The Tampa Bay Rays have promoted Neil Solondz to play-by-play broadcaster for the Rays Radio Network ahead of the team’s 25th anniversary season, following the untimely death of Dave Wills. Solondz will join long-time announcer Andy Freed, who worked alongside Freed for 18 seasons, in a full-time capacity.
Neil served as the pre- and postgame host and producer of This Week in Rays Baseball — which is also the name of his must-listen podcast — since 2012. He launched a 25th Anniversary series of podcasts this year and has been the fill-in play-by-play voice over the past 11 seasons.
As should be clear when listening to anything Neil has put out in his career with the Rays, there is no one who works harder at honing his craft. He straddles the line of journalist and team employee with the utmost care, preparing thoughtful questions for every interview, bringing out the best of his interviewees. He’s even dedicated himself to learning Spanish in order to bridge the divide with the team’s many Spanish-speaking players.
As the pre- and post-game host before and after every game for more than a decade, Solondz has represented the best qualities of Rays baseball: patient, humble, and kind with his listeners, embracing the wonder when the team is at its best, and speaking truth when the team’s performance is not meeting expectations.
Solondz started his radio career broadcasting minor league games for the affiliates with the Philadelphia Phillies and Minnesota Twins, and served as the play-by-play radio voice of the Triple-A Durham Bulls from 2004-11.
Since joining the Rays, Solondz has also begun moonlighting on Bally Sports programs, while also taking part in the TV broadcast for the Olympic baseball qualifier Premier12 in South Korea.
In 2021, Neil was awarded the Rays Joyce Smith Community Spirit Award, which annually recognizes one employee who makes significant societal contributions beyond their professional responsibilities.
Solondz’s reputation precedes his promotion with great promise, and we look forward to hearing him thrive in the role.
The Rays press release on Solondz’s promotion came with direct quotes from the Rays owner Stu Sternberg, his broadcasting partner for 2023 Andy Freed, and from Neil himself, which all remark on the passing of Dave Wills while acknowledging the opportunity well earned by Solondz:
Rays Principal Owner Stu Sternberg: “Dave left an indelible mark on our organization and the community as a whole. We all enjoyed the special camaraderie he shared with Andy and Neil. We are fortunate to have an excellent team of broadcasters who will continue the high-caliber coverage that our fans deserve. We’re excited for Neil to bring his expertise and talent to the broadcast.”
Andy Freed: “Since 2012 when Neil joined Dave and I with Rays Radio, he has been a big part of what we do. His advancement to the play-by-play booth creates a natural and seamless transition. It allows us to carry forward our tradition of providing entertaining Rays baseball broadcasts that connect with our fans.”
Neil Solondz: “Dave and Andy have built an incredible tradition with Tampa Bay Rays fans on air and in the community. I’m humbled and honored to join Andy in the booth. While no one can ever replace Dave, the best way to honor his legacy is to continue to share the game with the fans who love it as much as we do.”
Those three and others, including former manager Joe Maddon, paid tribute to Wills in an emotional podcast released this week that is worth your time.