This feature on Hooks broadcaster Matt Hicks was written by communications director Matt Rogers during the 2009 season. Hicks was named to the Texas Rangers broadcast team November 1.
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I know Matt Hicks.
He loves soup. And iced tea, half & half, please. With extra lemons.
He loves dessert. In fact, this very moment he’s enjoying a piece of chocolate cake right outside my door. Polite soul that he is, Hicksie offered me a bite.
He loves Earth, Wind and Fire, saw them at American Bank Center three years ago. In fact, he loves ‘70s R&B.
He can recite, word for word, the Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delite (1979). I know because he did so one day on the way back from an errand.
The last book he read was John Grisham’s The Innocent Man.
He appreciates restaurants not obsessed with profit margins, where you can pick up a quality meal at a reasonable price. He has an extensive menu of restaurant preferences in the Coastal Bend; go back to our homepage and you can register for lunch with him.
He bowls in a couple of leagues each year and is an accomplished chess player. In fact, he coaches first-grade son Nathaniel’s chess team at Windsor Park Elementary.
He dislikes the Tennessee Titans uniform, claiming it’s the worst in the NFL. His favorite is Tampa Bay because the pewter and red is a drastic improvement over the orange and red. I agree. The Jolly Roger flag sure beats that winking Errol Flynn-looking dude with the plumed hat and steak knife in his mouth.
His least-favorite song is Lulu’s To Sir With Love (1967). So, when Whataburger Field PA announcer and radio personality Scott Johnson of Oldies 93.9 spins it on weekday afternoons, I make sure Matt has every opportunity to enjoy it. I step into his office and crank the monitor to 10.
He’s a good sport. And a nice guy. And a smart one, too. Truly erudite. He’s a 1983 University of Maryland graduate in Social Studies/Education. He loves the Terrapins, but wishes they’d do better, especially in football and baseball.
If you treat yourselves to Hooks Baseball on 1360 AM KKTX from April to September, what you hear on-air is what we get in the office each day. At home games, Matt and color analyst Gene Kasprzyk entertain listeners with humor and insight, topics ranging from European travel to ‘60s pop culture to football terminology to the origin of the Steeplechase to pressbox food to ‘70s rock.
When Hooks president Ken Schrom drops in, the discussion invariably turns to El Paso, where he and Hicksie spent 10 years with the Diablos before moving to Corpus Christi.
On the road, Matt flies alone. Well he doesn’t fly. None of the Hooks fly. They bus. Solo baseball play-by-play is a completely different proposition than football or basketball, where the action is virtually non-stop. You have to work to fill.
And Matt Hicks, an outstanding technical announcer who brings a vast amount of knowledge - baseball and otherwise - to the broadcast booths of the Texas League, sends his listeners a love letter over the airwaves each night.
He is passionate about baseball and those associated with it... players, fans, coaches, sponsors, managers, ballpark staff and front-office members.
When Matt comes to mind, so does the word meticulous. OK, at times, fastidious. To say he’s extremely careful and precise is an understatement. Those are good attributes when you edit the Hooks game program, but can and will cause you to be the last to finish lunch each and every day.
So, Hicksie’s preparation for broadcasts is measured and thorough. That’s why they’re smoother than a single-malt scotch (so I’m told) or the inside of an almond section.
“Nothing beats preparation,” Hicks said. “And, I think paying attention to all the details is important, because it’s radio. You try and describe as much as you can about what you observe to make the listener feel a part of what’s going on.
“Through the years, I’ve been able to develop a good vocabulary in addition to having a variety of ways to say the same thing. You don’t want to use the same words repeatedly.”
But it takes another kind of repetition to perfect a skill and Hicksie’s had lots of practice. It began at an early age.
“When I was in the sixth grade, my best friend at the time, David Faircloth, and I did Super Bowl VI into a cassette recorder,” Hicks recalled. “We sat in my living room watching the CBS telecast. Ray Scott and Pat Summerall did the game, but we turned the sound down.
“David and I cut the rosters out of the Washington Post and split play-by-play duties. My dad watched as well, putting up with a couple of 11-year-olds trying to call an NFL contest. That was the game the Cowboys spanked the Dolphins 24-3.”
After his 1971 Washington Senators upped and moved to Arlington, Texas, and became the Rangers, Hicksie began a slow, deliberate transition to Orioles fandom.
“In high school and college, I often listened to Chuck Thompson and Bill O’Donnell. I really enjoyed their broadcasts. My friends and I would head up to Baltimore from D.C., driving through the rowhouse-lined streets of downtown Baltimore, seeing the lights of Memorial Stadium and listening to Chuck and Bill on their pregame show. Those are good memories.”
What most people don’t know about Hicksie is that he loves college basketball. Every bit of 6-foot-2, he was a hopeful shooting guard at Bladensburg (Md.) High School. Problem was, he couldn’t crack a varsity squad featuring future North Carolina State star Thurl Bailey and seven others who went on to play at the next level.
Hicksie did, however, keep stats for the Mustangs and do school-wide afternoon PA announcements at Bladensburg. He later auditioned for and made the sports staff at student-run WMUC on the Maryland campus. He called Terps football, basketball, baseball and lacrosse and filed football actualities from the pressbox at Byrd Stadium - where he’d sold game programs for three seasons as a junior high school student.
That’s how to begin your career... by gaining experience to separate yourself from the competition.
Hanging out with Hicksie is fun. You hear great stories, like the one about the time he and buddies David Lowman and Robert Workman found themselves in a rough part of town at midnight, house-wrapping their intent.
About that time they spotted four potentially marauding area toughs approaching and quickly jumped back into Lowman’s silver Cutlass, where they covered themselves with blankets and conformed their bodies to the firewall.
The four decided to use the Cutlass as a piece of furniture for about 10 minutes before moving on.
“My heart stopped beating and I couldn’t breathe,” Hicks said.
He has stories most of us relate to. That’s what makes them - and him - so special.
And our time with him in person and over the airwaves so enjoyable.
I know Matt Hicks and am better for it. He’s one of those who enrich our lives.