LACONIA — The Lakes Region Voice of Sports, a staple of local radio in the 1970s-80s, will be returning to the airways on WEMJ 1490 and the one-hour show will be broadcast Fridays at 7 p.m. and rebroadcast at 9 a.m. on Saturdays.
Host for the show will be Keith Murray, a veteran broadcaster who grew up in Laconia, played baseball for Laconia High School ,and cut his teeth on radio as an intern at WEMJ in the 1980s.
A 1984 graduate of Laconia High School, Murray was a catcher for coach Dave McCabe's teams and later caught for the Wilkins-Smith Post 1 American Legion, where he had two of his more memorable moments: A a grand slam homer in a game at Berlin and a picture-perfect throw to second base which cut down one of the state's fastest runners in a game at Rochester where he also collected a pair of hits in an upset Laconia victory.
''The Berlin game was in extra innings and we had the bases loaded and they pulled the right fielder in so he could throw the runner out at the plate on a short fly ball. I hit it over his head and it just kept rolling away from him while I ran around the bases,'' said Murray.
He said the 1986 Rochester Legion team was loaded with talent and was the top-ranked team in the state with an especially fast base stealer who seldom was thrown out. ''It was the best throw I ever made and just beat him. I doubt if I could do that very often, but it was a great feeling. Bobby Hawkins was pitching that night and had an incredible curve ball and kept putting his pitches wherever I called for them.'' Murray recalls.
He knows from his own personal experience how important sports can be young people and their parents and the sense of community they create and wants to see that brought back to local radio, something which he says Binnie Media, which purchased local radio stations in the Lakes Region and and operates them under the NH1 Media label, is committed to doing.
''I've never been a big fan of the consolidation we saw in radio over the past 20 years. The community connection was lost and without that there was no reason to listen,'' says Murray.
He says that in addition to the Lakes Region Voice of Sports, WEMJ will also be broadcasting the Laconia High School football games with him doing play-by-play and Henry Yip serving as color analyst. This summer the station will be carrying the live feed from all Laconia Muskrat games and will be providing coverage of a variety of other events, from Youth Field Day to lacrosse jamborees.
A staple of the Lakes Region Voice of Sports each week will be Sachems Corner which will feature Laconia High School Football Coach and Athletic Director Craig Kozens.
We'll' be providing live streaming and podcasts so that you can hear us from anywhere in the country. If you're a Sachem fan in California you can still follow your team,'' says Murray.
The son of Laconia Police Officer Dave Murray, he got his start in radio in 1984 working summers as an intern at WEMJ and WLNH. He attended Plymouth State for a couple of years before joining the Army where he was stationed in Hawaii and got to play a lot of sports. When he returned he worked for stations in Laconia, WZID in Manchester and WBOS in Boston before starting his own ad agency in 2004.
''I'm really looking forward to this show. The station is now located in a downtown Laconia studio which gives us great visibility and I think there's a real hunger out there for local news and local sports that we're going to be able to satisfy,'' says Murray.
Lakes Region Voice of Sports will be returning to radio station WEMJ 1490 on Fridays at 7 p.m. and rebroadcast at 9 a.m. on Saturdays. Craig Kozens, Laconia High School athletic director, left, is shown being interviewed by Keith Murray, host of the show, along with Henry Yip, color analyst for Sachems football, Greg Lounsbury, Laconia Little League and Laconia Youth Soccer, and Tony Pederaszani, Laconia Youth Lacrosse. (Courtesy photo)