Nashville Voices: Tennessee Titans’ Mike Keith

It is hard to become synonymous with a team as a broadcaster. Similarly, it can be hard for many play-by-play announcers to build a career in just one place with one team, but the select few who can become legends–synonymous with the team.

It is impossible to think about the Tennessee Titans and their history without the brilliance of Mike Keith.

Keith’s calls each week have become must-listen, even when you’re watching the game on TV. Not many people know the team and its history as well as he does.

Since the Houston Oiler made the move to Tennessee, he’s been there seeing the franchise grow in good times and in bad.

“I was very driven to get an opportunity with the team,” Keith shares with The Sports Credential. “I didn’t know play-by-play would be [my in] but it just sort of fell that way. It’s really kind of remarkable.”

His voice is unmistakable, from his classic lines like ‘Saaaaaaaack!’ to his blood rushing ‘Touchdown Titans!’ But how did the man behind the Music City Miracle call become the broadcaster we all know and love?

Mike Kieth at the 2022 Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Photo: Courtesy of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.

Keith had his awakening at a young age when his family took him to see a University of Tennessee football game in October of 1974. At the same time, his second grade class was doing mock news broadcasts where he and his classmates could pretend to be reporters and TV anchors. This was around the time Keith began listening to the legendary Hall of Fame broadcaster John Ward call Volunteer football games regularly.  Those things coming together sparked something, beginning a lifelong love affair with sports and broadcasting.

“Since all of that hit at the same time, I knew in second grade what I wanted to do,” Keith puts simply.

In high school, Keith was already getting his feet wet in the broadcasting realm. As he explains, people that went to school with him aren’t surprised to know what he’s doing for a living.

It’s hard to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life and it can be very intimating, but for Keith it was crystal clear.

“I was the lucky one who knew exactly what they wanted to very early on,” he shares. “When I went to the University of Tennessee, I was pretty singularly focused on being in broadcasting.”

Despite his love for football and being the Titans guy we now know him for, some of Keith’s first gigs were in baseball. He loved the sport and played it growing up. He did minor league baseball play-by-play when he was 19, and was the voice of Tennessee baseball for almost 10 years.

“I did a ton of high school football and junior varsity football at Tennessee when they had the occasional game. I certainly worked football when working for John Ward.” He continues, “I was around it, but I wouldn’t say I had a predisposition towards one sport over another. If I had to bet, I would’ve probably thought I’d become a basketball announcer.”

Keith did Lady Vols basketball for several years, filling in for Tennessee legend Bob Kesling. He thought this was going to be where he planted his feet in the early years of his career, but everything changed when WIVK, the Knoxville radio station he was working for, got the broadcasting rights for Oilers games after the franchise first moved to Tennessee.

“I sent the president of the company a letter saying, ‘I’m from Nashville and I love the NFL. I would love to be involved in that somehow some way,'” Keith recalls. “I never thought John Ward would quit at Tennessee and I thought Bob Kesling would get the job when Ward did retire. I was really looking for another opportunity and it came when the Oilers moved to Tennessee.”

When the Oilers came to town, they were winning a lot with a 29-8 record in their first two seasons in the Volunteer state. The newly named Titans went to the Super Bowl in just its third season of being in Tennessee, and Keith attributes this early success to the team’s longevity, as well as his.

“When you win, people give you the benefit of the doubt in a lot of different ways,” Keith explains. “The problem in the NFL is eventually you’re going to lose. Through those times where we won, particularly in the first five years, people got used to what we did. It gave us a chance to grow and there was a really positive sense because we were associated with Steve McNair, Eddie George and Jeff Fischer. That was just so lucky.

“I couldn’t have been more blessed. I don’t know if I’ve ever known a broadcaster who got more breaks than I did starting this thing off.”

In that early stretch, the Titans pulled off the Wild Card win against the Buffalo Bills at Nissan Stadium in 2000, which went on to be known as the Music City Miracle.

