The high school junior, drenched in sweat, walked nervously to his junior varsity basketball coach in Manhattan Beach, Calif.
Tryouts were under way and the sound of squeaky sneakers and basketballs bouncing off hardwood echoed through the gym. The student, Andrew Holt, was oblivious to this din as he focused on the words of his coach.
It was a paradoxical moment.
Holt, who today lives in La Grande and is KCMB radio's news and sports director, was about to have reason for both sadness and celebration.
The coach looked Holt in the eye and told him that he would not make the junior varsity team.
Next, though, Holt received something far above a consolation prize. The coach asked Holt to serve as public address announcer for his high school's boys basketball games. Seldom do people so young receive such opportunities.
Holt understood this better than most.
"I almost thought (becoming the public address announcer) was better than making the team,'' he said.
In retrospect he was right. Holt served as announcer for two years and today credits the experience with launching his broadcasting career.
Holt went on to earn a degree in English from UCLA. He first worked in Pennsylvania and then moved to Northeast Oregon where he has worked for KCMB a total of eight years.
The personable Holt smiles when he recalls the two seasons he worked as his high school's public address announcer. The first year was uneventful, but Holt's creative flair took hold the second year. He arranged to have the gym darkened and a spotlight cast on the players during introductions.
Everything went smoothly the first time except for one glitch: Holt forgot the flashlight he needed to read the program during introductions in the darkened gym.
"I had to do it from memory,'' he said.
Memories are plentiful from the eight years Holt has worked for KCMB.
He said he will never forget the way that he has been embraced by the people of Union and Baker counties.
"They knew I was an outsider, the California Kid, but everyone accepted me for who I am,'' Holt said.
Holt worked at KCMB from 1994 to 1998 before leaving for a year to work at a station in Washington. He returned to La Grande in the spring of 1999.
At KCMB, Holt covers the news in Union and Baker counties and broadcasts Baker High School's football and boys and girls basketball games.
One of the biggest challenges he has encountered is covering the police beat in Baker City. This is difficult because Holt lives in La Grande. He has to rely on phone calls to get much of Baker City's police information.
"It's hard to cover when you can't hang out at the police station,'' Holt said.
He enjoys preparing newscasts but wishes that the newscast format allowed him more time to do in-depth stories.
"In radio you have only 45 or 60 seconds to do a story,'' Holt said. "Anything longer is too long.''
Holt addressed this problem by starting KCMB's Morning Chat program. The 15-minute show airs at 8:05 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. A community leader or other newsmaker is interviewed throughout the program.
"It gives us a chance to explore issues in depth,'' Holt said.
He has made other efforts to give radio listeners a more in-depth look at the news. For example, last fall he got KCMB to sponsor and broadcast debates involving the Union County commissioner candidates.
The most enjoyable part of Holt's job, however, has been serving as Baker High School's football and basketball broadcaster. Through this work Holt has made many friends, including parents, fans and former Baker High School athletes.
Sportscasting is anything but a chore for Holt.
"I love calling games. There is a tremendous sense of fulfillment,'' Holt said.
He welcomes the challenge of painting word pictures for listeners.
"In radio you have to draw on all of your faculties; the whole burden is on you. It is different than letting pictures tell the story.''
An avid sports fan, Holt tries to give listeners the descriptive yet succinct play-by-play accounts.
"I never just say (in football), Â‘He made a two-yard run','' Holt said.
He will add descriptive words such as "sliced" and "battled" to get his point across.
Being a good sportscaster, though, involves more than giving descriptive accounts.
"You have to have a feel for the game. You have to understand the rhythm and reflect that in your voice,'' Holt said.
He traces his broadcast influences to three sports announcers he grew up listening to: Vin Scully, the Los Angeles Dodgers' longtime announcer; Dick Enberg, who was once the radio voice of the California Angels and the UCLA men's basketball team; and the late Chick Hearn, the legendary voice of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Scully is Holt's favorite.
"Scully never a used a word incorrectly and caught the right connotations and feel for the situation,'' Holt said.
Holt has long had a love of sports, one he can trace back to the 1970 Super Bowl between the Minnesota Vikings and the Kansas City Chiefs.
"That is my first sports memory,'' he said.
Today Holt is a loyal follower of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the UCLA Bruins men's basketball and football teams and the Minnesota Vikings.
Change on the horizon
Soon one of Northeast Oregon's best-known voices will change frequencies.
Holt is preparing to move to Walla Walla, where he will be the news and sports director for KTEL, a station recently acquired by Capps Broadcast Group, the company that owns KCMB. KTEL currently does not have a news or sports department.
"It will be fun to build something from nothing. I am looking forward to it,'' Holt said.
What he is not looking forward to is leaving the area.
"It's going to be hard,'' he said.
Holt's morning show partners at KCMB have been Mark Granzow (known on the radio as Mark Adams) and Ken Kennedy. He said both men are good friends and have been a delight to work with. Granzow now works at Eastern Oregon University. Kennedy will continue working at KCMB.
Kennedy describes Holt as a good friend and mentor who has taught him important lessons about the art of sportscasting.
"I was self taught until I started working with Andrew,'' Kennedy said. "He knows everything.''
The many things Kennedy will miss about Holt include his "infectious energy'' and passion for radio. He credits his energy with keeping KCMB's morning news program alive and vibrant.
"He has an enthusiasm for radio; he loves radio,'' Kennedy said.