As the Miami Heat prepared to play a game in the 2013-2014 season, a cameraman sprinted across the court to film a team huddle. He didn’t look fast, but he surprisingly was. Behind him, Kelly Saco hefted the black cables and hustled to keep up. It was just part of the job.
“I was walking in the middle of the court helping the camera guy with his cables,” Saco recalls. “I dropped them all and suddenly looked up to see LeBron James handing them over to me. I thought to myself: Wow, this little girl – with her little converse and jeans – doesn’t know what she’s doing.”
That wasn’t the first time Saco, now 32, was thrown into the lion’s den. Now a Bally Sports producer, reporter, host, and analyst on radio, she is the living representation of hard work pays off. After being an athlete in high school, she received a full scholarship to play softball at Syracuse University and almost immediately after graduation started her career as a broadcaster covering the University of Miami, the Marlins, Panthers and Heat.
As more and more women join the sports industry, Saco’s story is informative. Females still make up only 14 percent of sports journalists now, up from 10 percent in 2006, according to a story in Scott Scoop News.
Saco’s journey and memorable quotes can fuel the hearts of many. Growing up as the daughter of Venezuelan Olympic swimmer Dacyl Saco, Kelly and her two siblings – twins Michael and Michelle – were always involved in sports.
“Sports are the easiest way to get a scholarship for school, and it keeps them healthy and tires them out.” Dacyl Saco says. “I knew I wanted my kids to play sports. I just needed them to try several out, and choose their favorite.”
Kelly grew up in Palmetto Bay and attended Miami Palmetto Senior High, then Syracuse. She played softball, volleyball, taekwondo, swimming, and synchronized swimming before finally deciding to focus on softball. In college, she pitched for the Orange, playing twice in the Big East conference championships.
In the beginning of her collegiate career, she had no idea she would end up in broadcasting. She says she was “terrified of the idea.”
“I was that kid in high school who’d sit there and see the kids in the morning announcements and I was like, ‘Those kids are nuts in the head’” Kelly says. “I would never in a hundred years put myself out there on television where everybody could see me. It was just not for me.”
But Kelly’s mom made her realize that broadcasting would be a perfect fit for her, since Kelly already knew so much about different sports, especially baseball.
“I told her that she should try broadcasting because she’s been into sports her whole life. Since she loved sports, I thought she should try,” Dacyl said.
She graduated with a major in broadcast journalism and a minor in Spanish. And with a stroke of luck, just a week after graduating, Saco got her first internship with NBC covering the Olympics in London. At first, she was fired up with thoughts of walking London Bridge and visiting Piccadilly, but then she ended up logging games and events in New York.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Kelly says.
She liked the job, but things took off when, through networking, she was put in touch with a coordinating producer for Bally Sports. She loved New York, but Miami was her home.
“I was so nervous. I literally left the wrong number on his answering machine,” Kelly says. “It was my parents’ number… instead of my cell phone.”
Eventually the coordinator tracked her down and she had an interview a week later.
She made sure to define what she was looking for in the job, taking a hard line.
“After listening to him, I said, ‘That’s great, but these are my goals, and if this isn’t a place I can learn and grow, please do not hire me,’ ” Kelly says. “I had the job the next day.”
It was her very first job.
Working with the Panthers, Heat and Marlins, she was able to get real-world experience producing, editing, and behind the scenes. In 2017, Kelly was hired as a digital reporter when executive producer Brett Opdyke started to realize the hard work she was putting in.
Because of her Venezuelan upbringing and study, she was able to host flawlessly in both English and Spanish, making for a much more inclusive show.
Since childhood, Kelly has had a strong work ethic.
Her mom describes her as confident and mentions how whenever she says she is going to do something, she does it and works very hard.
At 24, she got another promotion, to an in-game host who would interview players and celebrities who come to Marlins games, which earned her lots of interview experience.
She also created packages for University of Miami football, basketball and baseball. By 25, she was in the booth for UM baseball.
Eventually, in 2019, Saco was able to fill in as sideline reporter for 50 games, then became producer/host for her now Marlins’ show, Marlins Clubhouse.
Her now-coworker, retired Major League Baseball player, J.P. Arencibia, says she is “…great, she’s professional and well prepared. She asks a lot of good questions to the players to the point where she’s giving all her effort. Her biggest job is to ask the players and coaches game questions, and she’s very good at it.”
Being a female reporting on male-dominated sports has made Kelly work extra hard. “She does say she has to work three times harder to prove a lot,” her mom, Dacyl, says.. “Women have to prove a lot more than men. The world isn’t fair, you just have to work harder. We just have to prove more than men do.
Kelly is in a competitive field. There are a limited number of teams in the area, and it’s a man’s industry.
“I think she does a good job going about her business and working hard. I think she definitely has more credibility because she played D1 softball. She understands the competition and it’s not the same game but it’s very similar. It’s a huge part of why she has the credibility she has,” says Arencibia.
There’s always going to be someone who doubts you, but Kelly says it’s important to “focus on you.”