Arguably the greatest moment in Titans history, the Music City Miracle can also be placed pretty high in Tennessee sports history. Keith’s call has become part of NFL and broadcasting history, with most fans able to recite it word-for-word.

It was moments such as this that made Keith such an enormous part of the Titans identity.

However, Keith’s favorite game he’s called has been the Titans’ 2019 playoff win against the New England Patriots, marking the last game of the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick era. The historical implications, as well as seeing the reaction from the fans, are why this tops Keith’s list.

“To be there that night, have our team do that and know we did it [was indescribable0,” Keith remembers. “[Gillet Stadium] was the same place that just 10 years earlier we had lost 59-0. There was a lot of satisfaction that night, and I’ll never forget seeing the Titans fans and how excited they were. The moments that we’ve had where I’ve gotten to see that reaction from our fanbase are the things that stick out.”

In July of 2022, Keith was recognized for his brilliance with an induction into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.

Looking back at his career thus far, it’s hard to not think about his experiences at the University of Tennessee and his work with John Ward, which he notes has made him into the man he is.

“He meant a lot to me, both personally and professionally, in the business. I worked with him for 11 years,” Keith notes. “He broke me down when I was in college because I thought I was better than I was. As I got older, he built me back up and showed me a lot respect and confidence. I learned a lot about his professionalism and preparation, and I followed him to learn how it should be done. His approach was to tell a story of a game, and the story of the game is about players, coaches, teams, schools and the places where you are.

“There are all these things that John would craft into this story, and that’s what it comes down to. You hear a lot of people in various types of media say, ‘I just want to tell stories,'” he continues. “I get it, but the older folks in the business really told stories and brought you there. John wanted to make you feel like you were sitting right there and he was so good at that.”

Mike Keith being inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Photo: Courtesy of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.

Since Ward’s work was primarily in radio, he learned to make the experience so much more vivid to the fan who couldn’t watch the game. Keith has carried on that brilliance as one of the best radio announcers in the country.

“When we’re doing what we do, the game is on TV,” Keith says. “If you’re sitting there watching the game on TV, I’m very appreciative if you’re also listening to our broadcast but I’m not assuming that you are. My mindset is to think about the people who are listening because they can’t watch it. I want to take what John taught me about how you make people see it even when they cant see it and tell that story. That’s what he was really brilliant at and that’s what I strive towards.”

Through it all, the things that touch Keith the most are seeing the reaction and passion from the Titans fans week in and week out. As a Franklin native and obvious football fan, there is nothing more satisfying that seeing fans go nuts after a crazy play or a game-winning field goal.

“Seeing the fans after the Music City Miracle play or seeing our fans after we won a playoff game is just the best,” he notes. “I didn’t have a team growing up in Franklin to support locally, and everyone followed national teams. Knowing that people have grown up with this franchise, had these fabulous moments, and knowing that we’ve been a small part as the soundtrack of them… it’s other worldly in terms of the appreciation that I have for that.

“I don’t ever get tired of doing this because I feel so fortunate that this has happened. I could’ve never seen it coming, especially growing up here.”

With so much change over the past two decades in Nashville and with the Titans, and with even more change surely on the way, Keith has been a constant for so many fans and Nashvillians.

With no sign of slowing down, Keith will continue to be the voice of the Titans and one of their proudest employees until he can’t anymore.

“I’d like to do this for another 50 years. I’d like to do it going into my 80’s,” Keith says with a grin. “As long as they’ll have me, I’d like to stay.”

Nashville Voices: Vanderbilt’s Andrew Allegretta

College football is in full swing and fans all around the country are tuning into games every Saturday as the voices behind our favorite teams continue to be so important to the identity to the team.

Vanderbilt’s Director of Radio Broadcasting Andrew Allegretta has been filling that job as the play-by-play voice for Commodore football and baseball since 2021.

