Voice of Memphis Grizzlies cherishes dream job
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Eric Hasseltine, the radio voice of the Memphis Grizzlies since 2005, has made a solid start in becoming Cal Ripken-like in the realm of NBA play-by-play broadcasters.
"He's never missed a Memphis Grizzlies game," said Chris Wallace, General Manager of the NBA franchise that opens its 2015-16 regular season Wednesday night, October 28 against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers at FedExForum.
Wallace introduced Hasseltine for a lunchtime speech to members of the Memphis Rotary Club.
The broadcaster has a long way to go working the microphone to top Ripken's record of most consecutive baseball games played (2,632), but Hasseltine quickly offered a play-by-play of his Grizzlies game days that helps explain his regular attendance on the job.
"Think about this: you wake up at a five-star hotel," Hasseltine said. "You get on a bus. You bring coffee for an All-Star power forward, one for a back-up point guard, one for yourself. You sit in a seat that costs somebody $800 in a small market, $2,000 in a big market. That's where you're going to work for the night, and that's the life I live every day," the radio man said. "And every day I look at myself and say, how in the hell did you get here?"
The 43-year-old father of two grew up in Walnut Creek, California, and broke into sports radio at the University of California, Davis as a play-by-play broadcaster for the school's football and basketball teams on station KDVS.
"Every day I wake up here as a native Californian--but now someone who considers himself a Memphian--I realize just how lucky I am," Hasseltine said.
In order to pay his bills, Hasseltine worked as a bartender and parking valet and spent summers dealing blackjack and serving as a jet-ski instructor in Lake Tahoe.
After college, the aspiring broadcaster found an opportunity to do sideline and play-by-play coverage of the Oakland Raiders games on station KHTK in Sacramento.
A sports broadcasting website offered him his first glimpse of an opportunity to do sports radio in his new hometown.
"Where is Memphis?," Hasseltine said he wondered as he sent examples of his on-air work to the home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll.
Turns out that Hasseltine's broadcasting career took a dramatic turn on September 11, 2001. A Memphis broadcasting manager called him and offered an opportunity to move to Sports 56, WHBQ.
"That year I got to know a guy named Don Poier, " Hasseltine said. Poier was the Memphis Grizzlies' original play-by-play man.
Hasseltine was hired to do pre and postgame shows for the Grizzlies while also hosting his own broadcast as he does every weekday from 2 to 4 p.m. on 92.9 ESPN Memphis.
"Don took me under his wing like a little brother," Hasseltine said of his Memphis mentor's welcome in 2001. "I still remember the first meeting between Don, Sean Tuohy (then radio color commentator), and myself. Don looked at us and said, 'This is going to be fun.' And it was a blast," Hasseltine remembered.
Poier's sudden death on January 21, 2005 in a Denver hotel before a Grizzlies-Nuggets tipoff came as a total shock.
"I was in a situation where my dream job was given to me at the expense of his death." Hasseltine said. "This was a guy I looked up to as an older brother, an uncle. The only time I've ever come close to fainting in my life was when they told me Don had died. It's still tough."
Hasseltine told Memphis Rotary Club members that team owner Robert Pera is "a basketball junkie and is a very good player himself."
Hasseltine said he sometimes participates in Memphis in pick-up basketball games with the Grizzlies Chairman and Controlling Owner.
"I look around every day and I feel blessed, not only because of what I get to do, but because of this incredible team we get to cover. Every day is a blast," Hasseltine said.
The broadcaster said he believes the Grizzlies have improved with off season acquisitions of Matt Barnes and Brandan Wright. He's expecting a special season.
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