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Students pursue sports journalism at Hillsdale.
(Photo: Todd Lancaster | Courtesy)

When the Hillsdale College men’s basketball team took their talents to the big stage against Michigan State on Nov. 3, they weren’t the only ones hitting the big leagues.

Aspiring sports journalists — and sports fans from a young age — sophomores Nathan Grime and MaryKate Drews were able to sit on the sidelines with professional media. From photojournalism to print to radio, a core group of Hillsdale students are making names for themselves on campus as budding sports journalists, shooting games with professionals, contributing to baseball blogs, and hosting radio shows.

“The Michigan State game was the first time I got to experience a more professional atmosphere,” Grime said. “I got to sit at the media table and be there for the post-game press conference where Tom Izzo was talking, which was a really cool experience.”

Drews, whose favorite sport is basketball, agreed.

“Everything is in such close quarters, which makes it feel totally different from shooting another sport like football,” she said.

Drews’ father, a photographer who took pictures of her and her brothers at sporting events, sparked Drews’ passion for photography, but it took a little pestering. By high school, she said, she finally decided to give it a try, and was glad she did.

“He was completely self-taught — aside from a single night class he took — but is completely brilliant when it comes to the camera, so naturally I am doing my best to keep up with him,” Drews said. “He has been so gracious with teaching me everything he knows. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think I would be anywhere close to where I am today, and I will forever be grateful for that.”

Drews photographed the Michigan State vs. Indiana football game this past October. She found a Detroit-based sports photographer named Mike Mulholland who shoots for the Lions, Tigers, and Wings, as well as Michigan State. He was extremely gracious, she said — even letting her use one of his lenses as she shot on the sideline.

The weirdest part, she said, was how natural shooting the game felt.

“During that game, I couldn’t picture myself really ever doing something outside of sports,” Drews said. “The only time I got a little too giddy is when I turned to my right during the third quarter and Tom Izzo was a foot away from me.”

The giddiness is nothing compared to the feeling she said she gets seeing her final product.

“I love the idea that photography is a way to freeze a moment in time forever,” Drews said. “The reason I focus mostly on sports photography is because athletics has always been something I’ve enjoyed. Being inside a gym or on a field with a camera in my hand is probably the most comfortable I have ever felt.”

Like Drews, Grime’s lifelong love of sports — and of his home team, the St. Louis Cardinals — inspired him to pursue sports journalism.  

“Watching them when I was a little kid, I really started to have interest in sports journalism, because I would watch games on TV and then write game recaps,” Grime said. “I’d show those to my mom and she would act like I was giving her the news of what happened in the game.”

Grime has covered Hillsdale football this year as an assistant sports editor for the Collegian. He also writes editorials and blog posts for a St. Louis Cardinals’ blog. Through his writing, he said he hopes to expand the network of readers and one day land a job in this field.

“It can be a little bit daunting at first because you think, ‘How am I going to get to the point where this is my professional job one day?’” Grime said. “But really, in my limited experience and talking to other people that have made it, they say to do as much as you can to get things published, and you’ll get there before you know it.”

Several other students on campus pursue sports journalism through radio broadcasting at WCSR, Radio Free Hillsdale 101.7 FM, or both.

Sophomores Martin Petersen and Jake Sievers co-host a show on Radio Free Hillsdale called “Charger Rundown.” The half-hour show, which usually airs on Wednesdays, recaps Hillsdale College sports from the past weekend and previews the upcoming games. They also interview two athletes each week from every sports team in season.

Besides “Charger Rundown,” Sievers also hosts an hour-long show called “The Has Beens,” where he and two juniors talk all things NFL and present a five-minute rundown of the important national sports stories of the week. He always closes with Hillsdale College sports updates.

A Hillsdale native, Petersen has had the chance to work with WCSR since he was in sixth grade.

“I really got interested because of my love for sports and sitting down and talking with other people about them,” Petersen said. “I always liked listening to how different broadcasters and journalists took different approaches to things. I even used to mute the TV and do the broadcasting on my own.”

Petersen said working with local sports radio personality Andy Brown from WCSR has allowed him to take his interest to new levels.

“It’s a lot of fun working with Andy,” Peterson said. “I really like doing color commentating for basketball games with him. I think that’s where I have the most fun because it’s live action, it’s right in front of you, and you get to think on the fly.”

Sievers, also a lifelong sports lover, said he realized in junior high that he was good, but not good enough to be a professional athlete. The next best thing, he reasoned, would be to talk about sports on TV or the radio. He acknowledged, however, it won’t be easy to get there.

“I know it’s going to be tough to get a job in this field because it’s so competitive and because so many people are talented and want the same thing that I do. But it’s my passion, it’s always been my passion, and so I’m just gonna go for it and whatever happens, happens,” Sievers said.

As competitive as this field is, Matt Melchior ’15 proves it’s possible to break into it. Melchior even started working in sports early, while still in college. Now, he is a Premium Sales Manager for the Detroit Lions and is responsible for the sales and retention of all premium hospitality inventories.

With the help of Career Services, Melchior landed a sales job in minor league baseball the spring of his junior year, first with the High Desert Mavericks (Single A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners) and then after a season with them, he worked with the Toledo Mud Hens (AAA Affiliate of the Detroit Tigers) and the Toledo Walleye (ECHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings).

Working with Toledo teams meant regular commutes to the city and special arrangements with his professors.

“The professors and the college were extremely flexible allowing me to work full time as a student while completing my coursework,” Melchior said.

After a year with the teams in Toledo, he reached out to a director with the Detroit Lions, and when an opportunity arose, he took the job.

“Hillsdale did an incredible job at putting me in touch with the right people. Getting a big job is great, but getting the right job and working with great people is more important,” Melchior said.

For current Hillsdale students pursuing the same field, Melchior’s story is an encouragement to keep going.

“The sports industry has allowed me to meet some really great people and have some great experiences,” Melchior said. “I love what I do.”