While his legendary vocal chords didn’t ripen until puberty, Verne Lundquist fell in love with sports way before that.
That passion was born in Everett.
The long-time television announcer spent eight years in Everett, attending George Washington Elementary School from first through sixth grade until his family moved to Texas.
Now Lundquist, 64, is coming back to the area. The one-time Everett resident will make his debut as television play-by-play man for Seattle Seahawks preseason games Saturday night at Qwest Field. The Seahawks-Denver Broncos game will be televised on KONG Channel 6/16.
“It’ll be emotional, but I’m really looking forward to it,” Lundquist said. “I can’t emphasize enough how much I love the Pacific Northwest.”
Lundquist’s roots started in the Pacific Northwest. He was born in Bremerton, then moved to Everett at the age of 4, when his father took a job as pastor at Zion Lutheran Church on 24th and Whetmore.
The first time he attended a football game, Lunquist was a 7-year-old kid who accompanied his father to an Everett High Seagulls game.
“I wanted to be a Seagull in the worst way,” Lundquist said. “My idols as a young boy all went to Everett High. But I never got to go there.”
When he was in the second grade, Lundquist stumbled into his second love: broadcasting. His father had to run an errand at KRKO radio studios, then on Highway 99 next to the Marysville Bridge, and young Verne tagged along.
“That was an intriguing experience,” Lundquist said. “I thought it was really neat.”
Lunquist’s love for sports continued to grow in the Everett area. For three years, he attended all of the EHS basketball games, the Edmonds Community College games and fell in love with University of Washington football.
Then the family moved again when Verne was 12 years old. He attended high school in Austin, Texas, where he quickly learned that he had no future as an athlete.
“I was uncoordinated, slow and small,” he said. “Other than that, I had no disadvantages.”
He began writing for the school paper to stay involved in sports. That was when his vocal chords started to mature, so Lundquist served as the public service address announcer at Austin High basketball games.
Upon enrolling at Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, Lundquist continued to use his voice as his calling card, earning a job as a disc jockey at a local radio station. He eventually started doing television, landing his first TV job as a sports anchor in Houston in 1963.
Lundquist’s major break came in 1967, when he started doing pre- and post-game shows for the Dallas Cowboys’ network.
“They became America’s team, and the rest is history,” said Lundquist, who counts the 1967 Ice Bowl as his most memorable Cowboys game.
Eventually, he landed at CBS, where his voice became synonymous with the NFL. He covered the league until Fox bought the rights to pro football in 1996, at which time Lundquist moved over to TNT’s Sunday night broadcasts.
His career also included coverage of the PGA Tour, NCAA basketball, three Olympic Games and international figure skating.
Along the way, he’s been at countless memorable events and met some of the world’s best athletes. Among his array of memories was a meeting with a former Everett High School and University of Washington quarterback who went on to play in the NFL.
“I told Chris Chandler once that he lived the life I’d imagined as a boy,” Lundquist said.
Now, after all these years, he gets to go back to where it all started.
Lundquist signed a two-year deal with the Seahawks to do their preseason play-by-play on television. He will begin his sixth year of doing Southeast Conference football games for CBS this fall.
By Nick Patterson
EVERETT – The Virgin Islands aren’t exactly a hotbed for baseball talent. Only a handful of players from the Virgin Islands have ever reached the major leagues, and the likes of Elmo Plaskett and Midre Cummings aren’t exactly household names. Sports such as basketball and swimming are much more prominent in the Virgin Islands than baseball.
So how is it that a native of the island of St. Croix came to be pitching for the Everett AquaSox?
In Mumba Rivera’s case, it’s a journey that ended up somewhere other than the original destination.
The 23-year-old Rivera hails from the American-owned Caribbean island chain located just east of Puerto Rico. Drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 21st round of the 2004 draft out of Bethune-Cookman College in Florida, the 6-foot-5, 205-pound right-hander has had a successful start to his professional career. He was selected for the Northwest League All-Star Game for his work out of the bullpen in the first half of the season, then moved into the starting rotation just after the All-Star Game. After throwing six solid innings in picking up the win against Salem-Keizer on Monday, Rivera is 4-5 with a 3.64 ERA. In 42 innings he’s given up 32 hits and 19 walks, striking out 31.
“I think things have gone well,” Rivera said, his accent punctuated by a Caribbean twang. “I’ve met a lot of good guys, we’ve got the best coaching staff I’ve ever had, and I’m just enjoying it every day.”
Rivera’s presence, even in the minor leagues, is a novelty.
“He’s the first one I know (from the Virgin Islands), so it’s kind of interesting.” Everett pitching coach Marcos Garcia said. “He hasn’t pitched much. He’s built like a basketball player and I like him very much.”
There’s a reason why Rivera is built like a basketball player: That’s what he was supposed to be.
Rivera originally came to the mainland to play basketball in college. He signed to play at Murray State University, but instead ended up at Marshalltown Community College in Iowa. Rivera was redshirted his first year at Marshalltown, so looking for a way to remain active, he decided to try out for the baseball team. The last time he’s played baseball was when he was 16 years old.
“I played (baseball) one year in a men’s league and one year in high school, but I mostly focused on basketball since it was more popular,” Rivera said about his youth.
“I made the switch (to baseball) myself,” Rivera added. “I love playing sports, that’s been my dream since I was a kid, so I just wanted to stay occupied. I didn’t want to go to college just to go to college, I wanted to be a part of the athletic department. I tried out for the baseball team, made the baseball team, and was very excited.”
From that moment baseball was Rivera’s sport of choice. He played two years at Marshalltown before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where had had a solid two years. This spring as a senior he was 7-7 with a 4.90 ERA in 17 starts, giving up 80 hits and 54 walks in 79 innings and striking out 70.
But it hasn’t always been easy for Rivera. He’s had to progress despite having no one from his native land to look to for inspiration.
“It’s very difficult because a couple of guys made it and played a couple of years in the major leagues, but never a superstar name or an impact player. So it’s hard to have an idol back home.”
Rivera’s also had to learn how to survive in a different culture.
“At first it was very hard,” Rivera said. “My first year I was homesick, but then I stayed here longer and longer and I started to realize that this is what I’ve got to do. I can’t stay home, I’ve got to live my own life.”
In Rivera, Garcia sees a pitcher who is raw, but has a high upside. Rivera throws both a two-seam and a four-seam fastball, both in the low 90s, a big-breaking curveball and a changeup. Rivera’s also working on a slider.
“He’s got a lot of potential,” Garcia said. “He’s been pitching up in the zone a little bit, but his ball is so smooth that he’s getting away with it.
“His fastball is a little above major-league average,” Garcia added. “His breaking ball is a tad below average, but it’s going to play out like a pitch that he’s going to command and use to get ahead. If he gets an out pitch he’ll be on his way.”
Rivera has pitched well since moving into the rotation, pitching five solid innings in taking the loss against Spokane on Aug. 11 before getting the win Monday at Salem-Keizer.
“I was very happy that I got moved into the starting rotation because ever since I came here I was working hard and playing every game like it was my last one,” Rivera said. “the last time I came out of the bullpen I think was my first year in college in the first game I ever played in college. So it was interesting coming out of the bullpen. I enjoyed coming out of the bullpen because I brought a lot of energy to the team, was pumped, and got players back into the game. But since I’m in the starting rotation, I guess I worked hard for it and I guess it came true.”
And should Rivera’s dreams of reaching the majors come true, perhaps he can be the inspiration for other aspiring young baseball players in the Virgin Islands.