Photo: Gwinnett Gladiators Dustin Bixby, director of communications and media relations for the Gwinnett Gladiators, is taking another job after 10 seasons as the voice of the team. He's going to work in marketing and promotions at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The original voice of the Gwinnett Gladiators, who started with the franchise before it relocated to Duluth a decade ago, is leaving.
Dustin Bixby, the team's primary radio broadcaster and director of media relations, was hired by the Atlanta Motor Speedway earlier this month.
The hours Bixby has spent working for the Gladiators are incalculable -- each and every game day represented at least 12 hours.
The miles on a shaking sleeper bus are best left untotaled -- a round trip to division rival Florida is 1,200.
One thing can be added up more easily though. Bixby has broadcast over 675 Gladiators games since moving with the team in 2003.
After years spent doing anything and everything for a minor-league hockey franchise, Bixby now will be focusing on public relations as a member of AMS's marketing and promotions department.
"I think the opportunities I had with the Gladiators is really what was important or key in terms of getting the position," Bixby said. "It seems like a very good fit. I'm excited. I think this is a great opportunity for me at this stage in my career to get some new experience. I think it's exciting to be able to work in a department. I've always been my own department.
"One of the things I don't feel like I was very prepared for out of college was a lot of the media relations stuff. I picked up a lot of it as I've gone along. I'm excited to be able to learn some things I probably never even though of."
A graduate of the University of Delaware, Bixby's first job out of college was with the ECHL's Mobile Mysticks, the franchise that eventually moved to Gwinnett for the 2003-04 season. Bixby worked for the Mysticks for a season and filled the same broadcasting/media relations role with Baton Rouge when Mobile went dormant for a year in preparation for it's relocation.
Gladiators president Steve Chapman was in charge of the Mysticks when Bixby first started. It wasn't easy telling Chapman he was leaving for AMS.
"It was tough in the sense I've been here for 10 years and being one of the originals from Mobile," Bixby said. "The good thing about the minor leagues is it lets you cut your teeth on so many things. It gives you the opportunity to get in there and try."
Chapman, not surprisingly, was sad to see Bixby go. But he was also happy for him -- as Chapman has been whenever a member of the organization has an opportunity to move up.
"DBix came to work for us in Mobile in 2001," Chapman said. "We thought so much of him that we told him we would hire him in Gwinnett when we opened up in 2003. Many marriages don't stay together for that long and it's something really unique.
"He's one of the best that I've had the pleasure to work with and we're all going to miss him. Luckily, he won't be far away. Don't be surprised if you hear a 'shot ... score!' every now and again on a Gladiators broadcast. We all hope nothing but the best for him in everything that he does."
Bixby's last day with the Gladiators will be July 19. He starts at the race track July 22 and will immediately get to work on Global Rallycross, a new event for AMS.
"It's on Aug. 10, so I'll need to get it in gear," Bixby said.
There will certainly be an adjustment period as Bixby makes the switch from a career spent in minor league hockey to the top level of racing. But the odds of him being thrown by anything are slim. The minors has taught him how to handle just about any eventuality.
"I'm sure I'll live at the track the week of the race," Bixby said. "But that can't be any worse than riding the bus from here to Toledo and breaking down in Arkansas for six hours."
It wasn't a job Bixby sought out.
"They basically came to me," he said. "Chip Zeller, who is the sports producer at Fox 5, called me probably three weeks ago and said, 'Do you have any interest in a media/PR position with the Atlanta Motor Speedway?'"
Bixby was open to the idea and a few days later had a conversation with Ed Clark, the track's general manager. Clark asked Bixby if he could come down for an interview.
Finding a time was tough though. Bixby was going to Las Vegas the next week for league meetings and Clark was out of town nearly every day leading up to that.
There was still that day though. Bixby had already taken it off because it was his wedding anniversary. Bixby and his wife, Jessica, planned to go downtown for dinner.
On the phone with Clark, Bixby looked at her and she gave the OK to go to the track before dinner.
"She was just going to wait in the car," Bixby said. "I go in there thinking it's going to be an hour.
"Three hours later, I come out and I'm thinking there a chance this might happen."
The day before he left for the ECHL team meetings, Bixby talked to Marcy Scott, AMS's longtime director of marketing and promotion, on Skype.
After the league meetings, Bixby met his wife for vacation in Ocean City, Md. Clark called Monday before the Fourth of July holiday, to offer him the job.
"You work in the minor leagues, whether it's hockey or football or whatever, to get a chance to go to the big leagues," Bixby said. "It's pretty exciting to walk into that situation, to take that next step. I've been here 10 years.
"It's not one of those where I went seeking the job. It came to me and it just seemed like a perfect fit."