John Klobnak, a SIUE Mass Communications graduate and retired chairman of the board of TLC Vision Corporation, recently funded the Dewayne Staats Broadcast Journalism Award in Mass Communications at SIUE, where the Rays broadcaster earned a bachelor's degree in Mass Communications in 1975 and got his start in broadcasting as a sports reporter for WSIE Radio.
"I'm honored and humbled by that at the same time," Staats said. "When [Klobnak] called me it was out of the blue and I was surprised, but honored and humbled. It's really all [Klobnak], he's the guy making it happen, he's funding it. I just happened to be the guy walking down the street as a kid who's been blessed to do exactly what he wanted to do all of his life."
In recognition of Staats' stellar career, this new student award created by Klobnak will be given to an SIUE student showing outstanding talent in broadcast journalism.
Staats said he grew up playing baseball, but recognized his limitations.
"My standard line in high school was that I was a good enough judge of talent to know nobody was going to pay me to play," Staats said. "I had a couple of teachers and instructors who drafted me into some competitive speech events."
And from there he went on to SIUE.
"Because they were putting their student station on the air," Staats said. "I don't know if you call it synchronicity or whatever it is. But I walked in there from Day 1 in college, had my hands on all the equipment at the radio station, and it all springs from that."
The first recipient of the Staats Award will be selected by faculty for the academic year of 2008-09 and will receive a modest monetary stipend. The student will be recognized at the annual Mass Communications Alumni event as well as at the College of Arts and Sciences Honors Convocation in April of '09.
"I wanted to do something that would recognize the phenomenal success that Dewayne has had in sports broadcasting, while helping current SIUE students to reach similar success in the broadcast industry," said Klobnak in a release from SIUE.
Staats has been the voice of the Rays for the past eleven seasons. Before joining the Rays, he spent three years calling play-by-play for ESPN in a variety of sports, including MLB and NCAA baseball, basketball and football. His first Major League announcing job was with the Astros from 1977-84. Staats covered radio and TV action for the Cubs from 1985-89, then took on the role of lead play-by-play announcer for the Yankees on the MSG-TV network from 1990-94. The 1994 and '95 seasons were spent calling the action for The Baseball Network (ABC/NBC).
Staats began his professional baseball announcing career as the radio voice of the Oklahoma City 89ers (1973-74), then served as sports director for KPLR-TV in St. Louis during 1975-76, for which he received an Emmy nomination.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.