To many Steve Willits is the face of the Everett AquaSox. Every summer over the last few years we see his smiling face on Funko Field where he is the on-field Emcee. Throughout every game, after every half inning, we hear his voice on the microphone encouraging fans to cheer on our own young fans participating in contests for prizes, providing valuable information for our fans, introducing our Frog mascot Webbly or my favorite at the start of the game when one of our young fans chants out “play ball” on the mic. To others they know Steve as the co-host of the show Prep Sports Weekly which airs on KRKO 1380 am. Steve also covers high school sports throughout Snohomish and King County and does outstanding on-field and play-by-play commentary. Steve Willits recently added play-by-play road announcer for the Everett AquaSox to his resume. We were fortunate to have a one-on-one with Steve to find out more about this young man.
SSU: On and off the field you are truly inspirational, and we all are impressed by your passion and energy you bring every day. Who is an inspiration to you in your life and why?
SW: My inspiration for everything that I do is my Mom, Linda. I lost her to cancer in 2017 but she taught me so much about being gracious and kind to others and to enjoy life to the fullest.
SSU: Someone told me that you worked for the Seattle SuperSonics growing up. How cool that must have been! Would you care to add any favorite moments working with the Sonics whether it might be one or ten moments?
SW: There were almost too many moments to count. I was 14 years old when I started working for the team in 1987 and they shocked the league and made it to the Western Conference Finals that season with a 39-43 record. We had to play our first-round games vs Dallas at Hec Ed (home of the Washington Huskies) because nobody expected us to make the playoffs and the Seattle Center Coliseum was booked for some sort of Home and Garden show. That 1987 playoff run was special and later in my career with the Sonics, the Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp years were also some of the greatest years of my life.
My most favorite moment had to have been working game 7 of the 1996 Western Conference Finals when we defeated the Utah Jazz to advance to the NBA Finals. Just being around the Sonics fans and celebrating afterwards with my co-workers was an experience unlike any other.
I was also fortunate to work for the Seattle Storm during their first 8 seasons. I was working the night the Storm won their first ever WNBA Championship. Seattle Storm fans are as passionate as anyone and at times they were so loud in the 4th quarter of the championship game that we could not hear ourselves talking to one another down on the floor.
SSU: As a child did you see yourself being an announcer? If not, what did you want to be growing up as a kid?
SW: I did want to be a Play-by-Play Announcer when I was a kid. I spent countless hours listening to Dave Niehaus and Rick Rizz on the radio as well as others: Bob Blackburn with the Sonics, Pete Gross with the Seahawks, and Bob Rondeau with the University of Washington. We have been spoiled in the Pacific Northwest with outstanding Play-By-Play announcers. I even had a chance to sit down and talk with Bob Blackburn for about 10 minutes one night when I was 14 years old. One of my Sonic supervisors at the time mentioned to him that I was interested in possibly becoming a sportscaster one day. He agreed to chat with me about 3 hours before game time. Foolishly, I did not take any notes and do not even recall very many details of that conversation, but I appreciated the fact that he took the time to advise me. It was an evening that I will never forget though. I eventually assumed that becoming a Play-By-Play Announcer was a far-fetched fantasy and gave up on the notion. Fortunately for me, a few opportunities presented themselves later down the road at the high school level that ultimately led me to becoming a member of the AquaSox family.
SSU: Who is an inspiration to you in the sports world?
SW: I do not know that I really have anyone who influenced me greatly in the sports world. My favorite Play-By-Play Announcer of all time is Kevin Calabro from my days of working with the Seattle SuperSonics. I have always appreciated his enthusiasm and that he comes off as authentic. I try to be as personable as possible when I am broadcasting as well as when I am the on-field emcee at home games. I just want to be my energetic, passionate self and have fun. I figure if I am doing that, others can join me and do the same.
SSU: How did you get the Everett AquaSox job? They have had many great on-field hosts over the last 20 years that I have been coming to the games, but you stand out the most to me. Thank you for your amazing work.