Andrew Allegretta. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

“Through individual experiences, what I saw, what I felt and what I was comfortable with, I gravitated to the play-by-play side of things,” he shared with The Sports Credential.

Allegretta’s passion for sports and sports broadcasting specifically, began when he was young. In middle school his passions grew with watching games and ESPN’s SportsCenter.

“I think I knew I had a bit of an interest for it at a young age,” he recalls. “About the time I was in seventh grade, it peaked my interest just by watching ESPN, SportsCenter and watching and listening to games. There was a gravitational pull there.”

It was in high school when he was looking at colleges that this passion began to formulate and narrow down into something that he could see as a possible career path. He went on to attend Syracuse, one of the top broadcasting schools in the country that has produced numerous sportscasters such as Bob Costas, Mike Tirico and many more.

“I loved my time at Syracuse. Not just from a broadcasting standpoint, but because I met some of my best friends there,” he explains. “It’s hard to ignore Syracuse’s history and tradition within the broadcasting realm. I didn’t know it to the depths then that I do now, but I knew it enough to say to myself, ‘This is something you need to take pretty seriously.’ I’m certainly glad that I did.”

At Syracuse, he worked with the radio station Z98 which had a history of being the starting point for so many broadcasters, including Sean McDonough and Marv Albert. It was here where he began to focus on the play-by-play side of the sports broadcasting world.

“Just being in that environment really motivated me, grabbed my attention and sparked my passion,” Allegretta shares. “I loved being around the game, the performance of calling the game, and working with my classmates to produce those games. I fed off the energy of it.”

After graduating from Syracuse in 2010, he got a job–which was more of an internship, according to Allegretta–with the Walla Walla Sweets, a summer league baseball team in Walla Walla, Washington.

Being a native of Maine and going to school in New York, the Walla Walla Sweets were an opportunity go to the West Coast. This began his journey of traveling and working throughout different parts of the country, resulting in his growth as both a person and as a broadcaster.

Vanderbilt football stadium. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics/Daniel Dubois

“Being on the West Coast was really valuable for me,” he notes. “I think one of the really neat things about my personal journey is that I’ve been able to travel the country and live in different part of the country. From a totally non-broadcasting standpoint, I do think that has helped me understand people from everywhere in America.”

After a summer with the Sweets, he spent time with Charleston Southern University doing play-by-play for their football and men’s basketball teams. In 2011, he got a job with Virginia Tech’s athletic department where he spent eight years.

“That was a really big grounding force for me to get in with a Power 5 school and really learn what it’s all about to be the voice of a team, a voice of a program and what it means to work within an athletic department,” he notes.

Allegretta went on to be the Director of Broadcasting for Digital Media and Olympic sports at Virginia Tech. He also served as sideline reporter and pre/post-game host for football broadcasts, as well as play-by-play broadcaster for the Hokies’ women’s basketball and baseball teams. Additionally, he anchored coverage of VT Olympic sports broadcasts on the university’s digital platforms.

Will Sheppard. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

In 2018, he was honored by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association (NSSA) in as Sportscaster of the Year for the state of Virginia.

When first getting into broadcasting he wasn’t sure if he wanted to go down the path of college athletics or professional. However, his work for Syracuse really paved the way for his successful career in the world of college sports.

“It was just the way it unfolded for me,” Allegretta notes. “I kept moving toward college athletics and the voice of the team side of things, which I’m really thankful for. I think it suits who I am personally–trying to be part of a community and getting to know people.”

In 2019, Allegretta moved from Virginia Tech to Tulane where he was named Director of Broadcasting. In 2021, he made another move to Nashville to become Vanderbilt Athletics’ Director of Broadcasting. The 2022 effort marks his first full season with the Commodores.

“For me, personally, Vanderbilt is the No. 1 job in the country,” Allegretta offers. “My nature desires to be in and around collegiate athletics, in a community and to build that continuity of the fanbase, the players and coaches over the course of time.

