Ryan Bonelli, Saugerties High School Class of 2013, is the first graduate of the district’s computer video production (CVP) program to win an Emmy Award. Bonelli, an associate producer with the MLB Network, was part of a team that won the prize for outstanding daily show for MLB Tonight back in May.
Bonelli grew up in Glasco and went to Riccardi Elementary School, and after graduating from SHS he went on to major in television and radio studies at Ithaca College. He started work at MLB Network one week after graduating from college.
“I was looking for different job opportunities as I was close to graduating, and I made a couple of connections and got an interview,” Bonelli explained. “I was like, I would love to work for this great organization that covers baseball. And I was lucky enough to get a position there.”
In addition to his work on MLB Tonight, Bonelli is involved in other shows for the network, “I either help out with a specific show, or lately I’ve been cutting highlights every night,” he said. “So I’ll watch a baseball game, and you know when you watch highlights of a game in a studio show, I’m the one cutting that specific game. Let’s say I have the Yankees against the Red Sox, I look for the highlights, like if there’s a run scored or a good pitching matchup, and I’ll cut it up into the highlight reel. I’ve been doing that for a while now.”
The 2018 baseball season was tough for a lifetime fan of a certain American League team from the Bronx, especially when the archrival Boston Red Sox won the World Series. “We’re supposed to be non-biased, of course,” said Bonelli. “But as a Yankee fan it was hard sometimes.”
Bonelli has been a baseball fan all his life. He just never imagined working in baseball. “It was never to the extent of thinking I could work in something like it, but I’ve been a Yankee fan forever,” he said.
The Saugerties CVP program provided him a window of opportunity. “When I was in high school I had no idea what I wanted to be,” Bonelli said. “I was thinking something in music, but once I went to CVP and did a couple of those kind of classes I thought, ‘Wow, I really like this kind of stuff.’ And Mr. [Scott] Wickham was like, ‘You can actually make a career out of it.’ I never really thought of it that way. But then after taking the classes I thought I could do something like that. I liked it. I liked the idea of being able to create something.”
Bonelli wrestled in high school until a knee injury forced him to the sidelines. Wanting to stay connected to the team, he saw an opportunity to put some of the skills he’d begun learning in CVP courses to use. He helped assemble the pre-match hype videos that became part of the wrestling program’s popular attractions.
Bonelli was at MLB Network for just under a year before joining his MLB Tonight co-workers in winning an Emmy. That kind of recognition was something he said he’d never even considered before.
“I like to not think too much about that sort of thing,” he said. “I’m just doing my normal job anyway, and then if it happens it’s cool. And then we found out that we actually won, and of course I was like, ‘Wow! I’m only a year out of college and I’m into something like this.’ I would never have imagined that a year out of college, or even ten years down the road.”
Bonelli advised anyone hoping to follow a similar career trajectory should be aware that the work is quite a bit different than jobs that work on a regular nine-to-five schedule. ”It’s based on a lot of commitment,” he said. “I work a lot of nights because that’s when sports happen. You have to expect to work late nights, but it’s also a lot of fun. You get to be creative and you’re watching a game. You’re watching people talk about the game, and as a producer you’re the one creating the content.”
His network colleagues have been great at helping him find his footing. “People who’ve been there for a while are always there to help you out,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”
It’s gratifying for him to be in a line of work that could touch virtually anyone. “Everybody watches TV in some way or form,” he said. “No matter what it is: Sports, other kinds of entertainment. You have the ability to change people’s perspective on anything. It’s a fun thing to do. And that’s the way I think of it. It’s not really a job.”
His career might not have been possible if not for the CVP program at Saugerties High. “I’m doing something I love to do and I never thought I could make a career out of it,” he said. “Having that class there, it gives people an opportunity to think of a different career choice.”