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The Voice of the Reedley High School Pirates

IN THE May 9 ISSUE

FROM THE 2020 Articles,
andEducation,
andJim Mulligan,
andReedley News,
andSports
SECTIONS

by Jim Mulligan

I’ll be honest; I wasn’t the most fanatical of sports fans when I was a youngster. Don’t get me wrong, my neighborhood friends and I played baseball in the street, football at the local elementary school, and basketball at any number of homes that had a hoop. But not everyone lives and breathes sports. I didn’t. That being said, even I and other non-aficionados of sports would recognize the Wide World of Sports introduction by Jim McKay, or the welcoming tones of Vin Scully. And, please don’t even tell me that if you close your eyes and think about it, you can’t hear the calculated, halting, and sometimes arguably annoying voice of Howard Cosell? Just take a moment and try it.

Sporting events, large and small, just wouldn’t be the same without the chatter from the loud-speakers giving the play-by-play, talking up the next batter, and reminding us of the tantalizing snacks available at the concessions stand. When it comes to the big leagues, the home turf pundit must have the well-honed skills to deliver a well-articulated, entertaining monologue for the hundreds or thousands in attendance, appropriately filling in any gaps in the action with relevant statistics and Jeopardy-worthy trivia. At the small town, high school level, to have an announcer consistently perform and provide top level chronicling of the local athletic events is no easy task. That’s why when it does exist, credit needs to be given where credit is due.

Mark Givens, himself a Reedley High School graduate, has been the voice of RHS football, basketball, softball, and other sports since about 1999, but his introduction to sports announcing came much earlier than that. As an Orange Cove transplant at just one year of age, Givens started his education as a Sheridan Elementary School Bulldog in kindergarten. He then attended St. La Salle School in Reedley until he became a Pirate at Reedley High. At RHS he didn’t hesitate to become involved in all the things that interested him. Givens credits then-RHS Vice Principal Dale Minor with giving him (then a sophomore), the nudge to announce freshman and J.V. football games.

Mark Givens, center holding ball, with the very first RHS varsity water polo team in the fall of 1974.

Givens was a standout member of the Forensics Club at the time, which is what surely caught the attention of Mr. Minor. During his years at RHS, Givens not only excelled at public speaking, he also ran cross-country and track, was on the swim team, and played water polo on the very first varsity team at RHS, under the leadership of legendary coach Lori Gross.

Mark Givens, back row standing on far right, with the 1974-75 RHS Forensics Club.

Givens graduated from Reedley High in 1976 and moved on to study at Reedley College. It was there that he, then ASB President, caught the attention of a young RC Rally Girl from Selma. Just a few years later they were married; he has been married to Karen for 40 years. Not long after tying the knot, wife Karen drew on her rallying skills and encouraged her daughters to become cheerleaders for the Reedley Pop Warner Football League. With this continued closeness to football, his obvious oratory skills, and his affinity for numbers, Givens became the announcer and stats keeper for the Reedley Pop Warner League from about 1983 to about 1991. Little did he know that his public speaking abilities and his continued interest and experience with keeping sports stats were preparing him for a job he really never had any intentions of pursuing.

Mark Givens and his wife of 40 years, Karen.

It was after a short break from the local sports scene that Givens received a call from another legendary local sportster in 1996, then RHS Athletic Director, Larry Iwasaki. Iwasaki’s request: would he begin assisting the voice of RHS athletics at that time, Paul Mitchell? Any Reedley-ite knows that Mitchell was the original voice of sports in Reedley, serving as the RHS and RC football announcer—never missing an RC home football game—for five decades, which is another story altogether. Givens accepted the offer and became Mitchell’s defensive spotter during football games.

“Paul was my mentor. I looked to Paul for how to do things, but he always let me figure it out for myself,” said Givens. Whether it was the plan or not, Mitchell relinquished the role as the voice of RHS to Givens in about 1999.

You may or may not realize it, but Givens is quite deliberate in the basic structure of his announcing. “It’s something I learned in speech and forensics,” says Givens, “Every talk should have an attention getter…and a conclusion that sums it all up.” He begins each challenge with a welcome to both the home and visiting teams, something that he attributes to his work with Paul Mitchell, who was a staunch believer in sportsmanship and the idea of neutrality in the job of game announcer. Givens always ends his work at each contest with a line that again gives a nod to both sides of the event, a line that is quite familiar to anyone who has attended an RHS sporting event over the last 20-plus years: “Whether you’re traveling near or far, please be careful going home.”

Mark Givens, invited to be a guest annoucers spotter at a Fresno State vs. San Jose State football game.

Current RHS Athletic Director Darren Minami sums up the impact that Givens has had on RHS athletics over at least the last 25 years: “Not only is Mark tremendous at what he does with the mic, but he genuinely cares about his alma mater and the people involved. He interacts with coaches, players, parents, and fans; when Mark is announcing, he truly enhances our events with professional quality. I personally am very grateful to have Mark as part of our Pirate Team.” This author couldn’t agree more. I’ve personally had the pleasure of watching Mark call softball games many times for the last five years as my daughters have played varsity softball at RHS. Everyone I spoke to had much the same to say about Givens’ commitment to RHS and our community. In summary, he does it for us. Sure he gets a few bucks for each game, but as he said himself, “I’d do this if I was bad at it ,if they let me. I love it.”
Go Pirates!

Jim Mulligan is a 6th generation Californian, born and raised in Selma. He has been employed in Reedley on and off for the last twenty years. He married his college sweetheart, a Reedley-ite, Kristi. They now reside in Reedley with their five children. Jim loves to create Bonsai and travel as much as possible, both near and far. He is a member of the KCUSD Board of Trustees and is employed by Reedley College as the Tutorial Coordinator.

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