“Now, from Tulane to Vanderbilt, I get to do it in the SEC–the best collegiate athletic conference in the country–at a place that has won two baseball national championships. They have all of this energy around it to push it forward with what [Vandy’s Athletic Director] Candice Storey-Lee is doing now.”

It was a really easy move for Allegretta as he saw the job at Vanderbilt as the crown jewel to move into the SEC and a growing athletic department. It was also a personal move, though, as his wife has family here.

“It’s hard to beat an opportunity like this, personally. It’s not going to be everybody’s No. 1 job in the country but, for me, it is.”

Being with Vanderbilt for just one year, Allegretta has had a lot of fun calling Clark Lea‘s first season as Vandy’s football coahc, as well as being a part of the Vandy Boys great baseball season. He’s also felt the freedom to create and try to take Vandy to new level.

“It’s really just a cauldron of energy and creativity and I’ve had fun with it,” he shares. “I get the true fortune of working with people who are passionate about Vanderbilt and who know the history and legacy. Whether its Kevin Ingram coming in and being our sideline reporter for football games, or our color commentator Norm Jordan who played here in the 1980’s, I’ve got a crew that is really fun to work with.”

As the Director of Broadcasting and the lead football voice, there can be a lot of preparation involved. Allegretta is very meticulous about the prep he and his team do on game day, doing a lot of work throughout the week to try and make every aspect the best. From the pregame, to the tailgate show, to the Monday night show, it’s a bigger process than just putting on his headset and calling a game.

Vandy United rendering

“There are a lot of layers to it that are more than filling in the data, putting it into a chart and saying it into a headset,” he explains. “It’s more like how can I make sure that the engineer who’s running our broadcast has all of the technical stuff that he needs? I try to be a positive force in every aspect of our operation.”

Allegretta is really looking forward to continuing to develop the relationship between the fans. He knows it takes time and is an uphill battle, but it’s something that is really important to him. He’s also really excited about how the Vandy United upgrades will continue to unfold.

“Personally, I’m looking forward to continue getting to know the fanbase here at Vanderbilt. It means a lot to me,” he shares. “On a macro level, I’m excited for people to get out here and to slowly start to see the physical fruits of our labor around here, like the physical construction. I know its a long time coming for people to see this place really take significant strides with its facilities and on a very real level.

“I think we’re all understanding of what Vanderbilt is trying to do and the fact that we’re all in that moment together is a fun moment to be at Vanderbilt,” he sums.

Nashville Voices: Nashville SC PA Announcer Chris Chapman

The job of a public address (PA) announcer is one of the jobs that can sometimes go unrecognized. For some fans, it’s just part of the game that doesn’t even register unless something of great importance happens or an important announcement is made. However, their job is arguably one of the most important for a live game experience. They become part of the stadium experience and grow into an integral part of the team’s identity.

For Nashville SC’s new home, GEODIS Park, Chris Chapman is filling that role.

“I’ve really enjoyed it. There’s an excitement about it and its fun to do,” Chapman shares with The Sports Credential. “Even as a kid, I used to go in my closet and do intros and outros to music because I thought it be cool to talk on the radio. All of those things have built me to where I am now.”

Chris Chapman. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

Chapman has been working in PA announcing on the TSSAA level for over a decade and for Nashville SC for five seasons, but has been working in media for most of his life. A graduate of Baylor University, he received a degree in TV/Radio/Film where he began his journey working in live production.

His part-time gig with Nashville SC began in 2017 when the USL club at the time needed a PA announcer to fill in, but as a soccer fan and Nashvillian, he and his son began going to games in the club’s early years.

“We bought season tickets to go to the games through one of the early founders club,” Chapman explains. “Then I heard USL was coming and I thought, ‘You know what, I’m just going to apply, I’m going to send in my information just to check on things.'”

Initially, the club wasn’t looking for outside PA work but his name was already on their radar. Chapman and his son continued to go to games, one day attending a fan fest where he approached Chris Jones, the current Senior Director of Fan Engagement & Entertainment with the club.

