Sioux City Explorers honor longtime broadcaster Nitz

By T. Scott Boatright

 

Dora the Explorer has nothing over “Freeway Dave.”

Over the course of a 48-year career serving as a radio broadcaster for Louisiana Tech combined with 16 years of doing the same on the Minor League level, Dave Nitz earned the nickname of “Freeway Dave.”

That’s because he did a lot of driving himself across the country, especially broadcasting for minor league teams.

Nitz’s last minor league job was announcing games for the Sioux City (Iowa) Explorers from 2009-17, with the team mascot seeming especially appropriate for a man nicknamed “Freeway Dave.” 

Last Tuesday Nitz got to once again explore Sioux City for the first time in five years as he was on hand to participate in Opening Day First Pitch ceremonies for the Explorers.”

“I guess it’s true that with all of the driving I’ve done, I’ve done a lot of exploring over the years,” Nitz said. “They brought back five of us — me; Ed Nottle, the first Explorers manager (1993-2000), Benny Castillo, the Explorers; manager 2001-02; Jay Kirkpatrick, the Explorers’ manager 2003-04; and Stan Cliburn, the Explorers’ manager from 2011-13.

“The Explorers are part of the American Association League, which is an affiliate of Major League Baseball. The league stretches from Canada to Texas with teams in Winnipeg, Canada; Fargo, North Dakota; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Lake County and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Chicago, Illinois; Gary, Indiana; Lincoln, Nebraska; Kansas City, Kansas; Kane County, Illinois; Cleburne, Texas; and Sioux City.”

Over the 16 years Nitz broadcast games in five minor league cities. His first was the then Bluefield Orioles in the Appalachian League. Then came Oklahoma City with the Rangers’ AAA organization; in Shreveport with the Captains and the Sports; and one season for a Baton Rouge Independent League team before closing out his minor league career in Sioux City.

“When I was in Sioux City, they furnished me with a car and gas, and apartment and the whole thing,” Nitz said. “I would drive to most of the road games. The only times I didn’t drive was when we traveled to play up in Winnipeg in Canada. It’s only eight hours straight north from Sioux City on Interstate 29, but the broadcaster for Winnipeg warned me about two things if I drove up there. 

“One was to make sure I got gas before crossing the border, because it’s much more expensive in Canada, and if I parked my car in the parking garage at the hotel in downtown Winnipeg, to make sure I don’t leave anything in the car, because apparently late at night a car with out of country plates will be broken into. So, I rode the bus to Winnipeg.”

But it wasn’t the same kind of bus trip like the ones he’s taken traveling with the LA Tech baseball team.

“It was a sleeper bus,” Nitz said. “We’d leave Sioux City around midnight and arrive in Winnipeg around 8 in the morning, check into the hotel, sleep a little bit and get to the ballpark around 3 or 4 in the afternoon to begin a three- or four-game series.

“After the last game we’d usually bus back to Sioux City, or sometimes we’d travel on to Fargo, North Dakota, which was on the way about halfway home, right on I-29.”

Nitz admitted that when he traveled for two series in Texas in Cleburne and Grand Prairie, he’d often fly down to the Lone Star state as opposed to driving.

“I’d fly in and get a good deal on an Enterprise rental car, because I worked for Enterprise and had a pretty good deal with them,” Nitz said. “So those Texas road trips weren’t a big deal for me.”

Sometimes Nitz was joined on his road trips.

“Every once in a while, the manager Steve Montgomery and the pitching coach would ride with me,” he said. “They didn’t trust the bus driver a lot of times, I guess and said that they’d rather ride with me.

“So they’d ride with me, especially on trips home. We’d talk baseball. You learn a lot of things when you’re in a car with somebody like that, talking strategy and all that kind of stuff with guys who’ve been at the professional level.”

As Nitz prepares to broadcast LA Tech baseball down the stretch, he knows what’s coming this summer.

“I’ve been lost, just to be honest,” Nitz said. “The first year I was back home for the summer, at 4 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon I’d start thinking I need to be at the ballpark getting lineups and doing interviews. 

“Now it’s going out to mow the yard or something like that. I miss it. But I’ve kept up with Sioux City baseball. I broke in the guy who replaced me there as a broadcaster.  So, I guess I’m still exploring through him.”

 


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