For Matt Andrews, coming home to Fayette County is always a joyous occasion. However on Tuesday at the Highland House in Washington C.H., it was a celebratory homecoming that humbled the popular sports broadcast journalist even more than usual.
Andrews, a 1998 Miami Trace High School graduate, served as the featured speaker at this year’s Fayette County Chamber of Commerce annual luncheon in front of a record crowd for the event — including family, friends, former teachers, and those who were just interested in the details of his burgeoning career.
“How fortunate I am to have grown up here and learned here….this place has been part of so many great times in my life,” Andrews told the crowd. “It’s very humbling to be back here. Growing up here, I was taught the importance of hard work, discipline, kindness, love and faith.”
Andrews recognized and thanked his parents, Charlie and Gina, his siblings, his teachers, as well as his co-workers and mentors in the local radio business.
“I grew up on a family farm, showing pigs, I was active in 4-H. I’m very proud of that background. I’m thankful for the way my parents raised me,” Andrews said. “I’m the oldest of four. I’m a very proud brother of Dave, Rob and Sarah.”
Dave Andrews is the head strength and conditioning coach at the University of Pittsburgh, and Rob and Sarah are both successful educators.
“I knew from a young age that I wanted to be in sports broadcasting or radio,” said Andrews, attributing a large part of that passion to listening to the legendary Cincinnati Reds baseball broadcasters, Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall.
“I grew up living and dying with Reds baseball. I die today more than I live with them,” he said to laughter from the crowd. “I listened to Marty and Joe, just trying to understand how the trade works and how they did it, how they crafted their skills. I obsessed over Reds baseball and professional baseball really since I was about 10 or 11.”
Andrews recalled one of his seminal local sports memories that occurred during the 1992-93 basketball season when both county high school basketball teams, Miami Trace and Washington C.H., advanced deep into the state tournament.
“Both were in the regionals, both had dramatic moments in that season,” Andrews said. “Trace lost to Whitehall in the regional semifinals…had they won, they would’ve played Washington in the regional finals. Washington of course gets to the regional finals on a Travis Robertson half-court bank shot. But that was a poignant moment for me. Listening to those games helped me realize that that was something I probably wanted to pursue.”
Andrews said he was also able to call the state baseball championship for the Washington Blue Lions in 2000.
His broadcast career began at 97.5 WVNU Greenfield covering high school sports in 1994.
“I’ll never forget calling my first football game, it was Saturday night with Miami Trace at a high school called River Valley,” Andrews said. “I remember it so well because I had to miss the Ohio State-Notre Dame game in Columbus. We weren’t doing it live, it was on tape delay. But at halftime, Miami Trace was up about 28-6, and the gentleman I was calling the game with just left and headed home. I called the second half of my first football game by myself. Miami Trace won the game, but it was quite an experience. That was kind of the beginning.”
Andrews spent about eight years calling games for WVNU.
“I’m a Miami Trace grad, but I gotta tell you that some of the greatest moments for me were covering McClain basketball at the Convo (in Athens). Because they were there every year, Coach (Rick) Van Matre won all the time.”
Known as one of the most intense coaches in the state of Ohio, Van Matre led his teams to 472 victories in his 28 years as head coach of Greenfield McClain.
In 1998, Andrews decided to live a lifelong dream of becoming a Buckeye, and enrolled at Ohio State University.
“Four of the best years of my life,” he said. “I probably should’ve went to Ohio U. for the broadcast journalism degree, but I couldn’t turn down Ohio State.”
Two years into his collegiate schooling, OSU did away with the broadcast journalism degree, Andrews said.
“So I’m halfway in, and luckily they still had a journalism communications degree,” he said. “So I hopped over to that…basically I just wrote. If you’re a good writer, if you can write, you can go a long way with your profession if you want to be in communications.”
Andrews was also able to work his way into student radio and WOSU while at Ohio State, and was able to call the 2002 national championship game in Tempe, Ariz., where the Buckeyes defeated Miami for the ultimate prize in college football.
“So after all that was figured out, I graduated in December of 2002 and really had no idea where things were going,” he said. “John Wend, who passed away about a year ago, was very instrumental in helping me get to call the Chillicothe Paints (minor league baseball team) on the radio. I’ll never forget there was a guy, who will remain nameless, told me, ‘You know, you’ll never be a broadcaster in sports doing baseball. With baseball, there’s only so many of those jobs. Why don’t you focus on another angle?’ That fueled me…it still fuels me to this day. It was a big moment and made me want to work a little bit harder.”
Andrews indeed used that motivation and turned it into a job working for the Louisville Bats, the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate from 2003-16. Andrews became the lead Bats radio broadcaster in 2010.
“I was there for 13 years and I fell in love with Kentucky,” he said. “The people in that state were unbelievable, some of my best friends in the world are still there. In 2010, I took over as the lead radio voice. I estimate that I’ve called about 1,800 minor league professional games. In the minors, you play 144 games in 151 days. It’s a game virtually every night and it can be a grind. There are no unions, no financial stability. It was something that I pursued maybe to a fault. But I was determined that someday I was going to become a major league broadcaster….and perhaps someday for the Reds.”
During his time in Kentucky, Andrews also worked three seasons at Morehead State doing men’s and women’s basketball, and after that he served as play-by-play broadcaster for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team for five seasons, where he broadcast the national championship game in 2013.
“I was privileged to go to the Final Four in New Orleans. They called it the greatest upset in the women’s game when Louisville beat Baylor and the seven-feet tall Brittney Griner,” Andrews said. “It was probably the highlight of my career. We lost in the national title game to UConn, but it was something I’ll never forget.”
As Andrews continued to chase his major league baseball broadcast dream, he had no inkling that he would soon be coming back to Ohio and back to his beloved Buckeyes.
“In April of 2016, a job at Ohio State opened up,” he said. “It was a little bit of a vague job posting. Radio/reporter/broadcaster for Ohio State baseball, Ohio State women’s basketball, and football was not set yet in terms of working those games. But I did apply to see what doors it opened up and where it went. I ended up taking the job.”
Now, Andrews is the play-by-play announcer for OSU women’s basketball and baseball, a sideline reporter for OSU football, and is morning update anchor with 97.1 The Fan flagship station in Columbus.
“If any of you are ever up at 6 a.m. and happen to have the radio on, you might hear me,” Andrews said. “The morning shift is probably the least desirable aspect of the job, but I fully realize I get to be a part of everything that goes on with Ohio State and on the sideline, so it’s part of the deal. My mornings begin at about 3 a.m. and I work until about 10:30 or 11 in the morning.”
The Ohio State football sideline can be a hectic, pressurized locale, according to Andrews.
“Ironically enough, it’s the least amount of responsibility I have in my seasons,” he said. “But it’s probably the most pressured Saturdays of my life. Not because I control how they play, it’s knowing that that how they play is controlling how your coaches and players think and deal with the media. At times it can be a struggle. The post-game interviews with the players is one of the real highlights.”
Andrews said he does miss his old baseball job with the Bats, but he believes this is where he’s supposed to be right now….back home.
“Close to home, close to you all, close to my family,” Andrews told the crowd. “This is where I started, this is where I built my life. I’m so very proud of this community.”
Reach Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352 or on Twitter @rywica