Rolando Nichols knows what it's like to brush up against the big leagues.
At age 18, he played outfield for a pro baseball team in Mexico.
At 20, he became a newscaster for Univision, where, as the main news anchor at L.A.'s KMEX -- the leading Spanish-language TV station in the country -- he picked up a prestigious Peabody Award.
Last year, at 33, after moving on from Univision, he became the Spanish-language broadcaster for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on 1330 AM ESPN Deportes Radio.
In other words, Nichols is the voice of the Angels for millions of listeners.
But it's with his 2 1/2-year-old media production company that Nichols, now 34, hopes his big league dreams will finally materialize in full. His ultimate goal: to develop a production entity with the ability to shoot movies in Hollywood.
Despite the crushing recession of 2009, Nichols is well on his way.
His Los Angeles-area business, Centro Net Productions, has a dual mission. First, the company is a multi-media production house for a wide range of projects, including reality shows, radio spots, TV commercials, and documentaries. Second, it's a school for people wanting to become broadcast technicians.
"I'm a pretty ambitious person," Nichols, Centro Net's CEO, told HispanicBusiness.com. "I've always said, 'If I don't make it to the big leagues in baseball, then I'll make it to the big leagues doing something else.' So I'm hoping to make it there as a media production entity."
Some of the company's work -- maybe 20 percent -- is done in Spanish. But the vast majority is in English. Rather than being a Hispanic-owned production company, Nichols wants Centro Net to be viewed as a production company that happens to be Hispanic-owned.
That's not a distinction without a difference. In Hollywood, Hispanic-owned production companies are surprisingly rare, he said.
"It's a huge market, but controlled by very few," Nichols said. "Hispanics need to make their mark in Hollywood not only as actors and actresses, but also as executives and individuals with enough pull to be able to fund some projects."
Already, Centro Net has shot commercials for restaurants like Carl's Jr., handled the production for the airing of mixed-martial arts tournaments, and created corporate videos for major L.A. hospitals such as White Memorial Medical Center and Downey Regional Medical Center.
Nichols hopes to soon move his office out of its current digs in industrial Torrance and into the more glamorous Tinseltown.
As it is, he's already working on some high-profile projects. For instance, Centro Net is filming a reality show that will air on Fox Sports Net in June. The show features 12 famous former and current athletes, who are taking classes at his school to become broadcasters. They include 2008 Olympic runner Lolo Jones, former NBA star Gary Payton and Olympic gold medal sprinter Maurice Green. It's a project that promises to humanize the legends. Particularly vexing for the athletes is reading from the teleprompter, he said, with a laugh.
"They are great ad-libbers -- they can do radio shows or anything non-scripted, but something about putting a script in front of them ... and they struggle," he said." It's a very humbling experience for them. They were very powerful figures within their sports, and here they are, going back to school -- going back to rookie ball."
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