The Nach on Sports – Flathead Beacon

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Anthony Nachreiner looks right at home standing behind a microphone in the newly renovated front studio of the KGEZ office, wearing a Flathead Braves buff and orange tie.

“Once we get trained on the operation, we’re hoping to be up and running here in two and a half weeks,” Nachreiner said, visibly excited about the new space. “It’s just finishing learning the automation so that if I want to play a hot key or insert a commercial really quickly I know how to do that and not screw it up on the fly.”

Two years ago, Nachreiner had a radio-host nightmare moment. While talking Seahawks football with a guest as part of a prerecorded interview, he was informed by the studio manager that he’d been live on the air for 15 minutes, blending unscheduled sports talk with a scheduled music hour.

Now a four-year veteran of the Flathead Valley airwaves, few problems interrupt Nachreiner’s flow on the Nach on Sports Show, the state’s only local sports show that he hosts every evening.

Nachreiner’s office is a windowless square. The walls are adorned with sports paraphernalia — football jerseys, various team photos, and a lot of Flathead Braves orange and black.

For four years, Nachreiner has called every Braves football and basketball game. Until this most recent season where COVID was a factor, he had his own spot on the Braves bus traveling to away games, gaining extra time with the coaches and players, and making sure that the person relaying real-time updates to the fans would be one of them.

It was just four years ago that Nachreiner couldn’t find Kalispell on a map.

Nachreiner grew up in Florida and cut his teeth as a broadcaster in high school with the public school television news station. As a senior, he hosted a high school football recap show and, since it had become apparent that a career in the NFL wasn’t likely to materialize, decided his love of sports and broadcasting could be combined into a dream job.

After graduating, Nachreiner moved to Milwaukee for college. He played Division III football, but chose his school mostly for the internship potential in a city that was home to the Bucks and Brewers and just 100 miles from Lambeau Field.

He interned for television and radio studios every semester of college, getting to do standups at Miller Park. His first foray into play-by-play was back in Florida after college with the Friday Night Locker Room, where he traveled around Brevard County near Orlando (“I remember getting lost around Lake Ockeechobee trying to find a playoff game”) calling prep games.

“That’s really where my passion for high school sports came from,” Nachreiner said.

Nachreiner was working three part-time jobs in the heavily saturated Florida sports media market, so he cast around for full-time positions elsewhere in the country.

“I had a college professor tell me that in this profession, you’re going to work someplace you’ve never heard of before,” Nachreiner said. “When I wanted to get a full- time gig I looked at every broadcasting job board in every state in the U.S., saw Montana and thought, ‘Mountains wouldn’t be a bad change.’”

KGEZ radio station’s neon sign in Kalispell Nov. 25, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The KGEZ radio station had been the home of the Braves for a half century before former owners put high school sports commentary on the backburner. Current owner and general manager John Hendricks fought to get the Braves back on the air, succeeding seven years ago.

“I remember what it was like when I wore a Flathead Braves jersey — we were kind of rock stars around town,” Hendricks said. “I wanted to do something different with the coverage, I wanted to bring the community into it and more than anything I wanted for these young players to feel like the rock stars they are.”

The first renewed voice of the Braves was Mike Hodges, but he left for work in real estate and KGEZ began a nationwide search for a replacement.

A resume from a young sportscaster in Florida caught Hendricks’ eye.

“I listened to his work and it was just excellent,” Hendricks said. “What impressed me the most was that he made you feel like you were part of the game, not just a spectator.”

Just weeks before the kickoff of the 2016 prep football season, Nachreiner accepted the job, packed up his Buick and drove to Montana, making it to his new home with barely 10 days before he had to call his first game against Great Falls CMR.

Hendricks was impressed that when Nachreiner showed up, he had already gone through the lineups of both teams playing, memorizing players and positions. He spent his first days in Kalispell attending practices at Legends Stadium.

“He was ready for that game,” Hendricks said. “Right then and there we realized it was a good move for everybody.”

The move was a drastic change for Nachreiner. Compared to Florida, where he covered different teams each week, he now was dedicated to one school. That, on top of the lack of college or professional teams in the area, forced him to go outside the box as a sportscaster.

“The hardest thing to figure out my first year was what this community really loved and is passionate about,” Nachreiner said. “It was difficult to not revert back to my Florida stuff, because guess what, people in Montana don’t care about Florida sports.”

He soon found that while he could speak to local Seahawks and Broncos fans, and add to the litany of commentary on the Cat-Griz rivalry (“It’s an even more passionate rivalry than Florida-Florida State-Miami”), high school sports was where the community pride was.

“There is more love and passion for high school football than anything else,” he said, noting the clear increase in listeners when he’s talking about local teams.  “When I have the Bigfork coach on, or talk about Whitefish’s chances in the playoffs, that’s when there’s the most interest.”

A soundboard at the KGEZ radio station in Kalispell Nov. 25, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

When athletics at every level were put on hold this spring, Nachreiner was faced with the challenge of talking about sports for two hours a night without any sports.

“I think a lot of people learned what kind of sports broadcaster they were this year,” Nachreiner said. “It’s easy when there’s games going on all around you, but when you have to generate your own content, it’s different.”

In lieu of track and softball, he found himself digging deep into the stats from the last basketball season and previewing every single team for the following year. When American Legion baseball began in midsummer, Nachreiner started doing play-by-play for the Lakers and the Twins, despite having never done it before.

“He went home, turned on the television and pulled up some ball games, then muted it and called the action of the games until he got it down,” Hendricks said. “He pulled that off for us and sounded like he’d been calling the games for decades.”

Live play-by-play is Nachreiner’s favorite part of his job. He easily recalls some of his favorite games, like the 2018 state semifinal football game against Bozeman or the triple-overtime basketball contest against Glacier in the divisional tournament.

“It’s a little bit of ego, but I love being a narrator, being the voice that gets to tell the stories,” he said. “And when you’re talking about a high school game, anything can happen.”

Even for the in-person spectator, tuning into Nachreiner’s commentary through a headphone only serves to augment the live experience — at most he’s only a second or two behind the action. And while fair-minded, expect him to be a little more excited when the Braves score than when their opponents do.

“I’m dedicated to all the high school teams. I do love the Wolfpack, just not when they’re playing Flathead,” Nachreiner said. “What I hope for all the time is that Flathead and Glacier have a great season and meet in the state championship game at Legends. I hope that for pretty much every sport, every year.”

micah@flatheadbeacon.com

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