The ball started rolling from there.

“He said the guy who usually did the games had three games he couldn’t do so I went up for a couple of games and sat in to get the lay of the land at Vanderbilt Stadium. Then I did the last three games that season,” he recalls.

Nashville SC fans at Nissan Stadium. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

From there, he took the role seriously and made sure he knew exactly what he needed to know going into games and being as prepared as possible. After his first season, he kept reaching out to see if there was a full-time opportunity. Finally, the club asked him to be their sole PA announcer after receiving a string of applications.

Chapman was a first hand witness to the growth of the club from its PDL days, to the USL and finally the MLS, while also going from a one man team to a full team alongside him.

“The excitement of being at the first game at [Vanderbilt Stadium, First Horizon Park, Nissan Stadium and GEODIS Park] has been pretty cool and I’ve had great experiences,” Chapman notes. “I was at the first USL exhibition against Atlanta United and it was raining cats and dogs, but the people were still there. The thrill to be able to work it and trying to contain your excitement, but still be super excited at the same time, was pretty amazing.

“When we were announced to be an MLS team, I went to the announcement at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum not knowing if I was going to move forward with the team. I hoped I would because of the work I put in for it, but things and people change. I was thrilled when they asked me to be part of the MLS change.”

In high school and college, Chapman dabbled in everything from working on the morning announcements and emceeing for events at his school, as well as interning at radio stations in his native Texas. His first PA opportunity was in college when a friend asked him if he wanted to be the announcer at a local semi-pro baseball game.

Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

“I had spotted for PA announcers before but I had never done it. I thought, ‘Sure, I’ll do it,'” Chapman says. “I went out there and it was just me, the score sheet and a microphone. They handed me the score sheet and asked, ‘By the way can you keep score, too?'” he adds with a laugh. “It was an interesting introduction to say the least. If I were judging myself on that first time out, it was not good at all, but it was definitely an opportunity to get my feet wet.”

Chapman was raised by a Baptist minister and had a calling to become an ordained minister after graduating from Baylor. His father’s church had a decent TV presence, which is where his fascination for broadcasting really began. Since college and joining the ministry, he’s never left the media world, as he primarily worked in TV and media at the churches he’s served at. He’s currently the Director of Digital Media for the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville and has been with the convention for 22 years.

While he was serving as the Minister in Springdale, Arkansas, he had another opportunity to be the PA announcer for Shiloh Christian School in Springdale. He went on to be the announcer for their football team for three years, covering playoff games and working behind the scenes before moving to Nashville in 2000. 

For 10 years, he was out of the PA announcing and sports world until his son began playing soccer at Franklin High School around 2011.

“The parents said, ‘We don’t have anyone to PA, is there anyone interested?’ I said, ‘I’ll do it, I’ve done it before,” Chapman explains. “We kind of created our own atmosphere. I did, and still to this day, use the iPad to play music, I write the scripts and we got it down to a script setup.”

Dax McCarty and Walker Zimmerman at GEODIS Park opener. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

He picked up the announcer job for the girls team as well, and after his son and daughter graduated, he kept on doing it and hasn’t stopped since.

Throughout his 10 plus years of doing PA, Chapman has been part of many great games, including calling his kids’ games at Franklin, TSSAA regional tournament games and NSC thrillers. Not much can compare, though, to the club’s first MLS game against Atlanta United at a sold-out Nissan Stadium in 2020.

“There is no way to describe what it was like at that first MLS game against Atlanta,” Chapman reminisces. “There were 59,000 people in the stands and people were excited. It was a thrill to be at the game, and it was a thrill to be part of the atmosphere and environment of the game.”

Chapman has been an integral part of the game day experience for the die-hard Nashville SC fans and has been able to create his own atmosphere and traditions throughout the years in each level.

