By Joe Hadsall
For 11 years, Kevin Welch and Bobby Landis have been broadcasting live accounts of Joplin High School athletic events.
They will do so again this year, only a little bit differently.
Instead of freelancing with a radio network, they are producing everything themselves. They are buying their own airtime, equipment and selling their own ads.
“We have more ownership in the product now,” Landis said. “We’ve always cared about what the product sounds like, but now we are literally putting our money where our mouths are.”
The two own the Joplin Eagles Radio Network and broadcast football, basketball and baseball games played by Joplin High School. Welch and Landis are in their 11th year of broadcasting together.
The duo has made an impact on players, parents and coaches, said Jeff Starkweather, Joplin’s athletic director.
“Kevin and Bobby are two guys that care about Joplin athletics,” Starkweather said. “We’re thrilled they are calling the games.”
About 17 years ago, a dream came true for Welch. The radio station where he was employed finally granted his requests to call football for Joplin.
“I did it for two or three years in Miami as a color guy, and also broadcast NEO basketball games,” Welch said. “When I moved here, there were two guys already doing it. I kept lobbying, and said that if there were ever an opening, I’d love to do it.”
Eleven years ago, Landis owned the station where Welch worked, and started sitting in the booth with Welch.
Over the years, the two have become great friends and great partners. Landis makes no bones that Welch is the true voice of the Eagles, and Welch said Landis is a regular Willy Loman.
“He could sell ice to Eskimos,” Welch said. “He takes care of the business side, and I take care of the radio side.”
Welch and Landis called their first game on Friday night via their new radio home on the dial: KMOQ-FM (105.3). Baseball and basketball games will be broadcast on KQYX-AM (1450).
The games are airing on a network that used to be owned by Landis, who said that they used to broadcast on Petracom Stations before moving to the Zimmer Radio Group in 2005. The stations owned by Petracom are now owned by American Media Investments.
Welch said the Joplin Eagles Radio Network was set to air this year on KZRG-AM, even though Zimmer changed that station’s format from sports to talk. However, he said, Zimmer opted to work with in-house talent instead of contracting freelancers.
Landis said that he and Welch are Joplin fans, and that they relish the chance to be “homers.”
“We get to be homers, and that’s great,” Landis said. “I’m going to try not to be biased. But I can let that excitement come out when we do something right, and disappointment when we do something wrong. Kevin and I don’t hold back with our emotions.”
The two have a reputation for calling games fairly, Starkweather said. Coaches and parents have given Starkweather mainly positive feedback.
“I think you can tell that they care about the kids, teams and coaches,” Starkweather said. “It comes through in their broadcast years. They are both Joplin guys.”
Starkweather said that Joplin plays in a conference that involves a lot of travel, including regular contests at West Plains, Camdenton, Lebanon and football games in the Kansas City area. The duo’s broadcast gives parents who may not be able to travel a chance to catch the game.
Broadcasts have given the duo a chance to get inside the game at a deeper level, Welch said. They have built a solid relationship with coaches, to where they can get the inside scoop on gameplans before taking to the air.
They also hold back their criticism of players.
“We try not to get on kids too bad,” Landis said. “But the coaches are fair game, because they are paid to be there. If we have questions about a play call, or a bad call by a ref, we’ll call it.”
But if it’s a bad game, Welch said, they call it.
“My philosophy is that I am a fan of Joplin High School,” Welch said. “I’m going to tell it like it is. If they are stinking up the joint, then we’re going to say it.”
The connection to Joplin athletics is deeper for Landis. He is a vice-president of coaching for the Joplin Youth Football Association, and one of his seven children, his son Cole, will play for the junior varsity football team.
“I’m looking forward to getting to call his name on the air,” Landis said. “But, it’ll be tough for me. I’ll be proud he’s on the field, but I’ll have all the anxieties of a father.”
But the main things they both enjoy are the relationships with the coaches, parents and players, Welch said.
“Sometimes you get to know some of the players,” Welch said. “I’ve been doing this for so long that some of the kids I called back in the early days are in their 30s now. It’s really cool to see what they have become and where they end up.”
Kevin Welch and Bobby Landis, of the Joplin Eagles Radio Network, will broadcast each football game this season on KMOQ-FM (105.3) A pregame show will start 30 minutes before kickoff, which is usually 7 p.m.
By Joe Hadsall
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