By Tommy Newton, Public Affairs Assistant Director
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - When his two sons played baseball for the Hilltoppers from 1999 to 2006, WKU President Gary Ransdell became a fixture in the stands at Nick Denes Field.
As a lifelong baseball fan, Dr. Ransdell continues to attend WKU baseball games; however, for 10 to 12 games a season, he has one of the best seats in the house when he joins "Voice of the Hilltoppers" Randy Lee on Big Red Radio Network broadcasts.
"I enjoy doing the radio color commentary for our baseball team," Dr. Ransdell said after Friday night's Sun Belt Conference opener against Middle Tennessee. "I wish I could do all of the games, but my real job just does not allow me to give up the required time. March, April and May are busy months for a president on a university campus."
Although his day job keeps him busy, Dr. Ransdell is always prepared when he arrives at the press box, Lee said. "I'm impressed with the time and effort he puts into it," Lee said.
During baseball season, Dr. Ransdell keeps a three-ring binder of statistics and other information handy.
"To me, doing 10 or 12 games a year is an enjoyable diversion," Dr. Ransdell said. "I like the preparation. I like learning about our students. I like learning about students and teams from other universities. I like understanding the statistics and anticipating how they allow you to predict what will happen in a game situation. To me, baseball is a game perfect for radio."
Dr. Ransdell is part of an all-star lineup of color commentators who work with Lee during the season. "He's usually our game one starter," Lee said, referring to Dr. Ransdell's appearances on the Friday games that open a weekend series.
When Lee took over as "Voice of the Hilltoppers" about four years ago, "we just wanted to get some different voices involved with WKU baseball broadcasts." Once he learned of Dr. Ransdell's connections to the program and his knowledge of the game, Lee asked the president to join him for broadcasts.
"Some people can't believe they're hearing our university president on the radio, but he does a great job," Lee said. Dr. Ransdell also has provided commentary for some road games as well as Sun Belt Conference and NCAA tournament games.
"When Randy Lee asked me to do a little color commentary, I jumped at the chance," Dr. Ransdell said. "I have always been a baseball fan. As a young boy growing up in Louisville, I remember my father listening to major league baseball games on the radio and keeping a stat sheet. I remember taking a transistor radio to school and listening to World Series games between classes. I grew up as a fan of the Cardinals and Reds, and grew into a Braves fan. When Julie and I lived in Texas, I became a Rangers fan.
"For Julie and me it is also personal in that both of our sons played the game from when they both were 8 years old until they graduated from WKU. I doubt that I could have been a regular part of a radio broadcast when Patrick and Matthew were playing -- throw in family and it might get a little too emotional."
The time spent with his sons and their coaches from Little League to WKU has allowed him to learn more about the game and its strategies - which he's able to use in his radio commentary.
"He knows the game," Lee said. "He takes a lot of pride in his work and he enjoys it."
Dr. Ransdell also enjoys the opportunity to watch WKU students perform and compete - whether that's on the playing field, a theatre production, a research competition, a speech or debate event, a business competition, an engineering contest or a national conference. "I am all in any time our students do anything worthwhile in the name of WKU," he said.
When he puts on the headset, flips open his notebook and gets ready for the first pitch on a Friday night, Dr. Ransdell is all in for WKU baseball.
"When I am doing a game, I am only focused on what is happening on that field of play," Dr. Ransdell said. "It is good to have a chance to put other things aside for a couple of hours and still be engaged with our students. I really appreciate Randy letting me join him. He is a great play-by-play guy who really knows the game. He also allows me to talk about other WKU things during a broadcast, which is good for programs across campus.
"It also gives me a chance to connect with alumni and WKU fans in a way that is a bit unusual for a president. I look forward to doing this for many years to come, or as long as our broadcast network will let me."