For St. Louisans, June 12, 2019, will forever be etched in their memories as that is day the St. Louis Blues ended 52 years of futility as they took home the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup Championship following their 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the NHL Finals at TD Garden in Boston, Mass.
The victory in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals was improbable nearly six months earlier as on Jan. 3, 2019, the Blues were in last place among the 31 teams in the NHL standings, so they went from worst to first in the same season. Something unheard today of in the realm of professional sports.
Standing behind the scenes in a hallway just outside the arena floor at TD Garden as Game 7 concluded was Webster University alumnus Austin Ratanasitee, who is a Video and Digital Content Producer for Blue Note Productions, capturing all the celebration of the Blues winning their first Stanley Cup.
"It was really cool being there in the arena for Game 7, all this media, all this attention and I'll be honest with you, I only watched about half the game from press row," Ratanasitee said. "I was standing the whole time and the moment we actually won Game 7, I was in a hallway downstairs near the arena floor editing footage that was being sent to me by my boss, who was on the ice shooting the festivities. I didn't get to see us win live, but I watched it as I was editing the video."
Ratanasitee, who worked the past two years (2017-19) as a graduate assistant handling digital media for Webster Athletics, along with working with the Blues, earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Video Production from Webster in 2017 and then earned his MBA from Webster in May of 2019.
In his role with the Blues, Ratanasitee, who began his time with the Blues as an intern in 2017, before becoming a full-time employee in 2018, films the locker room, makes pump up videos for in-game video boards and during the games, he serves as a producer for the intermission and pregame shows, along with his colleague, Ashali Vise.
Let's go back five years to the Fall of 2014 when Ratanasitee, who graduated from Pattonville High School in 2014 and is from Maryland Heights, Mo., which is a suburb of St. Louis, enrolled and began his undergraduate studies at Webster University.
As a freshman, Ratanasitee was looking for a job on-campus and Larry Baden, who is an Associate Professor in Webster's School of Communications, said he might have something for him and helped arrange a meeting with Andrew Belsky, who is Webster's head golf coach and webmaster for Webster Athletics' website, during new student orientation and the rest they say is history.
That chance meeting with Belsky led to a five-year marriage between Ratanasitee and Webster Athletics. With Webster Athletics, Ratanasitee was involved with the athletic department's digital media efforts, including live streaming of games, taking photos, creating graphics for the athletics website and social media outlets and was involved in creating and uploading content to the department's social media channels – Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
"From the minute Austin began working for us, you could tell he was a naturally gifted, creative and talented individual and was going to be a star in digital media," Belsky said.
After working as a work-study student in athletics for three years as an undergraduate, Webster Director of Athletics Scott Kilgallon was able to create a graduate assistant position for digital media in athletics so Ratanasitee could earn his MBA, while also continuing to help out Gorlok Athletics.
"When I think about my time at Webster, the athletics part of it was probably the most impactful. Not to dock the education part of it, but working in the athletics department got me used to being around a team environment," Ratanasitee said when asked how his Webster Athletics experience helped him today. "The scheduling, working on weekends and holidays all the time was an invaluable experience. Working with current Webster SID Ben Greenberg, former Webster SID Niel DeVasto and Andrew Belsky helped me get an understanding on the ropes of how sports media works."
Along with working with Webster Athletics, Ratanasitee also assisted with the USA Women's Soccer Team during the summer months doing digital media content.
Let's now flash forward back to Game 7 in Boston and the Blues winning the Stanley Cup.
Everyone involved in athletics that has won a championship always has a different initial reaction to that moment of realization they are part of a championship team and that reaction is usually surreal.
"It was surreal, stunning and amazing. Honestly, the day before Game 6, I was editing some video footage and it kind of hit me at 9 a.m. in the morning. Oh my gosh, we're in the Stanley Cup Final and we could possibly win the Stanley Cup, given where we were, it was just a very surreal feeling," Ratanasitee added. "What an incredible feeling to work for a sports team, but another to work here for your hometown sports team. To be there with the team during the season they had, the trials, the ups-and-downs and to eventually be champions is very surreal."
Ratanasitee says that working with Blues has been a tremendous experience and he's grateful for the opportunity.
"I'm extremely grateful to be here with the Blues. I've met some incredibly talented and great people here that I've learned from and it is just been a great feeling to work with this organization and the people associated with it," Ratanasitee added.
Since the Blues won the Stanley Cup, Ratanasitee and his co-workers in the digital media department haven't slowed down putting out content, but this time that content is celebrating a historic achievement – the Stanley Cup.
"We've been staying busy and our summer will be short since we played into mid-June," Ratanasitee said. "The timeline has been – we won the cup, had the parade, the next week was the NHL Awards in Las Vegas, right after that was the NHL Draft in Vancouver, Canada and then we had the Prospect Camp at the Enterprise Center. We've had all those events leading up to now and after that, the Cup will go on its tour as the team will have their day with the Cup. The Cup Tour will start in Canada with (head) coach Craig Berube. We are going to send some folks to Canada to follow the Cup and capture those stories from July into August."
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Blues' winning the Cup is that on Jan. 3 of this year, the team was in last place in the standings and had an interim coach. On Jan. 3, the Blues record was 15-18-4 as they had just 34 points, but by the end of the regular season in mid-April, the Blues record was 45-28-9 as they finished with 99 points. So that means from Jan. 3 to end of the regular season, St. Louis posted a 30-10-5 record and accumulated a total of 65 points.
"As we started winning, our job became a lot easier. Back when we didn't have a good record, it was harder to come up with storylines and put a positive spin to it," said Ratanasitee. "But once we began to win, the job and the content we produced began to be seen by more and more people that led to us having an increase in clicks and shares."
Ratanasitee says that his time at Webster really helped him out as he began working with a professional sports team and says that it shows you don't have to come from a big school like the University of Missouri or the University of Illinois, but you can come from a small-school setting, like Webster and be able to be successful working at the professional level.
"It is funny, I was actually talking with one of my interns about this recently. For my BA in video, I was telling her, the experience we had, the hands-on with the equipment, the gear, the smaller class size was very beneficial," said Ratanasitee. "Now taking that knowledge from when I was on sets in school to now when I'm on sets with the Blues. I would say that a lot of what I learned at the School of Communications as an undergraduate has been beneficial to me being a more efficient shooter and also better at directing and producing a show. At Webster, we had this video production class and you have of work every job and it is pretty much that times 10 here with the Blues. That video production class helped me gain a better understanding of everyone and the jobs they do."
Going back 10 years ago, the need to have separate digital media departments were somewhat of a novelty, but today, it is a necessity in the newly created 24-hour news cycle that exists in the world.
So as digital media has grown in dominance, so too as the need to have separate departments devoted to the craft and Ratanasitee says that having your own digital media department helps one control the message they want to put out. Digital media departments just are prevalent at the professional level, but also at the college and nowadays, even at the high school
"I think the rise of digital media comes down not only to consumer tastes but also accessibility. Everyone has a phone, everyone has Twitter, Facebook and it's just easier for people and organizations to share their messages than it was 10 years ago," Ratanasitee commented. "No longer do sports teams have to rely on TV or ESPN to pick them up. I tell people all the time in production, you should go into sports, as there are a ton of jobs available, because teams are realizing how important it is for them to have their own people sharing and putting out their own messages, which I think it creates efficiency and controls how you get your message out to the fans."
STORY COURTESY OF WEBSTER UNIVERSITY SPORTS INFORMATION