By: Director of Athletic Communications and Public Relations Kevin Ruple
BEREA, Ohio – The Boys of Summer are back and that's a good thing for 1990 Baldwin Wallace University graduate Matt Underwood, who begins his 18th season as a member of the Cleveland Indians s broadcast team.
Breaking Into the Field of Broadcasting
As a MLB broadcaster for 18 years, Underwood is regarded highly in an industry that is unbelievably hard to break into. He credits his experiences at BW as a key to his early success in finding jobs and internships all the way to the top of the sports broadcasting food chain. He also credits mentors and friends such as the late Nev Chandler of WEWS TV5 in Cleveland, fellow BW graduate and current WHBC (Canton/ 1480 AM) radio personality Kenny Roda '88 and the late and legendary Cleveland Indians pitcher Herb Score for giving him extremely valuable insight.
Since the 2000 Major League Baseball season, Underwood has been one of main the television voices of the Indians along with former Tribe center fielder Rick Manning and dugout sideline reporter Andre Knott. It has been a "labor of love" for Underwood who actually came to BW as a Run & Shoot football quarterback and played for 1969 BW graduate Bob Quackenbush.
"I came to BW originally to play quarterback for Bob Packard and quickly learned that the BW football program was outstanding and full of excellent quarterbacks," said Underwood by phone from the Indians spring training home in Goodyear, Arizona. "Because of a few injuries, I played two years of football and I quickly realized that there were better QBs than me!"
Finding a Home at BW on WBWC
In addition to spending his first two years at BW on the junior varsity football team, Underwood also lent his talents to the college radio station, WBWC, 88.3 FM, as both a disc jockey and as a sportscaster. Moving to the sports broadcasting booth was a great and then possibly careerchanging decision. He honed his skills and spent countless hours as a DJ (disc jockey), color analyst, playby play man and sports director at BW campus radio station WBWC.
"I came to BW as a business administration and management major and wanted to do marketing and sales," said Underwood. "But, I really began to love broadcasting and working at the radio station. The late Connie Allen gave me a chance, and I am forever indebted to her for that opportunity.
"The one thing that really fascinated me was one day WMMS radio personality Ruby Cheeks came to speak in our broadcasting class," said Underwood with a wry laugh. "She told us like it is, no "sugar coating" and like real people. It really hit home with me.
"I gained a lot of great experience at WBWC, whether it was in the studio or doing a game on the radio," said Underwood. "There are a lot of great memories of the road trips we took to do games. Back in those days, we did football, basketball and most baseball games home and away."
The Opportunity to Diversify
With Roda, a BW grad and former football, basketball and baseball broadcaster at a local cable television station as its sports director, Underwood took advantage of a Rodainduced opportunity to call some high school and BW football and basketball games on cable.
"The opportunities at both WBWC and Cablevision game me a base of knowledge that gave me a "heads up" over others who I competed with for internships and jobs," said Underwood. "I was able to make great connections wherever I went and had outstanding people in my corner who were able to teach me a great deal about the business."
When Roda moved on from Cablevision to Cleveland sports radio station WKNR, Underwood had just finished a senior internship at TV5 and was offered an opportunity to be a producer of TV5's Sports Sunday Show with weekend anchor Bob Stevens. That gig last three years and in the interim he began doing 2020 updates on local Sports Radio WKNR in 1993.
Getting His Break in Television
In late 1993, the legendary Nev Chandler contracted an illness, and Underwood was elevated to a weekend anchor job even though he was just making $5 per hour and $100 per week. Coupled with the WKNR gig and the TV5 Sports Sunday and weekend anchor jobs, Underwood got his first opportunity with the Indians in 1994 as the host of their pregame show.
"The Indians were moving into Jacobs Field and wanted a whole new and fresh look," said Underwood. "In 1994, I was doing 2020 Tickers on radio at WKNR, the Indians pregame show and anchoring at channel 5.
"I can never thank Nev and the staff at WEWS TV5 enough for the great opportunity that they gave me to be the weekend anchor," said Underwood. "That experience was invaluable to me and what I do today with the Indians.
He Loves His Job
"I love my job," said Underwood with a spry laugh. "I get to broadcast major league baseball games, get to know the players, travel all over the country, and I get paid for it. It is a dream come true.
"I love the fact that I get to go to work in major league ballparks," continued Underwood. "I remember going to games as a kid. I get a lot of joy and still can't fathom that I get to do this for a living and get paid to do something I truly love.
It Takes a Strong Family to Be Successful
But the life of a sports broadcaster is not all "peaches and cream"!
"It can be challenging on a family," said Underwood, who is married to Shelly and has two sons, Max (18) and Devan (14). Max '21 is a freshman business administration major at BW. "It was really tough when the kids were young. Balancing being on the road and family life was rough.
"I believe that no one could do this job, man or woman, without an incredible partner in life," said
Underwood. "When you are on the road, the burden falls directly on them. That's when the refrigerator goes out, the hot water heater blows, the kids get colds. To be successful, your partner has to be all in."
Satisfaction Coming Back to Campus With Max
"It is really cool for me to have Max at BW," said Underwood, who is a member of the WBWC Broadcasting Hall of Fame. "When we visited and toured the campus it was sort of surreal. Although I had been back before for a number of things, the tour was just different. Here I am with my son, and I felt like I was just there myself.
"The campus is beautiful," continued Underwood. "There are so many changes and so many things I remember being the same."
How Long Will He Continue to Broadcast?
"I will continue to broadcast until they kick me out or I don't enjoy it anymore," said Underwood with a chuckle. "I can't ever imagine not enjoying it! The Indians organization is a firstclass group of people, and hopefully I will be doing Tribe games for a long time to come."