Born and raised in Rio Rancho, Adam Diehl knew what he wanted to be even before he entered Rio Rancho High School: a sports broadcaster and a professional soccer player.
Looking back about two decades later, one out of two isn’t bad. He’s not getting his kicks — and income — from soccer, but he is making a few bucks here and there calling area high school sports.
“Me and my dad were huge Lobo fans my entire life,” Diehl recalled. “Mike Roberts was a hero. We listened to all the games that were away or on TV. … I loved (former Lobos play-by-play man) Mike Roberts my entire life, loved listening to him.
“I grew up with his voice, really. … (I) would mimic him going into Super Nintendo Techno-Super Bowl was the game,” he said. “I always used to be a Cowboys fan, so I would (say), ‘Troy Aikman back to pass … fires… he’s got Michael Irvin.’ I would try to do it like Mike Roberts would do it, so that’s how I started getting into play-by-play.”
Of course, describing Nintendo action is quite a bit different than doing so for the masses on radio, TV or the Internet, as Diehl does now for ProView Networks.
“You don’t know what you can do as a kid. I knew as a profession, this is what I wanted to do in high school,” he said. “I would mute the TV and I would call, mainly basketball games, to myself, especially Lobos games because I knew the players.”
While attending RRHS (he’s a 2004 graduate), Diehl had one class, “a general broadcasting class and it was pretty vague, but it did cover a few things. I was like an anchor man for the morning news (aired through the school). You do it very sloppy, but I felt I did that pretty well.”
After playing varsity soccer here and obtaining his diploma, it was off to Portales and schooling at Eastern New Mexico University.
“Eastern is a good communications school, so I thought that was set up good,” Diehl said. “And I got a scholarship to play soccer there.
“I’ll be honest with you: When I was going into college, the only thing I was thinking about was soccer — I wanted to play soccer.”
He scored the Greyhounds’ first goal in men’s soccer history; it turned out to be the only goal he scored, as he was moved back from forward.
Communications-wise, “I started my first true play-by-play … Rooney-Moon Broadcasting had several radio stations there; KSEL Country was what I would broadcast on.
“I met a gentleman named Doc Elder (doing ENMU sports since 1996); he was my mentor and he was the voice of Eastern New Mexico — all sports,” he said. “Tremendous guy; great voice. He taught me the ropes and I did color for him for Portales High School football. (More Rams.) That’s where I really started; my first broadcast was in my senior year of college. And then they gave me basketball to do by myself.”
Like many, if not most, broadcasters, Diehl, who graduated from ENMU in 2009, doesn’t like the sound of his voice on the radio.
“I hate it; I can’t stand it,” he said. “And my wife (Jessie, a former ENMU volleyball player from Alaska) tells me to shut up, because I complain every time I hear a playback: It’s not deep enough … and she says, ‘Shut up; it’s fine.’ It’s funny because your friends hear you, and they’d all make fun of me because I was on the radio.
“It was cool; I got pretty popular doing the play-by-play,” he said of his time on the air in Portales. Last Friday, he was in Rio Rancho, where he lives, to provide play-by-play for ProView Networks’ broadcast of the RRHS football game vs. Volcano Vista.
J.D. Healy, chief executive officer for ProView Networks, still remembers how Diehl became a part of the team there. It was at the state volleyball tournament one year and Healy kept hearing Diehl, “fresh out of college” then, doing play-by-play for a Portales station.
“We kept hearing this kid and he was good,” Healy said. “One team was getting hammered and you couldn’t tell it.” He later asked Diehl if he’d like to do some games for ProView.
“I’d like to do a lot of games for ProView,” was his reply, and once Healy learned Diehl wasn’t living in faraway Portales but nearby Rio Rancho, Diehl was on board.
“He’s been a pleasure to have on the staff ever since,” Healy added. “I’ve never heard Adam say a bad word about anybody else. He has a way; I know he has an education, but he has an innate way to make it interesting without you thinking he’s yelling at you.”
Diehl — he prefers the adjective “Real” to “Big” in front of his last name — said he knows he’s getting better. How so?
