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Gameday with the ‘Voice of the RedHawks’

Miami University Director of Broadcasting, Steve Baker, sits at the media table preparing to call a men’s basketball game against Eastern Illinois.
Miami University Director of Broadcasting, Steve Baker, sits at the media table preparing to call a men’s basketball game against Eastern Illinois.

There's about three hours till Eastern Illinois University and Miami University face off in the Miami Classic.

There's not a single player on either team warming up on the court, but at the media table is Steve Baker untangling various power cords. 

If you've tuned into a RedHawk basketball game, you've heard a similar opener. 

"From Millett Hall, on the campus of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, welcome into college basketball," Baker says.

Baker’s been the 'Voice of the RedHawks' since the 1980s, providing play-by-play for football and basketball broadcasts. Since 2001, he's served as the athletic department's Director of Broadcasting.

Decades of covering hoops has made preparing for home game days a solid routine. In the days leading up to this particular contest, Baker watched previous Eastern Illinois games to familiarize himself with the opponent’s playstyle.

Early in the morning, Baker filled out a page in his Markwort Basketball Scorebook. Scorecards allow broadcasters to have many facts about each player on hand, from their hometown to their career highs. 

On the left side of the page are notes on the entire RedHawk roster. On the right side, no room is left for more information on the Panthers.

"I try to get as prepared as I can," Baker said.

Miami began televising all basketball games on ESPN networks eight years ago. Baker arrives at the media table a few hours before a game to power on equipment and plug in headsets. While he’s no longer the sport’s radio broadcaster, he still plugs in the radio technology.

After setting everything up, Baker heads over to the production trailer at the back of Millet Hall to monitor the audio levels and cameras. The trailer is magical. There are hundreds of colorful buttons, each with a different function to run an ESPN broadcast.

To keep Baker on the same page as the program, the producer in the trailer speaks with him through a headset during the game. The producer alerts him whenever the broadcast is heading to a commercial break or showing a replay. 

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Baker has to balance simultaneously having the color commentator, the game and the producer in his ears. At one point during the Eastern Illinois game, Baker informed viewers there was a media timeout, but the producer quickly corrected him that it was an Eastern Illinois timeout. 

"It's a unique thing,” Baker said. “You just get used to it."

When everything is ready in the trailer, Baker returns to the broadcasting table to ensure the audio is good in his headset. He and the producer run through a few countdowns to test Baker's microphone.

Baker will have time to relax before the game if the producer gives him an OK. LaRosa’s Pizzeria is catered for all staff and members of the media. He prefers to set up early to avoid rushing before a game starts. 

"There's always problems with technology," Baker said. "That's one of the reasons why we get here so early. Friday night, a week ago, we're streaming a volleyball match, and we walk into our trailer, and the audio console isn't working at all."

Once Baker is done eating lunch, he walks down to the broadcasting table to settle before tip-off. He pre-records the broadcast opener. 

"Game three of the Miami classic between the host Miami RedHawks and the Panthers of Eastern Illinois,” Baker said. “Hello again, everyone, and welcome in. I'm Steve Baker, and alongside is Randy Hollowell. We'll be bringing you the action today."

The RedHawks lead after the first half, 43-30. Baker uses the break to coordinate with the production crew on how to start the second-half broadcast. The replay man creates short highlight reels for Baker and Hollowell to discuss the best first-half performer from each team.

The final buzzer sounds. On days Baker does television broadcasts, his day is over when he packs up the equipment.

"That's the joy of doing TV," Baker said. "I don't have to do a postgame show. We can just kinda wrap it up and be done."

The RedHawks survived a late Panther rally, winning the tournament’s finale 76-64. Baker is passionate about calling games and learning new technologies, but his favorite part of the job is seeing Miami's talent produce wins.

"That's when it's fun,” Baker said. “Guys are playing well [and] doing the right things for the most part to get a win. Losses are never fun, but to see this team and how they're coming around, that's one of the best parts of the job."