“There are some things that we do on a regular basis that are the same, but over the years in PA, you realize that people like having some of those traditional things that they can count on when they’re in the stands,” Chapman explains. “Whether you announce a goal or announce a card, people get used to that cadence. It has been fun in each one of those levels to establish my style.”

Randal Leal after scoring Nashville SC’s first-ever goal at GEODIS Park. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

Finally being at GEODIS Park and having a permanent home after spending over five years as nomads, was something that Chapman admits was really special. Though the first MLS match at Nissan Stadium was a career highlight, the first game at GEODIS Park might take the cake.

“I’ll never forget the opening announcement and the crowd excitement,” Chapman shares. “The coolest thing about being a stadium announcer is that you instantly get feedback from the crowd. It’s almost like maneuvering a big ship. You get to move all these people with your voice and, the way they respond, you get to hear their reactions instantly. That first game was pretty spectacular.”

Though he takes his job seriously and is very meticulous when it comes to preparing, understanding the game and knowing the players, Chapman can’t help being over excited at times when watching this team play. He arrives to the stadium almost four hours early to go over anything before kickoff, but once the game starts, he becomes as much of a fan as the ones in the stands.

“I’m a huge fan of the game and I’m a huge fan of Nashville. During the game I’m standing up and I’m trying to see who’s doing what so we know what happens. I’m in the game. Sometimes I might be overreacting in the booth, but luckily it’s just me and a few of my closest friends.”

Nashville Voices: Belmont’s Rich Tiner

Rich Tiner. Photo: Courtesy of Belmont Athletics

Belmont University and its athletic department has seen a lot of change over the past decade. With those changes has come new buildings, athletic centers, a larger student body and more championships.

With all of this progress and development, though, some things stay the same. Rich Tiner, former professor at Belmont, has been a mainstay for the Bruins as the lead broadcaster for women’s basketball and baseball for over 20 years.

Tiner has been the voice for so many huge moments in Bruins women’s basketball and baseball, including OVC Tournament games and NCAA Tournament runs. He has seen coaches come and go and players rise to heights of which Belmont has never seen, but it all started when he was eight years old setting up baseball cards in his bedroom and creating games in his head where he led the play-by-play.

“I absolutely loved baseball and I sat on my bed in the summer with the window open and two stacks of baseball cards, each one arranged into a lineup, and I made up baseball games in the grass outside my window,” Tiner explains to The Sports Credential. “I kept score and everything, I just made it up and called play-by-play of a game that I was imagining in my mind. It goes back that early for me.”

Pictured (L-R): Former Belmont women’s basketball player Hannah Harmeyer & Rich Tiner. Photo: Courtesy of Belmont Athletics

A product of Texas, Tiner grew up in the heart of high school football country where he got his start as a spotter for radio broadcasters and PA announcers. With his first opportunity, Tiner had a huge roster in front of him and would place a pen by the the person running, tackling, and catching so the play-by-play person could just glance down instead of memorizing the names and numbers of huge teams.

“My dad was close friends and worked with a guy who called high school football down in south Texas,” Tiner recalls. “My dad kept stats for them before live stats and computers. When I was between 12 and 13, I would go with my dad and be a spotter for the guy that was doing play-by-play.”

Throughout his college years, Tiner stayed in broadcasting but was also heavily involved in the Christian music industry, running and later owning stations in Texas, Washington, and eventually Nashville. In Texas when he and his father bought a station, they added high school football knowing it would be great for the growth and ratings. Tiner got back in the booth and began calling games over the air for the first time.

“I started doing play-by-play because I thought it’d be fun and, if I did it, I wouldn’t have to pay somebody else and there really wasn’t anybody else. It was a small town so I just started doing it, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Tiner has been an integral part of Belmont and Belmont athletics as the ‘Voice of the Bruins’ for over two decades and serving as Belmont’s Faculty Athletics Representative. He’s worked with student-athletes, the athletic department, and the NCAA serving as a member of the Division I Council.

Over the year’s, Tiner has seen so much change from the building where the Bruins play, to how they broadcast games to fans from around the country and world.

