MISSOULA, Mont. – Riley “Ace” Sauerwein is just a few years removed from his college days, but he’s done enough play-by-play in his career to have learned some valuable lessons.
“Every announcer has their own voice. I don’t think you should try to emulate someone else’s. The No. 1 priority for me whenever I get on a broadcast is to just be yourself,” he said.
“Don’t try to emulate these loud Gus Johnson-type calls, because it’s not going to work for everyone. I know it wouldn’t work for me. It’s kind of finding your own voice and being genuinely authentic.”
Sauerwein has been named “Voice of the Lady Griz” by Montana and its multimedia rightsholder, Learfield.
The 2018 Wisconsin-River Falls graduate will make his local debut when Montana hosts North Dakota State in its season opener at Dahlberg Arena on Monday, Nov. 7.
Fans will be able to catch Sauerwein’s call on KMPT 930 AM/99.7 FM, GoGriz.com or the Varsity Network, which is free to download.
Sauerwein has most recently been calling basketball and volleyball games for St. Catherine and baseball and hockey games for Augsburg, Division III athletic programs in the Twin Cities.
Sauerwein is employed – and will continue to work – as a recruiter and human resources consultant for an agency in the Twin Cities.
He became interested in sports broadcasting while growing up in River Falls, bringing to life the games he played on Madden, The Show and 2K.
“The only child I was, I spent a lot of nights playing video games. I was a huge sports fan. I would be announcing out loud while I would be playing games,” he said.
A conversation he had with his seventh-grade baseball coach, a UWRF student who was calling games for the school, changed everything.
“He told me about it, and that sounded great. I didn’t even think about that as a job, but it sounded like a great career,” he said.
He followed the same path, calling UW-River Falls football, volleyball, hockey and basketball games for WRFW.
“It was a little radio station, but it gave me ample opportunities to call pretty much any sport. It was a good fit,” he said.
In the summer of 2017 he called the entire 72-game baseball schedule for the Fond du Lac Dock Spiders of the Northwoods League.
His first job, in the fall of 2018, took him to North Dakota to become the play-by-play voice for the University of Jamestown and Jamestown High while serving as the sports director for KQDJ.
It’s where he was reminded that the best broadcast experiences don’t have to be at the professional level. It’s the environment that makes the difference.
He sat courtside to call the 2019 North Dakota Class B state championship volleyball match as Langdon Area/Edmore/Munich defeated Oakes 3-1 inside the Fargodome.
“Two small schools, two fan bases that love their small-town sports, and they just packed that little section of the Fargodome,” he said.
“The fans were into it, and it was unbelievably loud. That was probably the best atmosphere I’ve been able to call a game in.”
The best venue he’s worked? Target Field last spring for a Minnesota high school state tournament baseball game, with the Twin Cities skyline beyond right field, the sun setting in left.
He’ll be leaving all that behind when he packs up and heads to Missoula later this week.
“I think it’s a similar situation to North Dakota. There are no pro sports teams, so you have a whole state following Bison football or UND hockey. I love that aspect of it,” he said.
“There is a lot of tradition at Montana with women’s basketball. I think it’s awesome. It’s a cool gig to get into if you’re me.”
As part of its rights relationship with Montana, Learfield oversees all aspects of the Grizzly Sports Network, including identifying the talent and securing affiliate radio stations.
Learfield’s local team, Grizzly Sports Properties, led by General Manager Todd Rahr, works alongside Montana’s athletics administration in the management of the comprehensive multimedia rights relationship and corporate partner platform.