11 NCAA Div. III national team championships
Sometimes a 9-year-old boy’s dreams take him places he never imagined.
And clearly, a dirt field in Salem, Va. was one of those places. Back in the Minneapolis suburbs where Trevor Castle grew up, it was a Tom Brunansky home run at Tiger Stadium for the Minnesota Twins in the 1987 ALCS that had sparked his interest in becoming a sportscaster. Not a hit in a Division III women’s college softball game involving a school he’d then never heard of.
But as he gave his euphoria-drenched description of Kris Hughes rocketing a fifth-inning grand slam over the left-field fence to power Central to the 2003 NCAA championship in Virginia, Castle surely realized that making memories as a sportscaster does not require a business card with the letters ESPN behind one’s name. Countless similar moments from Central’s Ron and Joyce Schipper Stadium and smaller venues across Iowa are firmly etched into his mind.
“Still just the thought of it is exciting,” Castle says of those plays on his personal highlight reel. “It’s a big deal. It’s not on Sports Center, but to people who care about Central, it’s a big deal and I take that seriously. There are a lot of people who want to know what’s going on and I try to paint the best picture I can.”
Castle is in his 12th year as the voice of the Dutch, believed to be the longest tenure of any Central sportscaster. It’s not the job he dreamed of but it’s a dream job.
“Like a lot of people, I’ve fallen in love with Central,” Castle says.
Central football is a big part of that. He’s handled the play-by-play for six Iowa Conference football championships and seven NCAA Division III playoff games. For many Dutch fans anxiously following the action via KRLS Radio or through the Internet, cherished Central football memories come with his narration.
KNIA-KRLS station manager Jim Butler says it’s easy to see why Castle shines in those moments.
“It’s passion,” he says. “He has passion for everything he does and he has such a passion for Central.
“When Trevor is asked to do something and he agrees—not just with sports but with anything he does—he jumps into it with both feet more than anyone I have ever seen.”
Dutch softball coach George Wares, who often helps with the football broadcasts, agrees.
“He does his homework,” Wares says. “He’s knowledgeable not only about Central’s team but the team they’re playing. He understands the Iowa Conference and even the rest of Division III.
“He’s very professional, that’s obvious. And he’s very articulate. But he’s also extremely enthusiastic. He loves doing it.”
His vocational choice was made early. Castle can still picture sitting in his room, listening to the home run call in that 1987 Twins’ game.
“I thought, this is what I want to do,” he says. “I can do this.”
Following graduation from Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, Castle enrolled at Hamline University in St. Paul but after a year decided he wanted the quickest route to a microphone. He chose a nine-month broadcasting program at nearby Brown College. Radio stations KNIA-KRLS in Knoxville/Pella are owned by Mel Suhr, who also attended Brown, and he gave his fellow alum a news job in Knoxville. After working there two years, he spent a year at a sister station in Washington, Iowa, then moved to Pella in 2001 when the KRLS sports director position opened.
Initially Castle did it all, broadcasting high school games for Pella and Pella Christian as well as other area schools, while also calling the action for many Central football, volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball and softball contests. But in 2005 he transitioned into a sales position with KNIA-KRLS. And with the arrival of son Jamison—who was later joined by son Vance--for Castle and wife Lindsey in 2007, working all day and then traveling to Centerville, Bloomfield and Fayette to call games on nights and weekends started losing some appeal.
Eager to keep Castle on the staff, Butler allowed him to carve out a more limited on-air role, tailored so that he could still broadcast Central football and softball while working sales full-time.
“It’s a great balance,” Castle says. “I still love doing sports.”
Yielding his microphone at Central games was never an option.
“I appreciate being part of the Central family,” he says. “I did not want to give that up. I’m friends with (softball coach) George Wares and it’s fun getting to work with (football coach) Jeff McMartin. I can’t see ever giving those sports up.”
Anyone who has ever heard Castle’s rumbling “TOUCH-dowwwnnn Central!” on the radio knows that he’s pulling for the Red and White. Without that level of enthusiasm, it would be tough to voluntarily give up a free weekend to jump in a car and drive to Albion, Mich. or Oshkosh, Wis. just to talk about a football game over a phone line for three hours.
But Castle’s not a homer. If a ball hits a receiver on the numbers before it slips to the turf, he won’t suggest the sun was in the receiver’s eyes. He’ll let his listeners know the player blew it.
“He’s very objective,” Wares said. “It’s not like he’ll hold back questions on why you had a bad game.”
“I’m comfortable enough in my own skin that I am going to speak my mind,” Castle says. “I get that these kids aren’t getting paid to play. But, certainly on the college level, if you’re out there competing in front of people, you open yourself up to criticism.”
And while that might make a parent cringe, he thinks athletes prefer it that way.
“I think people walk on egg shells too much,” he said. “If you make a mistake, I’m going to call you on that. And I appreciate it when people do the same for me when I make a mistake.”
However the list of Castle’s on-air miscues is rather short.
“I’ve never sworn on the air,” he laughs. “That’s a good thing.”
And any palm-sweating moments he has during a broadcast are the result of a tense game, not fear of an on-air stumble.
“My nervousness comes from trying to avoid doing something stupid, like getting to Storm Lake and realizing I left part of the equipment in Pella,” he says.
Castle leaving Pella is a bigger fear for listeners. That was the original plan when he arrived.
“When I graduated from Brown, there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to be on Fox or ESPN someday,” he says.
He’s good enough to do so, Wares says.
“He tells you more than it’s a base hit or a touchdown,” he says. “He fills you in on what really happened. He makes the listeners feel like they are really there.
“I think there are a lot of people in bigger markets who would love to have him if they ever heard him do a game.”
Butler, a broadcast industry veteran, thinks Castle is better than many of the sportscasters he hears babbling on network television.
“He’s one of the best all-round sportscasters I’ve ever seen,” Butler says. “We hear comments all the time from listeners about him. When I get emails from (NBC network newscaster and Central graduate) Harry Smith telling me how good Trevor is and that he listens to him on the Internet every Saturday, that tells you something.”
But Castle annually reassures his boss his dreams no longer involve the Minnesota Twins.
“What keeps me here is I love Pella, especially now that I have a family,” he says.” It’s a great place to raise a family and I’m excited to have our kids get into such a great school system. You don’t have to worry about crime here and, if it’s in their future, them having a chance to play sports here would be great.
“In addition, KNIA-KRLS is a great company to work for. It’s not part of corporate America, it’s locally owned. They take care of people that work here and they care about the community they serve. I’ve come to appreciate being a big fish in a small pond, if that’s what you want to call it.”
And Castle’s discovered that while the big time can be found in New York or L.A., sometimes it’s also right outside the front door.
“I enjoy being in a town that cares about sports,” he says. “They love listening to their teams’ broadcasts and I love doing them.”
Hear Trevor Castle’s broadcast call of the “Salem Slam” :