GASTONIA, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A second shot at the big leagues could be in the cards for one Gastonia sports radio host.

Brian Rushing is gunning to be the next Tampa Bay Rays public address announcer. And he’s bringing his passion to the audition.

“I have worked so hard to perform at the highest levels of various sports,” Rushing said. “This job would open other opportunities, for sure. It would create openings in new places, which is a plus. But I will always be a radio play-by-play guy at heart.” 

Before the Rays, he threw his hat into the Braves’ ring. In January, the 50-year-old reached a final cut for the Atlanta public address job from among 500 candidates. The audition was good for a small role in an clip.

Those are dreams. The reality is that he’s got a Gaston County-area sports talk show to cultivate now.

Rushing co-hosts The Rush Hour Morning Show for WGNC 101.1 FM with Belmont resident Corky Franks. In addition to the show, Rushing’s had a few college sports media opportunities, including a spell with the fledgling ACC Digital Network for some volleyball and non-conference women’s basketball games. Those were “a blast” but also “short-lived.”

While Rushing had his fair share of professional successes, this weekend is special. He’ll walk with his daughter at the Gaston College graduation ceremony. His degree will be in broadcasting; she’ll get one in radiography. 

But Rushing’s road to get to Dallas wasn’t without its challenges.

Daughter Rebekah Taylor and Rushing (Courtesy of Brian Rushing)

Starting on the field

More than 20 years ago, you may have been in the stands and looked out at the Charlotte Knights’ old stadium in Fort Mill to see Rushing push a wheelbarrow around the dirt with the stadium crew. There were also other crazy jobs. Newspaper local sports call-in taker. Girls basketball coach. Pizza delivery.

“(Those jobs) cemented for me the idea that all I wanted was to be around baseball,” he said. “Now, that won’t make ends meet, so you do many things to buy food and diapers. You work crazy hours and spend many of your prime years toiling away in the hopes of making it. When that doesn’t happen, you second-guess yourself. I just kept working, trying to get better and make ends meet.”

But things took off from there. He’s had many jobs in marketing, promotions, and broadcasting, with stops and stints with Belmont Abbey College, Longwood University, Winthrop University, Lenoir-Rhyne University and the defunct Gastonia Grizzlies. He recently finished up with the Gastonia Honey Hunters. 

Many of those have been “the most fun I ever had in my life.”

Not bad for a guy who said he struggled in high school, lacked confidence, and wasn’t a social butterfly. But that’s typical for many teenagers.

“Instead of planning like a lot of kids do, I did a lot of wishing,” he said. “Wishes aren’t plans!” 

Finding a voice at Belmont Abbey

His time at Belmont Abbey was a confidence-builder. Rushing got behind the mic and flourished. It was the first time “anyone considered him for that role.” 

That learning experience often meant picking up the microphone, belting out the National Anthem for the crowd, taking a quick breath, and launching into team introductions.

Granted, the Abbey experience meant a big commitment. Rushing said there were a lot of sports jobs spread out among a small group of people. Ultimately, that opportunity helped get his kids through college (two of his three girls are Belmont Abbey graduates).

When another opportunity at Longwood University in Virginia opened, it meant more commitment. More driving meant Virginia on weekdays and Gaston County on weekends. But Rushing’s dedicated effort was typical.

“I traveled way more than I ever wanted to,” Rushing said. “But you go where there is a show, and you work your tail off! When you scratch and claw for everything, you get good at making chicken salad (out of anything).”

But now he’s back in Gastonia and putting his all into the radio show. With co-host Franks a loose role, Rushing has the straight-laced act. Both men work to connect with their listeners. 

“I’m stunned we have even developed an audience this early,” Rushing said. “I thought this thing would take way more time. But we have found a way to provide something that we knew was possible to a community that wanted a show like this badly. Thanks to the audience, this may just be crazy enough to work.”

He’s hoping the show picks up staying power, but there’s always something on the horizon, and he’s not ready to rest on those successes.

“I would love to one day be able to spend time with my wife and kids (grandkids, too) working only gigs that I want to do, but retirement isn’t an option,” he said. “When you grow up being invisible, you spend your life trying to become somebody. So you become an amplified version of your work because it beats being invisible. I don’t mind working, but I refuse to go back to being invisible.”