COLUMBIA — It’s 3 p.m. Friday afternoon and Tex Little is settling into the cozy broadcast booth at Taylor Stadium. Little has his scorebook in front of him and is wearing his Missouri baseball cap. His laptop hums behind him, and he looks over some statistics while ESPN radio chirps in the background.
Little started as the voice of Tigers baseball in 1987 and has put in 19 years behind the microphone.
“I don’t know another place I want to be other than the ballpark,” Little said.
Later, Little joins Tigers coach Tim Jamieson behind the batting cage and talks baseball. Little says he made the decision to be here when he was 21.
“I had some aspirations to do something different,” Little said. “I was either going to go into coaching or do radio, and I decided to go with radio.”
In 1982, Little got his first job in radio. He spun records, did the news and called games. He even mowed the lawn for KSIW radio in Woodward, Okla. It was the only radio station in town.
Little then moved onto Texas where he covered the Midland Angels in the Texas League in 1986. But when an oil crises ravaged the town's economy, Little lost his job.
“I had been in Texas and Oklahoma for about six years, and I wanted to be closer to home, and I found a job here,” Little said. “Missouri baseball was part of that package and that’s when they did eight or nine games a year.”
In 1988, Little met with then coach Gene McArtor and both agreed that they wanted to put all the games on the air. Since then, Little has seen the highs and the lows for the Missouri baseball team.
“Winning the regional at Pepperdine has to be the tops,” Little said. “When I started doing this job, I hung around with the players more than the coaches. Now, I hang out with the coaches and parents.”
Last season when then-No. 4 Missouri was beating No. 6 Texas A&M by a run entering the ninth inning of a game in College Station, Texas, Little's broadcast conveyed the drama.
Pitcher Nick Tepesch, then a freshman, came into close the game and give the Tigers a victory.
Little’s voice developed a tone fitting for such a crucial situation as he described the struggle.
The first Texas A&M batter hit a single.
“Tigers really could use a double play here,” Little pleaded to his audience in Mid-Missouri, 768 miles away.
Tepesch walked the next Texas A&M batter, and Little’s voice trailed off. He knew bad things were happening. Jamieson removed Tepesch for Ryan Allen, and Little begged for a miracle outcome.
“All the Tigers need here is a triple play,” Little said.
The next Texas A&M batter doubled, scoring the tying run with no outs and putting the winning run on third. Allen intentionally walked the next batter to load the bases.
Allen then committed a balk to allow the winning run to score. Little’s voice sounded like a balloon deflating. There wasn’t much to be said besides that the Tigers had lost 9-8 after leading at one point 8-1.
“We’ll be back for the postgame show here on KTGR,” Little said.
It was a devastating blow for the Tigers, who lost 15-0 the next day, then dropped the next two games after that.
“Sometimes you do get caught up,” Little said. “That’s my hardest challenge, to not get too emotionally caught up with the team. When they struggle, I struggle. It happens more than it should probably.”
Following a baseball team has changed a lot in the past 15 years.
The St. Louis Cardinals developed a strong following because radio broadcasts of their games on KMOX reached across the Midwest. Now, highlight videos of the Cardinals' Albert Pujols launching 400-foot home runs are seen regularly across the country on ESPN and the voice of Jack Buck is a memory.
That’s why Little might be one of the last of his kind in a craft that is slowly dying.
But, with only one of Missouri’s games broadcast on TV this year, fans who can’t make it out to the ballpark still must rely on Little with his partner Hudson Guthrie. Unless they want to follow a flash graphic on the Internet, the only option is Tex, and he realizes it.
“My goal every day is to bring what’s going on this field to someone who can’t be here,” Little said. “You feel like you’re just part of it. When things are going good, it’s a blast. When things are going bad, you kind of just go for the ride.”