Rich Tiner with former Belmont women’s basketball coach and Tennessee Sports Hall of Famer Betty Wiseman. Photo: Courtesy of Belmont Athletics

At the beginning, he was calling games that aired on the university’s radio station but, as the season’s rolled on and Belmont joined the Atlantic Sun Conference and eventually the Ohio Valley Conference, the Bruin’s moved from over-the-air radio broadcasts to live streaming video broadcasts with ASUN TV, the OVC Digital Network and finally ESPN+.

A lot has changed behind the scenes, too, as Belmont has grown in both size and finances. From the Strickland Arena to the Curb Event Center, the university has gone from a small production group to a huge staff of full timers, as well as students offering to help produce award-winning broadcasting.

“[The broadcast] got better because those first years were audio only,” Tiner explains. “We started with what was called ASUN TV, which was the Atlantic Sun Conference’s digital initiative. Between me and Greg Sage, who was also involved in that, we helped the ASUN develop that whole thing and improve it. Once we added the video component, we had to staff it, and part of that process was adding sports production coursework. We had students that were available to help with crew but, from their perspective, it was an opportunity for students to do real world lab work for their class.”

He continues, “They were doing live, multi-camera productions of sports contests for their for part of their coursework. Students loved it and they learned a lot. It was great experience for them! In those early days, those students that did well had jobs lined up because they were the first ones. There weren’t five million people that had experience doing sports production like there are now, so it was really a win-win on the academic side, for the athletics program, and for our students.”

Rich Tiner celebrating the Belmont Women’s Basketball’s 2017 OVC Tournament win with Hannah Harmeyer. Photo: Courtesy of Belmont Athletics.

The work from Tiner, Belmont’s Associate AD for Broadcasting & Media Relations Greg Sage, former athletic director Mike Strickland and many more, gave students hands-on experiences that couldn’t be replicated in the classroom. Many Belmont alumni that worked with the athletic department producing these live broadcasts went on to become top-tier broadcasters of their own, including former WKRN sports host and current 247 host Emily Proud, WBIR Knoxville anchor Madison Hock and Broadcast and Digital Reporter for the Oklahoma City Thunder Paris Lawson.

“As the old retired professor, there is nothing that makes me happier than seeing these former students have such success. That makes my day when I think about them,” Tiner says fondly.

Through countless baseball games and women’s basketball championships, Tiner doesn’t think about calling it quits as he’s just having too much fun. He’s always been a professor first since coming to Belmont in 1996, but the love and joy he gets from calling games and seeing the hundreds of student-athletes grow from 18-year-old kids to young men and women is what takes the cake.

“I have this ritual that when I set up my broadcasting gear and I get finished testing everything out. I look out onto the baseball field or the basketball court and I just take this deep breath, and I say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe they pay me real money to do this,'” Tiner explains. “I’m still just like that eight-year-old kid sitting on the edge of my bed, making up a game in the grass because I love doing it so much. But this time I’m not making up a game. It’s a real game and it’s really awesome student-athletes. I love them all like they’re my own kids, so I feel pretty honored and blessed after all these years to still get to do it.”

Nashville Voices: The Nashville Sounds’ Jeff Hem

Jeff Hem. Photo: Courtesy of the Nashville Sounds

The Nashville Sounds have been in Music City since 1978, predating the Titans and the Preds as the oldest professional franchise in Nashville. For those who love the team but can’t head to every game at First Horizon Park, they can find comfort in hearing veteran broadcaster Jeff Hem on the Sounds call game in and game out.

Hem, Director of Broadcasting, has been the “Voice of the Sounds” for over a decade, taking over the role in 2012. He’s been a mainstay in Middle Tennessee as he’s called games for Vanderbilt, MTSU and continues to call TSAA football and basketball games. While with the Sounds, he’s called countless comebacks, heartbreakers and record breakers, and has seen dozens of MLB prospects come through Nashville’s Triple A team.

