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The Voice of the Rebels

Posted April 14, 2017

Scott Nicewarner (middle) announces the name of a player who scored a basket during the Legends Classic alumni basketball game on March 31st.

By Brayden Leather

It is about 7:30pm on a Friday night on the last day of March. The high school basketball season has been finished for over a month yet the gymnasium at South Hagerstown High School begins to fill up for a basketball game between North High and South High. But it’s not just any North/South basketball game. It’s the Legends Classic, an annual event that rekindles an age old high school rivalry. Players who graduated from North High and South High over the last 30 years suit up in the colors of their alma mater to take to the court one more time. Scott Nicewarner has been the voice Rebels fans have heard at various sporting events since 2006 so many of the names he will say tonight will give him and Rebel fans alike flashbacks to the days when these names echoed through the gym on a regular basis. A big event like the Legends Classic deserves a legendary voice behind the microphone for PA duties and Mr. Nicewarner fits the bill. But how did he become so good at what he does? How did he start doing it to begin? Recently, Mr. Nicewarner kindly took some time out of his schedule to talk to me about the role he has played in making high school memories last a lifetime for the student-athletes who have played here.

The journey to becoming a public address announcer seems like it would be an easy one. It's not. It's a craft you have to perfect if you wish to do it whether as a career or in Mr. Nicewarner’s case, as a volunteer. Growing up, Mr. Nicewarner’s father had been a public address announcer for various sports at his high school in Bridgeport, West Virginia. “He probably did about 25 years as a PA announcer,” Mr. Nicewarner recalls. But despite his father doing what he did for so long, Scott Nicewarner never honestly envisioned himself as a PA announcer. He attended Alderson Broaddus University and minored in broadcasting which earned him a spot hosting his own radio and sports TV shows on campus. Later on while his son Jordan and daughter Caitlin attended South High, Mr. Nicewarner found himself sitting in the bleachers as a proud parent supporting his children and their teammates and getting into the games not only because his kids were part of the game, but partially because of the PA announcers who amped up the crowds everywhere they went. “I specifically remember the Walkersville PA announcer. He did a great job getting the crowd into it and I remember thinking how cool it would be to do the same thing here at South.” So he went to Mike Tesla, the athletic director at the time, and presented his idea of getting a PA announcer to help increase the excitement at home sporting events. Mr. Nicewarner volunteered to be that PA announcer and as they say, the rest is history from there. He takes pride in what he does ensuring he gets correct name pronunciations and accurate lineups before every game. “One of my biggest pet peeves is mispronounced names. Having my last name, I usually heard Nicewarmer, Nicewater, even Icewater, so I always make sure I go to the coach before each game and make sure I've got the names pronounced right,” he says. “Sometimes coaches don't even know.” So he goes to nicknames if there is one available. “As long as it's not something stupid like ‘Thrilla’ or something. I actually had one who wanted me to call him Thrilla. Not happening,” he says with a laugh. “Correct lineups are important. Nothing is more embarrassing if you get it wrong then the coaches get fired up thinking the book is wrong.”

Nothing beats having a good seat where you can watch all the action of a big game unfold. Having that good seat for every game and being part of the exciting atmosphere changes everything. It creates a completely new and unbelievable experience and cements the memories that happen during the game in your brain forever. “You can’t beat it. It’s great. What makes it even more fun is when you can get the crowd involved and I like the fact now that Mr. Myers has the whole pregame music stuff… we had worked it out that at the end of the year we had our time down for the pregame introductions and the stomping. It’s fun and it’s what you want it to be for the kids” he says. A game that stands out of all the games he has announced is the West Region Finals when the boys faced Linganore a few years back. “We had a great team that year. The place was packed. We were down by about a point towards the end of the game and Linganore inbounded the ball. The kid's last name was Keyes. He had been at Frederick the year before and just transferred to Linganore. He got the ball and he had scored about 30 points already and he put up a shot right in front of us from half court and made it. It was one of those things were it was just slow motion. You could just see when the ball left this hands that it was going in. That was one of those things where we just got up and walked out. I didn’t even say the final score. We were just kinda like ‘you gotta be kidding me’ and walked out.” Between that game and the final home game the “Dream Team” girls basketball team played three years ago would be a close tie for Mr. Nicewarner’s most memorable game called. “I had been announcing these girls for four years and they all came over and gave me a hug during the introductions. It was tough to get through that actually,” he recalls. He says the “Dream Team” game is also the most memorable ceremony he has been behind the microphone for to this point. “Senior Night was hard enough with them because I think they graduated five that year.” With as special of a team as the “Dream Team” was and since he had announced every home game those girls played in their high school careers, it was easy to remember the names of those on the team. Mr. Nicewarner remembers Dixon, Stewart, Scott, Longfellow, and everybody else on the roster that year. “That [ceremony] was tough. I didn’t know they were going to come over to me when I introduced them. The only time I got choked up. I almost couldn’t finish it,” he recalls with a smile. “They were a great group of girls… The best basketball team South has ever had.”

