Sports talk stations ESPN 97.5 and 92.5 are shaking up their on-air schedule and host lineup Monday in bold moves that will rattle the Houston radio market. The simulcast FM tandem will introduce two new shows, four new personalities, move some pieces to new time slots and put a fresh coat of paint on the stations' sound.
Here's the new lineup: John Granato and Lance Zierlein from 7-10 a.m., followed by Charlie Pallilo in his earlier 10-noon slot. Afternoons get underway with Joel Blank and new partner Jeremy Branham hosting The Killer B's show from noon to 3 p.m. Perhaps the biggest difference maker will be an all-new show called TheWheelhouse from 3-7 p.m.
TheWheelhouse will be hosted by Jake Asman, Cody Stoots and Brad Kellner, three younger guys whose energy and perspectives on sports will be unique on Houston airwaves. Owner David Gow must have lots of confidence in the trio – he's given them the cleanup spot, batting fourth with the longest show on the schedule.
"In addition to being strong in radio, they are very digitally savvy. They do a great job of taking the content that they create and pushing it out over all the different platforms. These guys are content creators who will reach audiences in many different ways," Gow said.
The Wheelhouse guys will take over the afternoon drive slot from The Blitz, formerly hosted by A.J. Hoffman and Fred Faour. The Blitz ran for more than a decade, which is forever plus eternity in radio years. The show effectively ended when Hoffman left the fold last month for a position with a gambling enterprise in Las Vegas. Faour will stay with ESPN Houston as a roving betting analyst, popping up regularly on the other shows.
Let's take a closer look at the three hosts of The Wheelhouse.
Jake Asman's first job out of college was a producer for sports radio WFAN in New York. He moved to Houston in 2018 to start work on ESPN 97.5 and 92.5's sister property, the national SportsMap network.
SportsMap: How will you approach being part of a team on The Wheelhouse rather than your previous experience hosting a national show by yourself?
Jake Asman: Our show is going to be very collaborative. Cody, BK, and I all will have a voice in the direction the show will go. We want to make sure that if someone has a strong opinion that day or a unique angle to take on a topic, or a great segment idea that we follow through on it. Our goal is to create entertaining, informative, and high-energy radio that the city will embrace. The three of us plus our producer Andrew Carlson are going to make sure that we are always prepared, talking about the topics that people in this city care about, and providing a unique listener experience.
Cody Stoots, in addition to having the most Texas-sounding name ever, grew up in Houston and was Intern of the Year once at ESPN 97.5 and 92.5. He worked at "Double T 104.3" (the most Texas-sounding radio station ever), got his degree in journalism, and returned to Houston in 2014 to get his career moving. He's also worked for Sports Illustrated and the Outkick network.
SportsMap: Tell me about your vision for The Wheelhouse. Will you guys carve out distinct roles or will it be a free-for-all?
Cody Stoots: I think I am pretty funny but unfortunately I think Brad will be the funny one. He's had us rolling since we met him. I would say whoever has the juice each day is going to be the one to get us going. Some days that may be one of us and some days we will all be ready to get after it from the start. We are going to play off each other and have fun talking about what our listeners talk about.
Brad Kellner was born in Kansas but, as the saying goes, got to Texas as fast he could. Well, he was 5-years-old, when his family moved to Dallas. He went to the University of Texas and began his radio career as morning show producer at AM 1300 The Zone in Austin. A year later he moved 104.9 The Horn, the flagship home for UT sports, where he worked his way up to afternoon drive host.
SportsMap: Houston and Austin are 150 miles and worlds apart. Tell me about your learning curve of Houston sports.
Brad Kellner: My mom is from Houston and my dad is from Galveston. Houston has always felt a little bit like home to me. Most of my extended family lives around Houston and I spent a lot of my youth down here. I have always supported and kept up with the Clutch City sports teams. There are a ton of Houston fans in Austin, so I have been talking about the Texans, Astros and Rockets on the air for a number of years. I am excited for the opportunity to focus on these teams and attend more games, practices and events in person.
The Houston Astros were in need of some serious help in the bullpen with Phil Maton, Hector Neris, and Ryne Stanek likely leaving this year in free agency.
The Houston Astros have acquired RHP Dylan Coleman from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for RHP Carlos Mateo. pic.twitter.com/hDYuBLn2Kv
— Houston Astros (@astros) December 6, 2023
While some fans were getting concerned about the quiet offseason, the club has made two moves this week to get the ball rolling.
First the team signed Victor Caratini to be the backup catcher, and now they have added some relief pitching.
The Astros traded pitching prospect Carlos Mateo to the Royals for RHP pitcher Dylan Coleman.
Coleman appeared in 96 games in the past three seasons for KC, including 68 games in 2022 and 23 games last season. He has a career 3.88 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. He’s fastball (95 mph), slider (81) and cutter (90) and walked 57 batters and struck out 99 in 92 2/3 innings.
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) December 6, 2023
Coleman is under club control for the next several years, and made just over $700,000 in 2022. With the Astros right up against the tax threshold, this is a good way to add to the bullpen without having to hand out a large contract.
The Royals had a tough roster decision to make with Coleman, and the Astros made the decision easy for them by making the trade.
Something to note
There's a reason Kansas City wasn't determined to protect Coleman from the Rule 5 Draft. Despite his decent numbers over the last three seasons, 2023 was a rough year for him, posting an 8.84 ERA over 23 games.
In fact, Coleman pitched more innings (30.2) for the Royals AAA team than he did for the big league club (18.1) in 2023.
Hopefully, the Astros can get him back on track this season with some help from their highly touted player development program.
You can watch some of his 2022 highlights above.