeffries had a difficult time finding a job in his field. It led to him taking up miscellaneous jobs such as working in lawn care and at a chiropractor’s office as well as cleaning apartments before eventually landing a position on the Indiana Pacers’ Front Office Operations Staff.

“I worked for WMMC radio for a bit before being offered an opportunity with the Pacers. Working with the Pacers was exciting, and I was able to gain some wonderful experience with front office operations with a major sports entity,” said Jeffries.

Jeffries was grateful to be back in the sports world, but it wasn’t the exact role he was hoping for. That job was still out there for him, and Jeffries thought he landed it with the St. Louis Cardinals.

That was until COVID-19 shut the world down.

“Many years before, I had heard of a man who ran an entertainment business out of the St. Louis area. He was also the emcee for the St. Louis Cardinals. I sent him an email just to connect. In what I believe was more than just a coincidence, I had the opportunity to meet him personally at a Missouri Valley Conference tournament,” recalled Jeffries. “My father has always impressed upon me to shake a man’s hand and look him in the eye. I did. He offered me an opportunity to work with the St. Louis Cardinals. I was to leave on Thursday when the World shut down for Covid. I was crushed. Covid changed life. The sports world shut down entirely. One day, I was offered a dream job. The next, I was sitting on the couch unemployed.”

Jeffries didn’t spend much time sulking and feeling sorry for himself. He instead returned to the working world for the Child Support Enforcement Office until COVID slowed down and the Terre Haute Rex resumed playing baseball at Bob Warn Field.

It was then that another normal occurrence at the ballpark turned into the biggest break of Jeffries’ career.

“I was blessed during that time to be hired by my former youth league basketball coach and Vigo County Prosecutor, Terry Modesitt, to work within the Child Support Enforcement Office. The only skill set that I brought to the job outside of knowing how to run a computer was the fact that I could talk to people. I even received a review on Google for being helpful,” said Jeffries. “As the world began recovering from Covid, the Rex season was once again heating up. One night I noticed a man sitting in the bleachers by himself wearing a Nashville Sounds jersey. I struck up a conversation with him. He was in town on business and just stopped in to watch some baseball. I told him I had made an application with the Nashville Sounds and hoped to get to Nashville someday. We exchanged contact information, and he told me that if I got to Nashville to look him up. [He was a] nice guy.

“I still had a burning desire to work in sports entertainment, but I was raised that you worked a job while you chase your dreams,” Jeffries continued. “So, a friend from Terre Haute who had moved to Nashville let me know of an opportunity there to work in pharmaceutical sales. I was on my way to Nashville.”

While working in the Music City in pharmaceutical sales, Jeffries received an email from the same man he had chatted with at the Rex game. The Northview alum informed him that he’d relocated to Nashville, which was met with a text message telling him to stop by First Horizon Park, the Nashville Sounds’ ballpark.

“One day, I received a staying-in-touch email from the gentleman who had stopped in to watch a baseball game in Terre Haute and struck up a conversation with a kid who was doing what he loved. I told him I had relocated to Nashville. His response? ‘Meet me at the ballpark.’ I did. He took me to the marketing director and introduced me. I was elated. I thought I was finally going to have a shot to move one level higher to my goal,” Jeffries said.

Despite having what he felt was a productive introductory meeting with the Sounds, Jeffries didn’t hear back from the organization for nearly a year.

That was until a random afternoon when he received a phone call from a number with a 615-area code. Although he knew that it could be literally anyone from the Nashville area, Jeffries had the instinct to go ahead and answer, and he was glad he did.

“Nearly a year later, I got a call asking if I would like to join the Sounds as an emcee. My reaction? Mixed. Total excitement. Overwhelmed. But more importantly, grateful. I knew I had worked hard and put in the time, but I also know that doors don’t always open,” said Jeffries. “I am a man of faith and truly believe that I was being given this opportunity for a higher purpose. I don’t take any of it for granted.”

Hired on as one of three emcees for the Nashville Sounds, Jeffries will be spending 30-40 nights at the ballpark this summer.

What’s a typical night look like for him? Well, it just depends on the day and if the Sounds are victorious at the end of the game. But for the most part, the pregame portion of the day stays fairly consistent, Jeffries said.

“I get to the stadium about an hour and a half before game time for a pregame meeting with a producer, video engineer, audio engineer, Booster (our amazing mascot) and some assistants. We go over each of the scheduled promotions for the evening and how we plan to execute them. We then gear up in matching jerseys and get started. Logistics are critical. First Horizon Stadium is huge, getting from one promotion to the next requires logistical planning. We move as a team,” said Jeffries.

“Following the team meeting, I review the script for the evening. I look for a way I can maximize crowd interaction. The team then moves to pregame activities,” Jeffries added. “The first promotion of every game is the Kraft All-Stars where I interview a kid and put it on this monster-sized big screen that’s shaped like a giant guitar. Next, I get to take the line with the team for the national anthem. As the game gets underway, I really get busy. Two cool promotions that I do are the Simba Cam, where they play the introduction to ‘Circle of Life’ from the Lion King and people hold up their dogs…and little kids, and they put it on the Big Screen. It is great. Another is where fans dressed as Dolly Parton, George Jones, Reba McEntire and Johnny Cash race from center field to third base. Getting people involved and on the field makes me smile.

“I really enjoy the seventh inning stretch where Booster, our interns and myself launch t-shirts into the crowd. It is top-level with lights, music and a gun that launches shirts into the upper parts of the stadium,” Jeffries continued. “At the end of a Sunday night game, I get to gather the kids onto the field, and they get to run the bases. They have a blast. The real fun can happen at the end of a Wednesday night game. If the Sounds win, the adults get to run the bases. Imagine that picture. Every game is different. I’ve met interesting personalities. I have gotten to interview Pearl the Golden Girl, the golden retriever that is an Instagram sensation as well as Jackson Holiday the 2022 No. 1 draft pick.”

Because of his busy schedule in Nashville, Jeffries doesn’t get the chance to emcee many Rex games these days but is still a major part of the organization. He’s in charge of booking the national anthem singers as well as the youth teams that get to take the field with the Rex. Jeffries also maintains close relationships with several local groups – Chances and Services for Youth, Terre Haute Boys and Girls Club, and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods – by hosting their respective events.

With a diverse skillset that keeps people entertained and engaged, Jeffries has emceed all sorts of events across the country. Would he like to do so at the major league level someday? Sure. For now, he’s grateful to be a part of the Nashville Sounds’ entertainment team. But in the future? Look out, Jimmy Fallon.

“I love entertainment. I manage and perform with the Big Fun Band, a regional ten-piece band. I love getting people to sing and dance. I love emceeing festivals. I had the opportunity to emcee the American Royal World Series of Barbecue in Kansas City, the largest barbecue contest in the world. I was supposed to play music and keep the crowd entertained but I started dragging these chefs into the tent. I tried to get them to share some of their secrets. The crowd loved it,” said Jeffries. “Right now, I am blessed to work with a great organization, the Nashville Sounds but long term, I want Jimmy Fallon’s job.”

Making his achievements even more impressive? Jefferies has done it while overcoming a learning disability he’s never addressed publicly before. But the Brazil native wants anyone out there that may be going through something similar to know that anything is possible by working hard and surrounding themselves with people that care about them.

“I have been able to achieve these accomplishments despite a learning disability,” said Jeffries. “I was blessed to have a great support team – family and teachers – who believed in me; who taught me that everyone struggles with something and that a person can reach success by applying themselves; who encouraged me to follow my passion while working a job to support it. Many of these people are within the Brazil community. They care about people and want them to succeed.”

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: