Behind the Mic with Leverett Ball ’11

Behind the Mic with Leverett Ball ’11
Maura Sullivan Hill

If you flipped the channel to ESPN Plus last spring, you might have caught Leverett Ball ’11 announcing Boston University lacrosse games. Watching Ball (above, right) conduct a post-game interview with one of the coaches, clad in a sharp gray suit and holding an ESPN microphone, you would have seen a confident, knowledgeable broadcaster, even under the pressures of live TV.

What you won’t see is his hard-fought journey to work in sports broadcasting, manage ADHD, and overcome abuse in his childhood home. He has broadcast live from Gillette Stadium and the TD Garden, worked for the likes of NESN and WEEI Sports Radio Network, and has interviewed stars including Michael Strahan (below) and the late Coolio on his podcast, The Lev and Marques Show.

Ball has come a long way from the Fall of 2008, when he arrived at Brewster with only the clothes he was wearing. He came to campus as a sophomore, on the recommendation of a family therapist who wanted to remove him from a traumatic home environment, where he described being abused by his mother, who suffers from mental illness. His home life was so chaotic that his suitcase and cell phone got left behind when he came up to New Hampshire, and it took some time to get his belongings back to him.

“I actually started stealing clothes out of the lost and found, because I had nothing to wear. I was the new kid with the name that was hard to pronounce and the clothes that didn’t fit,” Ball recalls. “A lot of the kids who go through stuff like that don’t even live to tell the tale. How do you go from being an absolute mess to being successful? The clear turning point in my life was going to Brewster. There were so many people who helped me, and Brewster helped me get on a better path.”

Ball’s mentors and teachers at Brewster helped him harness his skills and talents, and manage his challenges. Take Janis Cornwell, who was his first Instructional Support Teacher.

“There were multiple reasons that I went to Brewster, but one issue was that I have ADHD and my learning style doesn’t really fit a classroom. And Brewster had a great Instructional Support program,” Ball says. “Everyone learns in different ways, and at multiple schools that I had gone to, my teachers didn’t understand that I learned differently. At Brewster, they taught me that it doesn’t mean you are stupid or lazy; you can be ADHD and still be intelligent. Ms. Cornwell helped me a lot.”

Cornwell called it a privilege to work with Ball, and fondly remembers his love of sports and how they would take time at the end of each trimester to reflect on his goals and progress.

“Leverett explored various systems to bolster his academic efforts and learned the value of leaning into the supports and structures offered at BA,” Cornwell says. “He was an intelligent, outside-of-the-box thinker who began to embrace his unique learning style to come into his own.”

Today, Ball uses what he discovered at Brewster about his learning style to prepare for his TV broadcasts. He is more of an auditory than visual learner, so he reaches out to head coaches before games to do Zoom interviews with them to talk about the team and the upcoming matchup. “Some people memorize stats and records. I learned that my learning style is more of a conversational thing,” he says.

Ball was also grateful to former Community Residence Life Director Jaime Laurent, who helped him find a post-grad summer job with housing so he did not have to return to his difficult home environment. “It was going beyond her job description and was honestly a lifesaver for me,” Ball says.

Exercise and physical fitness were also lifesavers, giving Ball a healthy outlet for stress. It is a habit he still maintains today.

“Physical fitness was really helpful for me, as someone who was very angry and confused and needed an outlet,” says Ball, who also played on the baseball team at Brewster. “It was something that helped me from a mental health standpoint; it was kind of a form of therapy.”

Ball went on to play baseball for a year at Wittenberg University in Ohio, and then transferred to Curry College in Milton, Mass., where he played baseball for two years and graduated in 2016 with a degree in communications, with a TV/radio emphasis.

When he first started out as a sports broadcaster, Ball would drive two hours each way to American International College in Springfield, Mass., to announce their basketball games—for free. The games weren’t even on TV; the school broadcast them over Facebook Live.

Ball jokes that maybe he can’t call it his first broadcasting job, since he didn’t get a paycheck. But his career grew from there, bolstered by the persistence that helped him succeed at Brewster.

“That was how I got my foot in the door. If you want to be a broadcaster, you have to have a very high tolerance for struggling and failing, because that’s just how the industry works,” he says. “I have to fight for my spot on ESPN every day.”

Ball lives in Worcester, Mass., now and his TV work currently focuses on New England pro and college sports, with appearances on ESPN for college lacrosse and NESN for the Massachusetts Pirates indoor football team. He does play-by-play commentary, as well as pre- and post-game analysis and interviews as a sideline reporter.

He also started his own sports podcast, The Leverett Ball Show, when he was bored during the COVID-19 lockdowns, and then pivoted that to an interview show hosted with former NFL player Marques Ogden. Ball met Ogden when he was a guest on The Leverett Ball Show, and they decided to team up for a new podcast. The Lev and Marques Show launched in May 2021, and they have put out 252 episodes, sometimes multiple per week, and have a five-star rating on Apple Podcasts. The approximately 30-minute show focuses on the worlds of sports, business and entertainment, and episodes cover everything from their thoughts on the NFL Draft to interviews with coaches, CEOs or contestants from “The Bachelor” TV show.

“There are a lot of people in these really competitive industries—whether that’s professional athletes, movie stars, people who do what I do—who had traumatic childhoods. There are plenty of downsides to having a rough childhood, but it prepares you for these really hyper-competitive industries in a way that a comfortable childhood doesn’t,” Ball says. “Being comfortable being uncomfortable, whether it is going away to boarding school or living in employee housing at my job the summer after senior year, it prepared me for the lifestyle as a broadcaster, because it’s very, very uncomfortable.”

He’s often working the nights and weekends when friends and peers are off from work, and he has to have a flexible and entrepreneurial approach that isn’t necessary in a typical 9-to-5 job. But Ball is committed to his broadcasting career. In the fall, he’ll add college soccer to his repertoire, and he’ll continue to share his story with followers of the podcast and his social media.

For Ball, part of living his life of purpose is sharing the personal challenges and adversity he has overcome, to hopefully inspire kids experiencing something similar.

“Very few people are comfortable talking about the worst experience in their life, or talking about it publicly, like I am. It’s not for everyone,” says Ball, who is grateful to his dad for sending him to Brewster when the situation at home became too difficult. “But if you can own the worst thing that ever happened to you, that is incredibly empowering. So that’s my advice for anyone.”

To current Brewster students, he encourages them to take advantage of all the resources on campus. That’s what got him where he is today.

“I’d say to use your resources, like strength and conditioning classes and Instructional Support. If you’re having academic issues or you learn differently, I can tell you that [instructional support] was incredibly helpful for me,” Ball says. “So I think if you are someone who goes to Brewster and doesn’t like it initially or had a really bad experience at your previous high school, give it time and use your resources, because Brewster does have resources that most high schools don’t have.

“Brewster is a unique experience, and they hold you accountable,” Ball adds. “I will always be very grateful for my time there.” 

Editor’s Note: You can find Leverett’s podcast “The Lev & Marques Show,” wherever you download your podcasts. And follow Leverett on Twitter and Instagram at @Leverett_Ball12.

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