Voice of the Wildcats embodies Baker tradition


Jenna Black

Tom Hedrick, the voice of the Wildcats, continues to broadcast Baker football and basketball games on KNBU-FM 89.7 in Baldwin City. Hedrick, a graduate in 1956, was inducted into the Baker Athletic Hall of Fame in 1978. Image by Jenna Black.

Story by Emma Grossner

Whether it be Liston Stadium or the Collins Center, the setting and seasons may change, but the voice of the Wildcats, Tom Hedrick, remains the same.

With over 50 years as a sports broadcaster for teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Reds, Texas Rangers, Dallas Cowboys, Kansas Jayhawks and Nebraska Cornhuskers, Hedrick has shared 28 years with the Baker Wildcats and has countless stories to tell and lots of knowledge to share.

Hedrick has called three Super Bowls and nine Cotton Bowls. Along with covering such prestigious events, Hedrick has also received state and national sportscaster of the year honors. Hedrick has even compiled his best advice for becoming a successful broadcaster through his published book titled “The Art of Sportscasting.” Hedrick now spends his time instructing future sports broadcasters and doing play-by-play for Baker University football and basketball games.

Hedrick strives to impact students through his constructive criticism and entertaining stories. These stories may cover a variety of topics, but words of wisdom beyond sports are usually attached to each one.

”Tom’s stories not only make me laugh, but they always tie into the subject being discussed and have a lesson to learn,” junior mass media major Krista Porter said. “I truly respect Tom’s advice and apply it as much as possible. His experience in the field of radio is incredible.”

Hedrick’s Baker roots stem much further than his broadcasting years. Hedrick was a student at Baker University from 1952 to 1956. He was a sports editor for the Baker Orange and a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity. He was also active within the theater department.

“The thing I liked about Baker is that you got ‘hands-on.’ I had never written for a school newspaper prior to Baker. I had also never been in a play,” Hedrick said. “All of those components were vital when it came to later years when I was a TV guy and had to write my script every night.”

Today, the campus sports broadcasting program and KNBU-FM provide Baker students with hands-on opportunities. However, Hedrick did not have those advantages. His own story shows that if students are passionate enough, they can find ways to master their craft in any setting.

“We didn’t have a student radio station at that time, so what I would do is go across campus and broadcast games to myself,” Hedrick recalls. “A lot of people thought I was nutty for doing that, but I knew that I wanted to be a sportscaster.”

Hedrick believes that success is almost guaranteed if students put forth the hard work.

“I had a great experience at Baker. Hall-of-fame professors taught me, and when I went to Kansas University in pursuit of a master’s degree, it was easy,” he said. “All I had to remember were my fundamentals learned through Baker University. They taught me how to think, write and perform in front of a camera. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”

Early on, he said he followed valuable words of advice from his father, who advised him that if he was struggling after three weeks of a course, the solution would be to go directly to the professor.

“I used to love to go to class, because I always learned something. Also, in my era, every professor lived in town,” Hedrick said. “Ninety percent of the time, the prof would say, ‘Come to my house tonight, bring your book and bring your notes, and I’ll be your tutor.”

Hedrick also credits success to being open to experiences.

“Always explore things that are not in your field. Get involved, try as many things as you can,” he said. “Go to lectures offered on campus, go to plays, take a look at art form because those are things that later in life are going to make a difference. Most of us are too channeled in one direction. Take on as many activities on as you can.”

Along with getting involved in numerous activities, Hedrick advises students to explore fraternity and sorority life.

“My brothers were the closest thing that I had when I was going to school, and they still are some of my closest friends. I wouldn’t trade those memories for the world,” he said.

Many students mention kindness when describing Hedrick. The term simply seems to follow him around. In true Hedrick fashion, a lesson is sure to follow this valuable trait.

“One valuable life lesson that I’ve learned from Tom is simply to be good to people,” senior Jim Joyner, who serves as Hedrick’s color analyst during game broadcasts, said. “Being around Tom and watching how he interacts with people, I have learned that the best way to treat people is to be as nice as you can be. Tom treats all people with the same respect, which is what separates him from a lot of people.”

Junior Cornell Brown, who is currently a student in Hedrick’s sports broadcasting class, said that that Hedrick is one of the nicest and most genuine people that he has ever encountered.

“He seems to have a story for everything,” Brown said.

Some students have their own stories about Hedrick.

“One of my favorite memories with Tom happened during the national championship game for women’s basketball in March,” Joyner said. “I was going to broadcast the third quarter of the game, and right before the second half began, Tom said on the air that since he had always been the voice of the Wildcats that he never gets to be a fan for his favorite team. So for the third quarter Tom went and sat in the stands and cheered on his Baker Wildcats, just like the students were. He is such a huge Baker fan, if not the biggest fan, and he finally got to have his moment in the stands.”

Joyner also shared memories from his road trips with Hedrick.

“We always stop at one of three places – Wendy’s, KFC or Subway – and then when we’re on the way home we’ll stop at Dairy Queen for a milkshake,” Joyner said. “The best part about riding with Tom is that he has made all of the trips within the conference so many times that he knows where every single one of those restaurants can be found on the way to Peru, Nebraska, or to Marshall, Missouri. I swear he can name every Dairy Queen in the Heart of America Athletic Conference.”

Hedrick’s impact is lasting, both on the Baker University campus and on a national scale.

“Baker is a tight-knit community, so there are a lot of people that treat others well,” Joyner said. “However, Tom exemplifies that and is a true representation of what it means to be a part of the Baker community.”