Kroner: These campers can't forget to pack mics and headsets
DANVILLE — For all of us, there is a beginning; that magical moment where it all started.
It might have been Day 1 as a student teacher or the first day of an unpaid internship where the duties were to fetch coffee and answer an occasional phone call.
Dreams don't have a set location to originate, though Danville Area Community College has been a popular site for the 17 years that Mike Hulvey and Scott Eisenhauer have partnered to conduct a weeklong Sports Media Camp for Kids.
More than one of the media personalities who spoke to — or were interviewed by — the would-be journalists this week asked "where was this when I was their age?"
Short answer: It didn't exist.
It took people with a passion for broadcasting — and the related jobs that are intertwined with any production or publication — to orchestrate such a venture that now attracts nearly two dozen youngsters annually ages 11 to 18.
Hulvey's brainchild was to do more than show the campers the available opportunities. It's hands-on from the first session when Kevin Dunn (from the Texas Longhorns Network) made himself available for a one-hour interview.
Sports fans will readily recognize Jim Nantz's name. Not as many can identify Jimmy Kimmons. Yet where you find Nantz — the veteran CBS sportscaster — on the job, Kimmons often will be within a few feet.
A St. Teresa graduate, Kimmons is the Emmy-winning chief sports photographer for CBS and has teamed up with Nantz on Super Bowls as well as major golf tournaments.
Spreading the word
The messengers were different each day. One day it was Kimmons. Another it was La'Roi Glover, a six-time NFL Pro Bowl defensive tackle who conducted a tour of the Rams' football training facility in St. Louis.
The message, however, had a similar refrain:
— Start early, even if it's as a volunteer;
— Do any job but observe all of them;
— Work hard and recognize that long hours are the norm.
Catlin native Andrew Harby, 22, is one of the counselors. He first started attending the camps as an 11-year-old. A recent Northern Illinois graduate, Harby is working full time for the Neuhoff radio stations in Springfield.
His first job, at WDAN in Danville, was less glamorous.
"Pulling staples out of papers," Harby said.
Before he graduated from DACC, Harby worked his way up the ladder to sports director at WDAN. Now, he's working in sales.
The annual summer camp was a godsend, he said.
"Without it," Harby said, "I wouldn't be involved to this extent."
Harby is far from the only person who attends the camp year after year. Another prominent one is Georgetown's Easton Hoskins, a fourth-year attendee who will start high school in August.
The 14-year-old is already a volunteer at WDAN.
For years, Hulvey has rewarded some of the most promising campers by hiring them as part-time assistants at WDAN.
Many pay back the favor and volunteer as instructors at future media camps.
This year's staff included not only Harby but also Indianapolis' R.J. Crace (who works full time at WIBC), Indianola's Matt Gocken, a rising senior, Oakwood's Logan Lee, Oakwood's Anthony Wilder and Danville's Rob Witzel. Each one has worked — or still works — at WDAN.
Calling it like a pro
It's hard to pick a camp highlight from the many candidates. A favorite among the youngsters is always the Thursday night Danville Dans home baseball game.
Each camper receives a half-inning to handle the public-address duties, a half-inning to provide radio play-by-play (live on WDAN), a half-inning to do Internet play-by-play and another half-inning as the color commentator on the Internet broadcast.
Hulvey marveled at what he heard from some of the young voices as he monitored the radio broadcast. Two points he emphasized during the week were to avoid "dead air" and to "paint a visual picture" for the listening audience.
Oakwood's Mitchell Day, 15, Philo's Ryan Miller, 15, and Mahomet's Isaac Trotter, 14, nailed it during their stints.
"Good to hear," Hulvey said.
All of the learners were matched up with a broadcasting veteran such as Eisenhauer or Harby in case they encountered difficulty.
When Trotter announced that Terre Haute pitcher Tommy Strunc was from Creighton University, Eisenhauer asked the freshman-to-be what many would consider a curveball.
"Isaac, where is Creighton located," Eisenhauer queried.
Without a pause, Trotter responded, "Isn't it in Nebraska? Omaha?"
"He did an excellent job," said Eisenhauer, the Danville mayor.
Another WDAN listener who heard the exchange said "if I were driving and heard him on the car radio, I'd think it was a professional broadcaster."
Somehow, all of us veterans currently in the media made it to our destination without the benefit of an all-encompassing camp. In my case, it was by years ago following tips that the week's speakers still considered important.
"Reps," said coach Bob Lovell, who conducts a Friday and Saturday night sports talk show in Indiana 10 months a year. "Reps, reps, reps."
Long before I knew what I was doing, I'd attend my local high school games, keep stats and head home to write a report. It was published in my journal and, thankfully, nowhere else. There must have been more than 100 entries.
Now, multiple-year Sports Media campers who are still teenagers such as Jordan Anderson, 15, from Paxton; Ross Brown, 14, from Gibson City; Cameron Griffin, 15, from Danville; and Caleb Trotter, 13, from Mahomet, have sound bites from prepared scripts they read in St. Louis that KMOX recorded for them.
Brown received a rousing ovation Thursday after ending his stint as PA announcer by leading the Danville Stadium patrons in an a cappella version of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" — while wearing a Chicago Cubs cap — prior to the bottom of the seventh inning.
Talking to camp personnel, Brown said "now you know which inning to schedule me on the PA next year."
These future media types may ultimately possess something even more meaningful than trinkets and memories: the knowledge that there's myriad possibilities in the profession beyond writing and broadcasting.
Fred Kroner is The News-Gazette's prep sports coordinator. He writes a weekly high school-related column throughout the school year. His next column will be in August. He can be reached at email@example.com, by phone at 217-351-5232 or by fax at 217-373-7401. Follow him on twitter @fkroner.