What do you get when you mix a New York City Yankee with a native-bred Kilmarnock southerner? WKWI station owner, Tom Davis came up with an idea, and the results were the most successful and longest-running team of high school radio sportscasters in the state of Virginia.
When Carroll Lee Ashburn and Demetrius Means teamed up to do high school sports, neither one could have imagined a journey across the state of Virginia and that would take in 25 years of broadcasting on Bay FM 101.7. The pair have twice been honored by the Virginia Association of Broadcasters for high schools sports coverage.
For Means, it was the beginning of a career that went back to his childhood dreams. For Ashburn, it was a continuation of his life-long interest in both playing and working with the local sports scene in Kilmarnock. That journey together took them to five state championship games with four different schools. It also sent the two nearly 500 miles across the state from Bristol on the Tennessee line to the Eastern Shore of Virginia and from Fairfax County to the Scope in Norfolk. Included in this fantastic tour was a stint also with WESR 103.3 FM to broadcast for Nandua High School. It was a journey of love for sports, for high school student athletes and for the excitement of competition.
Means told of listening to the great radio sports announcers of his childhood days and trying to mimic Marv Albert of NBC Sports. “It was something I wanted since I was 12 years old,” he said. “It was a life-long dream.” Means, married and the father of two children, will continue in his career as TV broadcaster and commentator for the Virginia Commonwealth University ladies basketball team.
Speaking of his microphone mate, Ashburn, Means said, “I wouldn’t have broadcast with anyone else. We fit like a hand in a glove, each knew what the other would say.” He added, “We never tried to make it about ourselves, we tried to make it about the kids…to present, the best broadcast to the listener, to make it informational.”
With many days on the road at motels and hotels, the two never lost the zest for the game. Asked about his favorite game, Means said it was Northumberland and W&L. The Indians coach Michael Stevenson had his team hold the ball to draw the Eagles out of their zone. Northumberland won. Then, there was Lancaster and Rappahannock in a triple-overtime game.
For Carroll Lee Ashburn, broadcasting began in 1975 when he spent many years with now retired, Dean Loudy. On days that they announced doubleheaders, Ashburn would often be on his own for the second contest because Loudy had the early morning program at WKWI and needed to get some rest. Over that span of time, Ashburn stated he had been part of 856 broadcasts. Now, that’s dedication to the student athletes of the Northern Neck and beyond. His favorite game, the Lancaster and Dan River’s game in 2017.
Ashburn now will devote more time to the world famous Kilmarnock Museum as its president.
Words on a piece of paper will never touch fully what these two men have done for the student athletes on the Northern Neck and beyond. It was truly a labor of love, for the games, yes, but more for those who played and coached the games. There are many memories for those who listened too as this pair brought high school sports alive to fans across the state of Virginia. In this day of self-promotion, both Ashburn and Means said over and over, “it was all about the kids.”