SW: The AquaSox needed someone to fill in for a few games during the 2017 season and longtime PA Announcer Tall Tom Lafferty recommended me. Tom and I at the time were and still are the hosts of the Prep Sports Weekly radio show that airs on KRKO 1380 during the school year. In 2017 I worked like 17 games and during the offseason the position opened full time and of course I jumped at the chance.
SSU: Congratulations on your recent promotion to play-by-play during the road games. Pat Dillon (the greatest single-A minor league announcer of all time) and Danny Tetzlaff made the right choice offering you the job. I asked Pat Dillon why he chose you to do the play-by-play announcing on the road and he said “I felt Steve had the right stuff. He’s smart, very likable, and brings a unique energy and enthusiasm, which are both important qualities in a broadcaster”. That is some high praise.
SW: Thank you 😊.
SSU: How is it working for KRKO? Are you going to continue to cover high school sports during the off-season? I think that it is great that you work with them. These kids work hard and deserve to be showcased like you and Tom do.
SW: KRKO is great. I am a native and resident of Snohomish County, so being affiliated with a radio station that devotes programming to the local sports scene is a thrill. The people are outstanding and so is the music 😊.
I will absolutely continue to cover high school sports. I have really enjoyed my interactions with the coaches, students, families, administrators, teachers, school staff, officials, and other local media members. The kids are still at a stage where most of them are playing for the love of the game, and I enjoy watching the positive interactions that they have with their families who are attending the events and with one another. It is a wonderful community to be a part of and there are so many fascinating and inspirational stories to tell. I grew up playing sports in and around Snohomish County and love having a chance to provide young athletes and their coaches with a platform to share who they are and their passion for what they are doing is something that I treasure and would like to continue to do well into the foreseeable future.
SSU: There are some amazing individuals that you are blessed to work with. Please tell me about working with Tom Lafferty, Pat Dillon, and Danny Tetzlaff.
SW: Great question and would love to.
- Tom Lafferty– working with Tall Tom has been great. We have vastly different styles and personalities which I feel have been beneficial to our chemistry on the radio and at Funko Field. At Funko Field, you get the polished professional with that iconic announcer voice during the games and then a somewhat goofy, fun-loving high-energy guy in between innings. I have enjoyed the chance to work with Tom and we have become good friends through the process.
- Pat Dillon– Pat has been extremely generous during the transition into my road game play-by-play responsibilities. Pat is extremely humble and has gone out of his way to ensure that I have had whatever resources are needed and genuinely wants me to succeed in this role. You do not always find that in this industry, and I cannot even begin to express how much his support and friendship has meant to me this season. He is a phenomenal play-by-play announcer and an even better person.
- Danny Tetzlaff– I am fortunate to work for a General Manager who is supportive of my work and encourages me to do it my way. Danny pulled me aside before my first road trip and reminded me too just be myself. “That is why we hired you for this role”. I am not someone that always does things in a “scripted” manner, whether that is at Funko Field during my emcee responsibilities or when I am doing play-by-play on the radio and Danny appreciates that about me. You know what they say about teaching an old dog new tricks, and I am not a puppy anymore 😊. It is refreshing to have that support from my boss, and I am truly thankful for that.
SSU: On social media you go out of your way to make special birthday messages on video and send to everyone you can. Why do you do this and why are you always so positive? This is one of many things that we all respect and admire about Steve Willits. I promise you Steve, you have many fans out there!
SW: I wish there were more of that in the world. Why not be positive and share with others?? Life is too short, and I realize the reality of that statement more with each passing day. I think adults in particular reach a point in their lives where they often tend to take things too seriously sometimes, especially the little things in life. Going through life a positive demeanor is much more enjoyable than any other alternative.
Thank you, Steve Willits, for taking the time to interview with the Seattle Sports Union, an interview we have been wanting to do for quite a long time. Congratulation on the promotion! Speaking for all of Frog Nation, we are excited for your latest adventure and looking forward to many more years of Steve Willits on the radio and on the field in some capacity. The Everett AquaSox and Snohomish County are truly blessed to have you in their lives.
How about them Frogs!!