©Jeremy Messler Photography, LLC
Natalie Egenolf is the featured on-air personality and update anchor on The Mike Missanelli Show, weekday afternoons on 97.5 FM The Fanatic. Each day she holds her own, bantering with two seasoned studio professionals, Missanelli and his producer Tyrone Johnson, on one of the top-rated radio shows in the city.
We recently caught up with Nat to talk about Philly sports, her growing fame in the city (she now has over 30,000 Twitter followers) and her take on sports media in the City of Brotherly Love.
Kurt: How would you describe Philadelphia as a sports town?
Natalie: What I always tell people is that we have this super tough exterior, and I think the national media has painted that narrative, but really, we’re just a big bunch of lovers because we care so much. It’s really just because we love the city and we love the teams. We want to do everything we can to protect them.
I don’t think that we’re like this gritty hard-ass fan base. We just love who we are, and we love our teams.
K: Gritty is a great word…
N: Gritty the mascot is a perfect example! Because on first appearances he’s this big, kind of crazy looking creature, but really, he’s just this big lover who squeaks and hugs and just wants to love everybody.
K: The Phillies picked up Bryce Harper for pretty much the rest of his career. They also scored Andrew McCutchen and J.T. Realmuto. They’re obviously an improved team. Do you think it’s enough to win the NL East and maybe make an NLCS appearance? And do you think what they paid Harper will be worth it in the long run?
N: The way the Phillies season went last year without Harper, McCutchen and Realmuto should have any Phillies fan optimistic they can make real waves in the NL East this year, and even make the NLCS. The Phillies are another year older and wiser as a team. This is [Gabe] Kapler’s second year with the guys and last season we were able to see players like Rhys Hoskins and Aaron Nola grow into their roles. Runs win baseball games, and if in 2019 the answer to get more runs costs $330 million, then that’s what has to be done. Fortune favors the bold, and I see no reason for any hesitancy to embrace Bryce Harper, his contract, and this improved lineup.
Baseball is truly back in Philadelphia, and it’s an incredible time to be a Phillies fan!
K: Do you have a general characterization of the local radio guys especially?
N: I feel like they essentially invented the wheel in Philadelphia. Prior to the late eighties, there was no sports radio. I think that what’s been incredible to see is people like Mike Missanelli, the way that they have lasted throughout this town. There was nobody who really did that before, so there was no precedent set, so they kind of invented it and it’s worked. It’s worked ratings wise and it’s worked for the fan base. There’s a reason why they are who they are, especially in this town. And there’s a reason why they’ve been doing it for 25 years. It’s because there was nobody to tell them that it was right or wrong. There was nobody there to say this is the right way to do it or this is the wrong way to do it.
And what’s amazing about Mike is that he is able to go on the air and put on a show, it’s all sports content. But to have the ability to deliver it in an entertaining way that keeps people listening for hours at a time is what’s truly makes those guys special.
K: I was reading about how you use social media. You’re bringing a new kind of face to that. Maybe not on your own, but you’re bringing a new attitude to it.
N: All I wanted to do on the air was be myself, and people ask me about my social media and I’m like, that’s just me being me. I don’t think about what I’m going to tweet. There’s nothing that’s contrived or planned.
I’m just kind of being me interacting with the fan base, because I just feel like we all have this common ground, and if you can have discussions about not just sports but about other things in the world, that’s how you’d bridge the gap between a lot of differences.
K: I think you’ll enjoy answering this question as a Philly sports girl. How would you describe the experience when the Eagles won the Super Bowl?
N: I just now got the chills! I get really emotional and I woke up this morning, I’m like, oh my God, it’s been one year since the parade!
When they lost in ‘05, it actually was a really weird time in my life. My grandmother was dying, and she ended up passing away the day after they lost. My family kind of jokes around that she was hanging around to see if they won. And then when they lost, she was gone.
So, for them to come back and win it in my first year here, it was unbelievable. The night that they won, being out on the streets, being out on Broad Street, just seeing the whole city, people of all races and ages just coming together to celebrate, it was probably the best experience of my life.
K: Do you have a favorite personal anecdote about that, a favorite moment? N: Probably for me it was the parade. I was assigned to do on the street work. I was walking up and down the parkway, and I had to get up to the Art Museum. I was trying to do call-ins to the shows that were on that day, and that was not happening, but I was still trying to do my job since I was credentialed with the Eagles last year.
I was at the top of the Art Museum steps and I looked out, and the Super Bowl Champions banner was behind me. And just to be on the stage and look up and see the big banner behind me. It was insane. I have a picture of that.
K: Any other favorite moments in your career?
N: One of my first gigs was with Phillies Nation TV. I was doing some little features for them, and I did a feature with Matt Stairs. And he taught me how to hit. I feel like that was one of those moments for me where I was truly just so happy to be in that moment.
Every time I would do something like that, because I was working full time at the University of Penn, it would just reinvigorate my passion, and I’d be like, that was so cool! And I was better by the time we were done, I was actually a better hitter.
K: You’ve talked about dealing with a lot of rejections in your career before getting to this point.
N: There were three jobs that I was up for (in various Philly media outlets). I just didn’t have the skill set yet to do what they needed to do. I auditioned, and I thought this would be huge, this will be my big break, but I didn’t get it and I was crushed. They told me that it had nothing to do with me and that was even more crushing.
At the time it just felt purposeless. Even very early on, once I graduated college, I thought, should I just abandon radio completely and take a more traditional path?
I just figured, ‘I don’t have anything better to do, I might as well keep going’. I mean, that’s the God’s honest truth. And that’s what my mother would say to me, because she was my backbone through all of it. I was so passionate about it and she was like, I never want to see you lose that passion.
K: So, would you say this is a dream gig?
N: This is the dream. This was always what I was working toward. And now that I’m here…now what? What do I do next?
K: Have you ever thought about hosting your own show? You would be better than that Fabulous Sports Babe (Nanci Donnellan, former syndicated sports radio host). Do you know who I’m talking about?
K: You would be better.
N: Thank you! (laughs).
I would like to continue in television. My new dream is actually to do 30 for 30 features on athletes, stuff like that. Because as much as I enjoy it, the in-game analysis and breakdown, I really enjoy people as a whole, and I feel like there’s a whole other side to athletes that people don’t get to see. Like how Malcolm Jenkins has not only all of his social justice causes, but he also has a suit line.
So, my goal is to try and do that on TV. It would be a thrill to host my own show, but I think I’m going to continue on maybe down the television route.
K: You’re famous in this town now. What’s that experience been like for you?
N: It’s been an adjustment, just because I’m not sure when people are looking at me and it’s because they recognize me. I’m just so thankful to anybody who does pay attention enough that they would know who I am. When I set out in this business doing this, honestly, I just wanted to have a job that I liked.
It is a little strange though. One time I was out with my friends, it was the day the Phillies signed Jake Arrieta. I’m sitting there, and a guy came up to me, he’s like, ‘Hey Nat, the Phillies signed Arrieta!’
I think the coolest thing is how everybody calls me Nat, because Mike calls me Nat. I enjoy when people say hi and especially if they want to talk about whatever is going on.
I never shy away from that!