The drive from Lebanon to Lewiston, Idaho is 2,160 miles and takes 34 hours. But from the press box microphone at the NAIA World Series to a radio in Lebanon, Mitch Walters’ voice came in loud and clear.
“I’m a little dysfunctional at times with a microphone,” Walters told a crowd gathered Monday at the Lebanon Kiwanis Club’s meeting.
Play by play and pitch by pitch, Walters and Jo Jo Freeman kept the Cumberland University faithful tuned into the action right up to the Bulldogs winning their third national championship in baseball.
In fact, Walters has seen them all, coupled with near misses and losses that left Cumberland short along the way.
“Twenty-seven years ago, a wet-behind-the-ears kid came to Lebanon and interviewed with Woody Hunt,” Walters said. “He was the AD at the time, and he hired me to coach and teach. I’ve been blessed in so many ways by the university, but especially by Coach Hunt.”
Walters spoke highly of the man who originally hired him to coach soccer at Cumberland.
“He’s a man you want your son or your grandsons to play for,” Walters said. “I’ve been asked so many times through the years, what does Woody do that’s so special? Well, he recruits good players and works the fire out of them fundamentally. I tell them there are more life lessons taught in a day than there is baseball. The baseball that is taught is very simple.
“I get up at 5 o’clock in the morning in the fall to get out there at 6 o’clock when he gives his talk, because he always has a theme every day that he talks to those boys about life and success in life. I’ve heard some of them now 20 or 25 times. I still enjoy hearing them, and it has me ready to go for the rest of the day.”
Walters said the road to the national championship for Cumberland wasn’t always smooth.
“This was not our most talented team, far from it,” Walters said. “Some of our most talented teams never made it to the World Series…The boys just understood what to do to win. They all accepted their roles and didn’t quit.”
And compared to prior Cumberland championship teams, the one won this year was different.
The 2004 team, they were very talented. In 2010, we were loaded,” Walters said. “We had some awfully good players. We only lost eight or nine games that year.”
Walters journey to the microphone to become the longtime voice of the Bulldogs came about in a rather unusual way.
“I actually got hired to start the two soccer programs,” he said. “I coached softball and was an assistant for women’s basketball. Basketball was actually my dream. My dad was a basketball coach in Pennsylvania from where I came. It just went from there.”
When asked whether he had a favorite announcer or call from baseball’s past, Walters turned to his childhood.
“I grew up, obviously, as a kid in the ’60s and ’70s,” he said. “You listened to the AM radio every night. You went to sleep to it. I’m from northern Pennsylvania, and Bob Prince, longtime Pittsburgh Pirates announcer, was who I listened to…After about the seventh inning, the Iron City beer started working on him, so it was hard to understand what he was saying in the eighth and the ninth.”