HOUSTON -- Nate Kurant had been sending resumes and tapes all around the country, trying to get his foot in the door in the sports broadcasting industry. He had applied for jobs with, among others, the NHL's Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers, and hadn't heard a thing.
So when the Astros announced earlier this year they were holding auditions for a spot on their radio team in 2013, Kurant, who lives in Kenneth City, Fla., booked a flight to Houston.
"They said all you have to do is get a plane ticket and you'll actually talk to somebody and shake a hand, and that was enough for me," he said.
More than 150 people auditioned for the Astros' "You Make the Call" apprentice job, and the final 10 contestants were at Minute Maid Park this weekend interviewing players. Kurant was among five that took their turn behind the microphone on Saturday.
The winner gets a paid role on the Astros' radio broadcast team next year, doing pregame and postgame interviews as well as some in-game work during home games.
"It's unbelievable," said contestant Luke Provenzano of Houston. "This is an opportunity of a lifetime. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought a professional team would give the general public a great opportunity, and I'm going to relish every moment I can. It's exciting."
Also auditioning Saturday were Crawford Jones of Houston, Trey Williams of Katy, Texas, and Robert Parker of Houston.
From the group of 10, a panel of judges and the fans will decide on the four semifinalists. Each of the four semifinalists will then make a live, on-air appearance during an Astros game Aug. 30-Sept. 2.
Two finalists will take part in the Sept. 13-14 broadcasts, serving in a variety of roles. Fans and the panel of judges will vote on the performance of the two finalists between Sept. 16-24.
Kurant traveled the farthest of any contestant in the competition, but he comes with a strong background. He's worked in radio for about 10 years and has a master's degree from the University of South Florida in journalism media.
"Everybody else here is from Texas, and they all looked at me like I was crazy because I came from Florida," he said. "They said, 'I can't believe you came that far,' and I said, 'I can't believe all it took was a plane ticket.'"
Jones is a senior at the University of Houston and plays on the football team. He hosted an on-campus television show last fall, and in the spring hosted a weekly radio show. A chance to help broadcast Major League games would trump anything he's done in the past.
"I'm from Dallas-Fort Worth, and a lot of people would tease me about it, but I love baseball and love the Astros, so it would mean the world to me," he said.
Williams came wearing an Astros jersey and a shooting star belt buckle for his interview with infielder Scott Moore. He recently graduated from Sam Houston State University and is trying to become a state trooper, but that can wait if he wins.
He has a strategy to win.
"You have to keep them listening, pay attention and have to throw in something creative and interesting," he said. "Really, it's just keeping my composure. This is my first time in a professional park, and I'm trying to be as professional as possible."
Parker is no stranger to radio contests. He said two years ago he won a "Rock the Mic" contest for a local radio station and wound up working in broadcasting for about a year. He originally wasn't sure if he would enter the "You Make the Call" contest, until his friends urged him.
"They all said, 'This is for you,'" he said. "Everybody, including my wife, says to use my personality. She said that's going to be what separates me. I can be funny and sarcastic. I have a very comfortable knowledge of sports, and if I can mix all that up and have it translate across the microphone, I should have a very good shot."