Anthony “Tony” Pellegrino has always had a passion for sports. He played high school football and has had the opportunity to work for several sports organizations. Now, he gets to talk about all types of sports on two local sports talk radio shows in the Tampa Bay area.
The 28-year-old is a native of St. Petersburg, FL and currently lives in nearby Clearwater. He has a younger sister, Alyssa, who recently completed basic training for the U.S. Air Force.
A 2011 alumnus of Pinellas Park High School,, he played tight end and defensive end on the Pinellas Park varsity football team.
Selecting Saint Leo University
Pellegrino was originally torn between a few different colleges when considering his higher education.
“I remember getting something in the mail from Saint Leo University,” he recalls. “I loved the idea of doing a sport business degree program and was trying to decide between Saint Leo and another university. I thought I’d get more hands-on experience at Saint Leo because of the low student-to-faculty ratio. Plus, there was no application fee.”
Enrolling in Saint Leo’s Sport Business Degree Program
In the fall of 2011, Pellegrino enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in Sport Business degree program at University Campus. He lived on campus all four years to complete the bachelor’s degree program in the university’s Tapia College of Business.
“During my freshman year, I met several lifelong friends whom I still talk to today. It was a bit of a transition going from living in an urban area to a more rural environment at Saint Leo, but it was well worth it because I was close enough to home but still far enough to grow as a man.”
During his junior year, he joined the Sigma Lambda fraternity on campus.
“It was the best thing I did in college. I built so much camaraderie with my fraternity brothers and learned so much from that experience.”
The entire college experience helped him mature in so many ways, he says.
“The slogan Saint Leo uses is absolutely true. I love the person I became there.”
Sport Business Professors of Note
In terms of his academic coursework, he says Prof. Jay Welsh’s sport finance class helped him learn a lot about the finances involved in sports franchises. Dr. Susan Foster, whom many students called “Suzy Sunshine,” was also memorable.
“Dr. Foster kept my senior internship portfolio so she could show it to future students,” he says.
Former staff member Eddie Kenny also took he and several other Saint Leo students to Tallahassee to watch the Lions men’s basketball team compete against Florida State University.
The Top Saint Leo University Core Values for Him
According to Pellegrino, all six of Saint Leo University’s core values have been impactful for him in a positive way. But three of them – integrity, personal development, and respect - are most relevant in his life today.
“With integrity, I try to do what’s right without wavering off course. I want to have a good conscience so that my mind is always healthy. With personal development, if anyone knew me from college, I had long and curly hair but only had a little flow going on when I graduated. I feel like this is a reflection of how I grew up into a man who is going to succeed and get the job done. In terms of respect, you have to give it to get it. Respect is very important in my line of work because you have to respect the content and the people you’re talking about when you work in sports talk radio. If you don’t have respect, you won’t be respected by your listeners.”
Advice to Students Considering Saint Leo
He has some advice for high school students considering Saint Leo University for a higher education.
“Get involved in everything you can, do what you enjoy doing, and be yourself” he suggests. “You’ll be around friends and comrades who will be with you for the next four years. These are people you might invite to your wedding one day. Your professors might be able to help you land a job as well.”
He says making connections while in college is also critical.
“Like my advisor said, you have to remember that it’s not just about what you know but who you know as well. Network, network, and network even more.”
Scoring Big in Sports
Pellegrino has already enjoyed a career in sports with a variety of unique roles. He started out as an intern with the Florida Sports Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at advancing professional, amateur, and recreational sports around the state.
“I traveled all over the state and helped put on amateur-style Olympic sporting events. We did everything from judo to figure skating to decathlons to ping-pong tournaments. I got to help out with the Sunshine State Games, an annual festival of sporting events which represents the second longest-running event of its kind in the country.”
After his internship, they hired him as a contractor to do event coordination.
“This was a perfect example of how it paid off to know someone,” he says. “When I was in that role, I was mainly in charge of the Palm Beach Convention Center and coordinating all of our sporting events held there. I had a lot of 18- and 20-hour workdays, but I enjoyed getting to meet people from all over the world.”
Another position he held was with the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team as an account executive and customer service manager.
“I worked the customer service booth, handled ticket sales, did setup for games, and managed the fan experience mobile app,”
After a change in the Rowdies’ ownership, he later became a membership specialist at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg for the Bill Edwards Foundation for the Arts.
Jumping into Sports Talk Radio
Because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Pellegrino found himself reevaluating his career. Rather than looking into business-related roles in sports, he realized that he could use his passion for following his favorite teams and players in a new field – radio.
“I reached out to a friend who was doing a sports talk radio show. I did an internship with the show. After I started taking notes and observing how it all worked, I fell in love with the sports talk radio business.”
He is now the No. 2 co-host and an assistant producer on the JP Peterson Show. The program airs weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m. Eastern on 820 WWBA-AM in the Tampa Bay area. The station’s programming is also simulcast on 96.7 FM in Hillsborough County and 98.3 FM in Pinellas County.
“Our station’s signal goes from Fort Myers up to Tallahassee and over to Orlando and Titusville, so we certainly cover a big portion of the state,” Pellegrino explains.
He explains his various duties being part of a daily radio show.
“I have to brush up on all of the latest sports news from Tampa Bay and beyond. I write down notes about different things I’d like to say on the air and find audio clips that we can play. I also book guests for us to talk to for their analysis.”
Dick Vitale, Derrick Brooks, and Sal Paolantonio are among the big names who have appeared on the program, along with a variety of sportswriters and commentators.
In addition to this daily show, he hosts his own radio show, TB4 Sports, which is broadcast on Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon on the same station. Listeners can also watch a live video stream of the show on Twitch here. Plus, each show can be downloaded as a podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.
For his weekly show, he mainly talks about hot sports topics from the previous week and takes calls from listeners.
Eyes on the Prize
Pellegrino says he has some lofty goals but is certainly working hard each day to get to his ultimate role.
“I want to be the No. 1 sports talk radio host in the world,” he says. “As a native, I also want nothing more than to see the Tampa Bay area succeed. I know working in sports in general means moving around is often a necessity, but right now, I want to make the Tampa Bay market better by making myself better every day.”
Photo credit: The photographs included in this blog article were provided by Anthony Pellegrino and are used with permission.