ST. LOUIS — When it comes to calling the action in the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament, Steve Klauke refers to himself as "a 61-year-old rookie."
But here he is Friday, happily serving as the radio voice of the Wildcats when Weber State goes up against Xavier in the opening round of this year's Big Dance.
Klauke, the longtime radio play-by-play announcer for the Salt Lake Bees' baseball team, was offered the Weber State broadcasting job back in October when Carl Arky, who'd been the voice of the Wildcats for 18 years, got an opportunity to work for a television station in Cleveland.
"I had filled in for Carl on a number of occasions in the past in both football and basketball, so when Weber State asked about my interest, I was first of all flattered and I said I'd love to do it," said Klauke, who checked with the Bees' front office to make sure they were good with him adding the WSU duties to his already-full broadcasting plate. "They were fine with it, so I said yes and it's been a blast.
"It's obviously a different animal compared to the Bees and all that, but it's been a lot of fun. My mom, my wife and even my son were saying, 'Is that going to be too much for you?' I thought, well, with baseball, when you do 144 games in 152 days, two basketball games a week's not going to kill me.
"It's been a crazy, I guess you could say, baseball offseason," said Klauke, who got to broadcast the University of Utah's football bowl game against BYU in December due to a scheduling conflict with the Utes' basketball team.
He also spent six days in Puerto Rico doing Ute hoops games in a preseason tournament, which was part of an 11-day road trip in which he also spent five days doing Weber State basketball games in South Dakota and a preseason tourney in Florida.
Before Weber State called on him to become their new play-by-play guy, he had already agreed to do all 11 women's tournament games for the Big Sky on Internet TV. So last week in Reno, he wound up broadcasting 14 of the tourney's 22 total games.
"The TV part is not as taxing as radio," Klauke said. "You don't have to be as wordy, you lean a lot on the analyst. I was fine throughout. At my age and after all the games I've done over the years, I think my vocal cords are calloused."
Klauke will begin his 23rd season with the Bees' broadcasts in three weeks. In the meantime, though, this week marked his first opportunity to call an NCAA Division I tournament game, with his only other postseason national hoops tourney experience coming in a Division III tournament at Wisconsin-Whitewater back in the early days of his career.
"This is the first Big Dance game, you could say, I've ever done," he said prior to Friday's Weber State-Xavier tipoff. "I love being a 61-year-old rookie.
"As far as preparation, I know what I have to do to get ready for the game. But on the other hand, this is a whole new experience and I'm really enjoying the opportunity to be around these kids. It keeps me young being around young college kids as well as being around the Triple-A baseball players.
"To me, it's still fun and, when I lose the enjoyment and fun of it, that's when I want to stop," Klauke said. "But right now, I don't see that happening in the near future."
MAKING 'CAT CALLS: Klauke's broadcast partner for basketball is former Weber State star David Patten, who was the Big Sky's MVP in 2007 when Randy Rahe took his first WSU squad to the Big Dance in his first season as a head coach.
Looking back at his NCAA experience — Patten's Wildcat squad got clobbered by UCLA that year — and comparing the 2007 'Cats with this year's Weber State squad, he said, "They look a lot more focused and are paying a lot more attention to detail than we were. They've got guys who have been here before; we didn't have any of that. It was Coach Rahe's first NCAA game as a head coach, and none of our assistants had been to the (Division I) tournament before. So it's a stark contrast in focus and attention to detail.
"We were 20-11 or 20-10 and had some really bad losses that year (2007), and we weren't expected to do much before the season started. People thought we had way too many new guys, but we accomplished a lot in the Big Sky that year.
"We were awful the year before, so it was a fresh start for us," Patten said. "It was my last chance at doing something good, and my college career had been really underwhelming up to that point, so I thought we've got to give it our all. And we had a lot of good role guys, guys that were only concerned with winning, and nobody was trying to do too much.
"It's difficult to figure out where it all happened because I love (former WSU head) coach (Joe) Cravens and I think he's a great coach. I think the world of Coach Cravens. But I think that change when Coach Rahe came in was just ... he was still like an assistant coach at that time. He was so excited every day, he was cheering us on all the time, and then the group of guys we had was the biggest deal where you had guys that were just in it to win and did not care (about their own individual stats). We were just really together, that team. 'Team together' was really our motto and we stuck to it."
Patten has thoroughly enjoyed his opportunity to be part of the Wildcats' broadcasting team.
"I love it," he said. "I think it's so much fun to be able to work with Steve Klauke; he's amazing, he's so good at what he does. And I like his baseball background because he pauses long enough to at least let me say a couple of things but not long enough to let me make a fool of myself.
"There's times where Steve will pause and I don't have anything to add at that time, or I just said it. Just saying the same thing over and over doesn't help anybody understand what's happening. We played BYU and I didn't talk for the first six minutes of the game because they played so fast.
"I try to put it in words that people will understand, and not use jargon. I mean, I've had people ask me, 'OK, where's the elbow?'" Pattens said with a smile. "But I feel like what's happening on the court is more important than why it's happening to the radio listener."