“The city is is tremendous. The team, the ballpark, the front office–everything about who the Sounds are and what the Sounds do as a front office is a pleasure to be a part of,” Hem shares in an interview with The Sports Credential.

Pictured: Press box view at First Horizon Park.

However, his journey started when he was a junior at the University of Iowa and began dabbling in broadcasting. The Aurora, Illinois native played sports throughout his life and knew that he wanted to work in sports, but didn’t quite know where he’d fit.

“Some guys have these stories like, ‘When I was eight years old I wanted to be an announcer,’ but I didn’t have that,” Hem explained. “I had a family member tell me, ‘Take money and all of the side factors out of it. What would you love to do if you could do anything?’ I had this moment of thinking maybe sports broadcasting.”

While at Iowa, he worked at the college station and eventually tried his hand at play-by-play in Aurora for high school basketball, even calling some amateur, high performance Fastpitch softball tournament games for the local access TV station in 2002.

“Those were the first two times where it was really me with the mic doing a game, and I did not want to hear tapes of those calls,” Hem jokes. “It would be pretty awful, I’m sure, if I went back to listen.”

After he graduated in 2004, Hem found himself interning with the Battle Creek Yankees, a Single A baseball team in Michigan. This was his first steady professional broadcasting gig where he learned and grew in his craft.

“As a kid, right out of college, I thought I was doing game seven of the World Series every day,” Hem recalls. “I was just so happy to be doing games regularly, traveling with a team, being on the air every single day. I learned a lot that first summer just because of the volume of repetitions you’re getting and the day after day preparation involved in doing a job like that.”

After spending a season in Battle Creek, he took the job as the play-by-play voice of the Kane County Cougars, a minor league affiliate in the greater Chicago are who were in the same league as the Yankees. He would spend seven years with the Cougars before leaving to join the Sounds in 2012, which he saw as a new opportunity in his journey as a broadcaster.

Going from Low A baseball to a Triple A club in a major city would allow for growth and possibly greater opportunities.

In June of 2018, Hem had the opportunity of a lifetime when the Oakland Athletics, the Sounds Major League affiliate at the time, asked him to fill in for their radio broadcaster. Like a minor league ball player, Hem finally made his major league debut.

“It turned out to be a doubleheader because the game the day before got postponed, so I got two for the price of one,” Hem says cheekily. “I always joke that it’s the only doubleheader I’ve ever truly been excited about. Most of the time you you dread doing a doubleheader just because it’s a long day, but they had to pull me out of that booth that night because I enjoyed the day so much.

“To have a major league broadcast opportunity, given the fact that that’s what I still aspire to do on a daily basis, was pretty special. That’s always going to take the cake.”

Though his primary role is with the Sounds, Hem has offered his voice to Vanderbilt, Lipscomb and to Middle Tennessee high school athletics. He calls select MTSU men’s basketball games for the Blue Raider Network, High School Hoops and Friday Night Rivals matchups on MyTV30, and is the voice of the TSSAA’s Blue Cross Bowl football championships.

“I’ve always loved baseball, but I’ve also always loved other sports. Any opportunity I have in the fall, winter and spring to spread my broadcast wings a little bit and take on other challenges, I welcome,” he notes. “I’ve been able to do a combination of football and basketball on both radio and television for the TSSAA and I love doing that. All the sports–baseball, basketball, and football–are so different as far as what you’re trying to do as the announcer and the pace is different. There’s just so many different challenges that come with each sport, and I love all of them. Even though the Sounds, by volume, accounts for the most games that I do, I love taking on the other opportunities that I’ve been able to have.”

Hem has solidified himself as a Nashville broadcaster over the decade, being the voice for so many games from high school, college, and the city’s beloved minor league baseball club.

As long as it isn’t raining, you can always catch Hem on 94.9 FM calling every moment, every play, sharing some Sounds history and bringing excitement to Nashville’s oldest team.