Mark Zinno: South Baltimore’s Renaissance Man

| April 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

“Get your shoes Loyola, you’re going to the dance,” were the words yelled by Mark Zinno on ESPN 1300 just a few months after returning from his second tour in Iraq.  A proud moment for Zinno as the play-by-play announcer for the Loyola Greyhounds basketball team who had just secured their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1994.

Growing up in Massapequa Park, NY, Zinno dreamed of being a professional baseball player or an actor.  Like many, his focus turned to academics near the completion of high school.  Zinno turned towards the Army National Guard to help with the cost of college.  The GI Bill was very popular in the mid 1990s as the world was a pretty calm place, so Zinno enlisted in the Army National Guard and enrolled at Loyola College.

Years later in the Fall of 2011, Major Zinno returned from his second Army National Guard tour in Iraq.  After thirteen years of service, including two tours in Iraq and a couple brief trips to Afghanistan, Zinno came back to his South Federal Hill home in his adopted hometown of Baltimore. Zinno also returned to his job at CBS Radio in Baltimore where he talks sports for 1057 The Fan. He also calls basketball games on ESPN 1300 for Loyola University, the school he graduated from in 1999.

Loyola’s MAAC Championship, which gave them a spot in the NCAA Tournament, was a great way to return to the United States for Zinno.  Head Coach Jimmy Patsos took over the reigns at then Loyola College in 2004 and Zinno has been a part of the team ever since.  In addition to broadcasting, Zinno has spent some time working on strength and conditioning with the members of the team.  “Jimmy Patsos is the best! He wants everyone to feel like they are a part of the team and I’ve enjoyed the entire ride,” Zinno told SouthBMore.com.

As an alum, a member of the broadcast team and someone who has got to know the players very well, it was a special moment for Zinno.  “Getting to know the kids, watching them grow and seeing how hard they’ve worked… I was just so happy for Jimmy, the kids and myself,” said Zinno.

Patsos – and the city of Baltimore – was a great friend to Zinno while away in Iraq.  “You feel really disconnected from everything when you are away in Iraq.  Just like everyone, we work a long hard day, but you don’t have the rewards of your family and friends to go home to every day,” Zinno told SouthBMore.com.  “I got so many emails and Facebook comments from the people of Baltimore, thanking for me service and praying that I come home safe.  It was really touching and you never get tired of  it.”

Another Baltimorean who is a big fan of Mark Zinno is Ravens’ Head Coach John Harbaugh.  Harbaugh gets the attention of the Baltimore media several times a week at his press conferences, but he wanted to direct the attention to Mark Zinno before he left for Iraq.  Coach Harbaugh started off his press conference with a send-off to Zinno, thanking him for his service and wishing him the best.

People in powerful positions often say things to make themselves look good, or because it is what they were advised to do, but this was not a publicity stunt.  “John Harbaugh kept in touch with me the entire time I was gone.  When I returned, he took me out to lunch and led off another press conference thanking me for my service.  John Harbaugh is a a great coach, but he’s an even better man. It’s not hard to see why guys play so hard for him and why he is such a great coach,” Zinno told SouthBMore.com.

During Zinno’s second time in Iraq, the danger and stress were still very high although the circumstances were different.  “My first tour in Iraq I was running around with my hair on fire through the streets of Baghdad.  This time around it was a calmer environment, but there was always the imminent danger of rockets being launched at the base,” said Zinno.  “Forget the sand, heat and closed quarters, the potential for danger was always high, creating a very stressful environment.”

Like most members of the military, Zinno carries with him the memory of all of those who lost their lives serving the country. During the interview with SouthBMore.com, he was wearing a memorial bracelet around his wrist, one of many he owns honoring those who have fallen.  Zinno has seen the loss of many soldiers he knew and shared a story with us about a close friend lost in Afghanistan.

Major Robert Marchanti and Major Zinno were on the same career course in the Army National Guard.  Unfortunately Marchanti recently lost his life in retaliation for the Koran burnings in Afghanistan on his first tour.  Marchanti was a husband, the father of four and a grandfather.  “Major Marchanti was a great man and a great friend.  He loved talking to me about how I was doing and loved talking about the Ravens. We are losing a lot of great men and his family didn’t have to lose him.  Sometimes you wonder if the end is in sight,” Zinno told SouthBMore.com.

With thirteen years of service, Zinno is hoping he can finish 20 years in the Army National Guard. Though a hectic era, Zinno has been part of an era of American military that has defeated two of the most dangerous men in the world in Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.  “We are the best in the world at what we do.  When you are on the ground you throw all politics out the window. It is about being there for your teammates and having their back.  We are soldiers on a mission, we are not politicians or diplomats,” Zinno told SouthBMore.com.  “There is always a lot of disenchantment and it is very frustrating knowing how hard we have worked and how much we have put on the line… I bet Joe Flacco could relate because people are never satisfied with him either.”

Now a reservist, Zinno spends the majority of his time working on his other career in sports talk radio.  Zinno has worked with CBS Radio for six years and has a radio show with his name attached for the first time.  Bob Haynie & Zinno airs weekdays on 1057 The Fan from 1pm-3pm.  “As someone who grew up wanting to be an athlete or actor, talking sports on the radio gives you the best of both worlds,” Zinno told SouthBMore.com.

Though not nearly as stressful as the military, the radio industry certainly has its share of pressure.  A show or host can easily become the victim of a change in format, new management or a dip in the ratings.  “I try to put on a good show and not worry too much about it,”  Zinno said.  “CBS is a stable company with good resources, so it is up to me make a name for myself.”

Zinno certainly acknowledges that radio is entertainment.  “Your job is to educate and entertain, but most importantly you have to be accurate.  Sometimes you remember the people you hate much more than ones you like.  I don’t want to be hated, but I’m certainly not going to lose any sleep if people don’t like me,” said Zinno. Zinno’s many years as a cheerleader for the Ravens and his sense for fashion have made him an occasional target on the radio.  “There is nothing I haven’t heard before and you can’t take stuff personal –  if you want to make fun of me, get some new material!”

It’s not just his job at CBS Radio that keeps Zinno in Baltimore, he also loves this city.  “I’ve had many chances to go back home to New York, especially after my tours in Iraq.  Baltimore is a great city – I love it here and it is a great place to talk sports.  I chose to make my home here,” said Zinno.  He also loves being around the action and people of Federal Hill and downtown.  “I’m a city guy and I love how much there is to do in South Baltimore.”

With two successful careers, Zinno will certainly keep his options open in the future.  Major Zinno will soon be up for a promotion to Colonel Zinno and a radio career is only as stable as the most recent ratings book.  We don’t know what he’ll be doing, or where he’ll be going, but we do know that Baltimore will always have a strong place in his heart… and if it’s up to him, Baltimore is where he’ll stay!

The South Baltimore Now Podcast Latest Episodes Produced by Nathan Carper: https://www.natecarpercreative.com

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at Kevin@InceptMM.com and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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