“Listening to everybody that you can and listening to people that I don’t like — why don’t I like them? And people that I do like — why do I like them? What do they do good? And what’s similar to my personality?” he replied. “I’m very excited (on the air), and I try to relate a little to Gus Johnson, but you don’t want to mimic anyone. … So from everyone, Mike Roberts to anyone, I try to critique what I like and what I don’t like and pick up things.”
Now in his fifth year with ProView, he said he’s learned a lot from area broadcaster Robert Portnoy. His dream job would be to someday work for CBS.
“You can do a lot of things with CBS: NFL, college hoops — those are my two favorite things to call — and there’s so much range. You can do radio and television, so I think CBS would be the network for my dream job.”
In this line of work, says Diehl, there’s more to it than just bringing your voice to the broadcast booth and opening up a microphone.
“People don’t understand how long you have to prepare to get a great broadcast. Knowing every player — I like to try to familiarize myself with the jersey number to each player as well as I can. The history, to interviewing coaches before the game, (and) something Robert Portnoy told me, and Mike Roberts also mentioned to me that for every game you do, you have to study three times as much to make it a professional broadcast.”
He also pays attention to media reports on teams he’ll be preparing for, reading local newspaper and web accounts of teams and games.
He’s still “in” soccer; he just completed his third season as head coach of the Cleveland High (Yes, Rams fans, he’s gone to the “dark side”) junior varsity boys soccer team, which had a 11-1-2 record this fall.
So, yes, Storm boys soccer fans, there is light at the end of the tunnel — and maybe another trip to state.
“He brings a lot of insight and a lot of intensity,” says CHS varsity coach Shaun Gill. “These guys have bought into his system 100 percent — and the exciting thing is, it’s 90 percent sophomores and freshmen. They’re playing really, really well. I’m excited; we’re going to be doing well and competitive for the next two, three years.”
By day, he’s an account manager for state and local education for Hewlett-Packard in Rio Rancho. By night, you’ll see him in the press box or at the announcers table in a gym.
Basketball, he said, is the easiest sport to call; soccer, believe it or not, is soccer, “and I know every detail about the game.
“But I just think the general details of when to get excited, because soccer to the average viewer who doesn’t know the game, might not understand when to get excited on a certain play when I would.”
Yes, he’s got a signature call.
“It’s a little cheesy,” he admitted, but during a recent high school all-star game, when former La Cueva standout Bryce Alford blocked an opponent’s shot, he said, “Hickory, dickory … block.”
OK, we agree: It’s cheesy. But young fathers can be cheesy, can’t they?
The couple’s son, Brody, 4, is already playing soccer and “a stud,” his dad says. Daughter Ashley, 2, “has not started sports yet.”
“I’ll be honest; they motivate me every day,” he said.
Rio Rancho resident Gary Tripp was honored last month when he was inducted into New Mexico Highlands University’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
Tripp, a graduate of West Las Vegas High School in 1979, played for the Cowboys’ baseball team for four seasons, after playing on the football team as a freshman.
“It was really a good honor,” Tripp, the one-time principal of Rio Rancho High School, said. “This is kind of the most-prestigious (honor); it’s for my athletic performance there.”
That “performance” included being behind the plate “for a few innings” in what turned out to be a 20-inning Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championship baseball game against Mesa State.
Tripp had fond memories of playing for the Cowboys, for whom he batted .357, was a singles and doubles hitter, and earned third-team All-American honors as a senior.
“And I had one or two home runs a year,” he confided.
One of his single-day top memories was the day he went 5 for 8 in a double-header against Mississippi State; another fond memory involved batting against future Major League shortstop Randy Velarde, then pitching part-time for Lubbock Christian University.
Tripp, who served the New Mexico Activities Association as its executive director after leaving RRHS, left his NMAA post last year. He is the principal at Zia (Pueblo) Day School, overseeing about 75 students in grades K-8.
He was one of five former athletes honored at NMHU. On hand for the festivities were former Cowboys football players Carl Garrett and Don Woods, plus fellow Rio Rancho resident Lionel Taylor.
In addition to family members, Tripp’s best friend since middle school, Cleveland High girls track and field coach Tim Flores, was also there to celebrate with Tripp.