Carlos Diaz on Fame, Fortune and Fatherhood
After working with some of the biggest names in showbiz, Carlos Diaz returns home to Indianapolis
Writer / Lynda Hedberg Thies
For the past two decades, Carlos Diaz worked in every aspect of media including television, radio, print and online, working for CNN, HLN, ESPN, Fox News and Extra and working side by side with the likes of Larry King, Pat O’Brien and Mario Lopez. The Greenwood High School graduate couldn’t wait to see the world and achieve the goals he had set for himself.
But it was a chance meeting early in his college career at Indiana University that inspired his desire to work in broadcasting and gave him the will to achieve success in his career. After all the successes, no one, not his friends nor even Diaz himself, thought he would ever return, especially after 20 years.
What made you return to Indianapolis?
“When I was a student at Greenwood High School, I couldn’t wait to see the world and achieve the goals I had set for myself. I wanted to experience what the world had to offer. I feel like I have done it from a professional standpoint. But the biggest thing I want to accomplish from a personal standpoint is to be a parent. I feel like I did things in reverse – like I had a midlife crisis when I was 26. It was all just go, go, go, which now seems like a lifetime ago.
“I have been gone from Indianapolis since I was 25, but I have stayed in touch with my friends, and I’ve been lucky enough to come back to host Indianapolis 500 parties and New Year’s Eve parties. It feels like I never left. People always said to me, ‘It’s so great that you have maintained a relationship with Indianapolis.’ But I am like, no, I maintain a relationship with Indianapolis because Indianapolis is so great! That is how I have always felt.
“I have always had this connection to Indianapolis. I truly think it is the best city in America. I truly do. It’s a great place to raise a family. It’s got great culture. It’s a great sports town – one of the best sports towns I have ever lived in. There are sports towns that are only sports towns when their team is playing well, but that is not the case with Indianapolis. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work at WTHR and come back home.”
When did you know you wanted to be in broadcasting?
“During my freshman year at IU, I was standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands of students in the Student Union.” The telecommunications major was there to see radio legends Bob and Tom who were in town for their college and musical knowledge tour. Diaz recalled that they asked for a student volunteer to serve as a student broadcaster for the duo. “So I raised my hand, and I heard, “You in the yellow shirt, and I went up and hung out with the famous duo for 30 minutes. It was the most surreal experience I have ever had, and at that point, I was like, ‘This is all I want to do for the rest of my life!’ That was THE turning point.”
Diaz said he was mesmerized by the control that Bob and Tom had over the crowd and said to himself, “That’s when I knew that this was it right there. This is what I want to do forever in whatever form or fashion.” He continued, “I know that God put me on this earth to be a broadcaster. It is the one thing that I am 100 percent sure about, that I was really put on this earth to do.”
Where did you get your start?
Diaz started as the sports director at WZPL-FM radio station and eventually led to him receiving the coveted Edward R. Murrow award for his coverage of the Indianapolis Colts during his career at WNDE-AM. That path led to his first sports anchor job in another market, and a year later, he launched his national TV career as a reporter for ESPN’s “Sports Center,” interviewing the likes of Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez and Cal Ripken Jr.
Diaz recalled being in the locker room when the Cubs beat the Giants in a one-game playoff in 1998 and had one of those moments when he watched the interview again later. “I thought, ‘I am 27 years old and watching my interview with Sammy Sosa.’”
What other surreal moments have you had during your career?
“There are a lot of surreal moments. I kind of feel like Forrest Gump trying to figure out how I ended up here! The most starstruck moment I had was working for Extra, and for some reason, the Indianapolis 500 invited me to be part of the 500 Festival Parade. When the limousine arrived to take me over to the Parade area, I was the first in the limo. Then Pat O’Brien from CBS Sports and Access Hollywood, one of my idols, got in and said, ‘Carlos, good to see you.’ And I was thinking, ‘This is awesome.’
“Then Peyton Manning got in. He was followed by Ray Liotta, the star of my favorite movie “GoodFellas,” and I had one of those reality checks. ‘What is this kid from Greenwood doing in this limousine right now?!’ Another moment was when Michael Jackson died. I spent the entire day doing live shots all day for Extra, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC because Farrah Fawcett had died. That is when I got a phone call from Larry King’s people, and they said, ‘Larry wants you on the desk with him all night tonight.’ My day started at 2 a.m., and I was exhausted! I actually said, ‘Can he ask someone else?’ His staff said, ‘No, he wants you.’
“So there I am, sitting with Larry King and Smokey Robinson and talking about the death of a music icon. And really the only qualification I felt like I had was that I owned ‘Thriller,’ and I listened to it when I was growing up in Greenwood! I said to Larry later, ‘You’ve got all of these great people in the green room. Why am I sitting here?’ He said, ‘They’re great guests, but you’re a great broadcaster, and I need you by my side.’ And then Larry invited me to go see a Dodger game, just him and I – the definition of surreal. There are truly so many, but these stick out the most.”
Any career advice for those seeking to follow in your footsteps? Final thoughts?
“Everyone’s path is different; there is no formula. You just have to want it. Don’t ever take no for an answer. You cannot stop because broadcasting will beat you down. For me, I have enjoyed my professional experiences. But I married the love of my life, we had our first child and it was time for me to come home.
“But one thing I can say is that Indiana made me who I am today. My upbringing has defined me. I am who I am because I am a Hoosier hands down. I know I would be a truly different person if I was born anywhere else, and now my number one priority is to be the best husband and father I can be. And that is why I am so happy that my beautiful wife Olga and I decided to give my son Dacio and our future children the advantage of a Hoosier upbringing. There is truly no other place I would rather be.”
Welcome home, Carlos!