The Man Behind the Microphone
One of the best-known Statesmen is not known for his playing ability, and few likely know his name or could pick him out of a crowd, but anyone who has been to a William Penn basketball or football game over the past decade likely knows his voice.
RD Keep came to Oskaloosa back in November of 1990 in search of a job. The Shenandoah, Iowa native (South Page High School), received degrees from Culver-Stockton (Mo.) and Tarkio (Mo.), but not in areas that the navy and gold fan base know him for now.
Keep began his tenure in Mahaska County’s seat at the Oskaloosa Herald in January of 1992 and worked there until September of 2000. He served as Sports Editor for five years and Assistant News Editor for another three, but his love was and has continued to be in the athletic realm. That is where the University on Trueblood Avenue enters into the story.
Covering the Statesmen for the newspaper, Keep was at most games, but late in the 1990s, he was approached with a new duty–something in which he had no prior experience, whatsoever.
“I think it was during the 1997-1998 basketball season, I was at the gym to cover a game,” Keep said. “Obviously, it has been a long time ago, because I can’t remember who, but someone asked me if I could do PA since their normal person was not there. I wasn’t taking pictures that night, so I figured I could do that as well as track the stats. I ended up doing a handful of games that year and then they asked me if I would do basketball full-time the following year.”
By 2000, Keep had become the Public Address Announcer for basketball AND football (he has also dabbled in baseball, soccer, and high school band), an unpaid role he has loved and held to this day. He has accepted small gifts, such as certificates or apparel, from time-to-time, but never an actual paycheck. Keep figures his free admission is more than enough compensation.
“My wife jokes with me that I have probably saved her thousands of dollars in gate admissions by doing PA because I would be at the games anyhow,” Keep said. “She is right; I went to my first basketball game here right before Christmas in 1990 and I love college athletics, so I would have been here in one shape or form.”
A dedicated professional, Keep has always tried to stay on top of his game and actually became a dues-paying member of the National Association of Sports Public Address Announcers six years ago.
“I have a learned a lot from the Association,” Keep said. “They have a monthly newsletter and do a training that I unfortunately have not yet been able to attend. While the majority of members are from Division I or the pros, I have still been able to shape my own style and process from what I have learned. Most importantly, it has reinforced the importance of correctly pronouncing the players’ names.”
“These young adults work so hard to prepare themselves, it is only right that they have their names said correctly,” Keep added. “It is all about the athletes on the floor, not about the guy talking on the mic.”
Whether it be his calls of “BALTRUNS…FOR 3!!!!” or “GOOD FOR ANOTHER WILLIAM PENN…FIRST DOWN” or his exceptional choice for tip-off, halftime, or timeout music, Keep gets the WPU crowd into it. That makes him happy, but equally pleasing is that opposing fans also appreciate his efforts.
“I have had fans from other teams thank me for the way I did the game,” Keep said. “I remember one husband and wife in particular that said they knew I was pro-WPU, but that I gave credit to their players as well and thanked me for that. It is certainly nice to get some affirmation that you are going in the right direction. I want to be exciting, but not be the story.”
Keep unintentionally did become at least part of the story during one of the darker times in our country’s history. The Saturday following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, William Penn hosted Iowa Wesleyan on the gridiron. Keep and WPU athletic officials discussed throughout the week about what they wanted to do to commemorate the event. A moment of silence was obvious, but what Keep did following the contest literally froze people in their tracks.
“After the game, I was packing up my stuff and just slipped in a CD so people had things to listen to as they were standing around talking to the players and coaches,” Keep said. “Not knowing it, Lee Greenwood’s ‘God Bless the U.S.A. was on that CD. Once the song started, just like that, everyone stopped what they were doing. Players put their helmets on the ground, and people had their hands over their hearts looking at our flag.”
“It was one of the neatest things I have ever been a part of at a sporting event and I did it kind of by accident,” Keep added. “It showed me an announcer can be important and has to be cognizant of what is going on and what they do, because people are listening.”
There have been plenty of other memorable, including funny, moments as well in which Keep has had a front-row seat, but in the end, the student-athletes are all the reason he needs to stay at the scorer’s table.
“Being able to watch so many athletes over the years work so hard in their element has been extremely gratifying,” Keep said. “It has helped me to connect with individuals in a way I never would have imagined. I witnessed them grow and develop and now, with social media, I can stay in touch with them and see their families grow as well.”