By: Director of Athletic Communications and Public Relations Kevin Ruple
BEREA, Ohio -- For more than 40 years, Baldwin Wallace University campus radio station WBWC, 88.3 FM, has been considered one of the best college radio stations in the Midwest for its sports coverage. Now, a pair of BW grads are transforming a radio station in Canton into the place to go if you want to hear and talk sports on the Kenny and JT Show.
The BW Grads and Fraternity Bothers Reunite
In the early to mid-1980s, then BW student sportscasters Jeff Turk '85 and Kenny Roda '86 combined to cover Yellow Jacket baseball games and then each went a separate way following graduation. A year ago, the duo reunited when Turk, a native of Canton, joined Roda's day time drive time show from 3-7 p.m. on 1480 WHBC in Canton. You can listen live on WHBC.com. It quickly became another "match in heaven" for the two ATO (Alpha Tau Omega) fraternity brothers.
"We first broadcast games back in the early 80's," said Turk. "We got a great opportunity from the late Connie Allen at BW to do both home games and travel to away games. BW was one of the first schools to really do that, and with the help of Connie and BW graduate Gregg Pelka '81, BW was sports broadcasting was the pace-setter, the trend-maker.
"It's great being back on the air with Jeff," said Roda. "We have great chemistry and a lot of fun talking sports, whether its the Browns, Indians, CAVS, Canton McKinley or Baldwin Wallace. Whether we're talking sports or about another subject, we are both knowledgeable, have fun and add a great deal of humor. Our listeners tell us they enjoy the discussion and humorous banter."
The Long-Term Goal
"WHBC has been here for 75 years and is well-established," said Roda. "Our goal is to improve that reputation and make it even better. Our ratings are growing. The social media chatter is increasing and Alpha Media is happy and has taken notice.
"Our long-term goal is the possibility of syndication," said Roda. "Its still in the distant future, and whether its actually achievable is unknown yet, but as long as our ratings and outreach continues, the possibility gets better every day!"
The Cantonian and His Sidekick
Turk, who attended Canton McKinley in high school and played wide receiver for the Yellow Jackets, was a natural fit for Roda. The Canton native, who considers himself a "lifelong Cantonian" provided the local flavor and personality that has helped the show flourish.
"Kenny was one of the few people who I kept in contact with all these years," said Turk with a laugh. "When Kenny worked in Cleveland (at WKNR/ ESPN), he would stay with me the week of the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game. We've always had a great connection and I wanted to get back into radio.
"I remember getting my first football recruiting letter while in high school from BW and the legendary Lee Tressel '49," said Turk. "I got to play four years of football for another BW Legend, Bob Packard '65. It was a great experience and one I will never forget, including three straight Ohio Athletic Conference titles from 1982 through 1984."
"Jeff was working in a bar and I swear he knows everyone in this City (Canton)," said Roda. "If he doesn't know them, he's somehow related to them!"
Roda's Veteran Leadership
Roda, a native of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, joined the staff at WHBC in 2014. He found his passion for sports broadcasting at BW while covering the Yellow Jackets, but has honed his skills well enough for cleveland.com to name him one of the Top 100 broadcasters/ disc jockey's in Cleveland radio history. While the venues for the 30-year veteran Northeast Ohio sportscaster and WBWC Hall of Famer have changed, his passion for sports and love of his Yellow Jacket roots and high school football and basketball haven't changed one iota.
"The people of Canton love their high school sports, especially football and basketball," said Roda. "They are very passionate about their teams and rivalries, and that really makes it a lot of fun."
The Long Road from BW to Cleveland to Canton
Roda's first message to prospective broadcasters is to stick with it.
"This is not an easy business," said Roda, "But it is a lot of fun, its covering, researching and talking sports. But you also have to be realistic and be ready to do what it takes to progress. Perseverance is a big factor."
Roda came to BW to study communications and play basketball. A few months into his stay in Berea, his dreams of leading the Jackets to an OAC title on the court vanished. Undaunted, Roda move head, body and feet first into a new passion – broadcasting sporting events.
During his four years at BW, Roda called football, basketball and baseball games, served as the sports director at campus radio station WBWC, and developed a strong, loyal following. Following graduation, he began work at a local cable television station that covered Berea, Middleburg Heights, Brook Park and Strongsville, producing local programming such as city council meetings and sports.
So close to BW, Roda asked if he could call BW sporting events. That was a no-brainer. Within a year, he and then BW Sports Information Director Kevin Ruple developed the first-ever small college TV network in the northern portion of the state, with BW football and select soccer and basketball games airing in all of Cuyahoga and Lorain counties and from Sandusky to Bucyrus to New Philadelphia to Ashtabula.
Roda then joined the sports team at WKNR radio, a new sports radio station in Cleveland. He worked for 21 years at WKNR and advanced from doing "10-minute tickers" to having his own sports talk radio show and becoming one of the top radio sportscasters in the City.
Roda continues to be one of the top personalities in Northeast Ohio. He also can be seen at times doing the pregame shows for the Cleveland Gladiators in the Arena Football League and Monsters of the American Hockey Association.
"Sometimes when people ask me where I work, I tell them I don't have a job, I have a career," said Roda. "It is that love of the career that is important. I get paid for something I love to do, and that's a wonderful thing.
"I am so glad that I reunited with Kenny and am working at WHBC," said Turk. "We are having a blast, so join us daily from 4-7 p.m. on WHBC. We'd love to connect or reconnect with you too!"
If BW students or alumni are interested in connecting with Kenny and JT, they are more than ready, willing and able to talk! "If we can help a student or reconnect with an alum, please send them our way," stated the duo over the phone. Kenny can be reached at [email protected] and Turk can be reached at [email protected]