Each time Mr. Nicewarner takes a seat behind a public address microphone in the gym or in the School Stadium press box, fans are welcomed by a familiar and professional voice and the chance of a goosebump-inducing call to keep the fans and teams in the game runs very high. Mr. Nicewarner has done so many games and sports over the years that he has earned the nickname “The Voice of the Rebels” from parents and fans of South High athletics. Mr. Nicewarner can also be considered “The Voice of the Hawks” because he is a public address announcer for multiple sports at HCC but he considers South High to be his real home. The Nicewarner family has lived in the South End of Hagerstown since 1990. South High is where his kids went to school and where he feels the loyalty and energy to keep coming back year after year. He considers South High to be his priority school over HCC. “They know that out at HCC. If there’s a conflict, I always do South. South has always been a part of this family and it still is with my wife working here in the Guidance Office, my daughter teaches here, and my son-in-law is the athletic director. We always said once you get one of us you get all of us.” Mr. Nicewarner hopes to continue being the voice for South High athletics for as long as he can. And if you want “the best calls” so to say, join him in the gym or at the Hagerstown Community College ARCC. He says he enjoys being part of the electric atmosphere of sitting courtside for a basketball game a little better than the isolation that comes with sitting in a press box away from the action and crowd at a football game. “There’s nothing like being inside a packed gym when it’s as loud as can be for a big game. Football brings excitement too but having a bunch of people in a confined space just gets you in it a little more. Even volleyball matches can get just as exciting. Anything inside is just awesome.” To prove it, Mr. Nicewarner remembers a game years ago when David Miner made a game winning basket for South and out of pure excitement he yelled “Yahtzee!” into the microphone. “I’m not sure why I did it but it happened. It came through on the news that night and we all just sat there and laughed.”

In addition to being a public address announcer for South High and HCC, Mr. Nicewarner brought his vocal talents to the Hagerstown Suns last year as he took advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime and joined the Suns broadcast crew where he provided color commentary to his son Jordan’s play-by-play for each of the 62 regular season home games the Suns played at historic Municipal Stadium last summer. Although the Nicewarner father/son duo will not be part of the Suns broadcasting crew this year, Mr. Nicewarner can say he has crossed another item off the bucket list. He dreamed of one day having the opportunity to provide color commentary in a baseball environment in some way. He never imagined it would come with the chance to sit side-by-side with his son in their hometown team’s press box calling games that featured potential future major league players and sons of retired baseball legends. “The first night we walked in the Suns clubhouse and we were getting pregame notes and you look up and Cal Ripken Jr. is standing there. His son Ryan was on the team and it was like ‘you gotta be kidding me’. I didn’t know what to say. I introduced myself and said my son and I are doing radio and he goes ‘are you serious? You get to do this with your son? That’s about as good as it gets, isn’t it?’” he recalls. He also had the opportunity to meet former New York Yankees closer and major league saves leader Mariano Rivera and former Philadelphia Phillies catcher Bob Boone. “Being able to call games with players who could be in the major leagues in three or four years. It was a blast.” he says. I personally had the honor of joining Jordan Nicewarner and Mr. Myers, who was filling in for Mr. Nicewarner who was in Washington D.C. that day, to help call a few innings during the second game of a early season doubleheader last year against the Delmarva Shorebirds, the Single-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. It was a personal experience I will never forget but that is a story for another day. Mr. Nicewarner will continue to be part of the Hagerstown Suns game day operation to an extent this year despite Jordan being a full-time radio disc jockey. (I also remember a time my freshman year when Mrs. Myers, Mr. Nicewarner’s daughter, was listening to her brother Jordan host his own radio show for the first time during class one day and how understandably excited she was. Again, a story for another time though.) Mr. Nicewarner considers himself the “backup PA announcer” for the Suns this year. So nothing he hasn’t done before, right? But each time he speaks into a microphone, whether on the radio or over a PA system, you can hear the professionalism and excitement in his voice. Just like legendary Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully, Mr. Nicewarner’s voice will never get boring. Also like Scully, he has stories of past games and words of wisdom and advice to offer to the aspiring young broadcasters like myself which makes it an honor and a privilege to know Mr. Nicewarner. So next time you are at a game and you get the chance, get to know Scott Nicewarner and the person he is. Then look across the gym at me, the radio broadcaster and part-time PA announcer for South High who has been influenced and encouraged by Mr. Nicewarner and his family in many ways. Then sit back and relax and allow us to do all the talking and help ensure you remember the golden and timeless events that happen at a high school sporting event.