From Missouri Valley football to NCHC hockey to Summit League hoops, Midco's Alex Heinert shows his versatility
The Midco play-by-play announcer will call nine games, 16 teams and three sports in just over a week.
Last Thursday, Midco Sports Network play-by-play announcer Alex Heinert called a Missouri Valley Football Conference game between two top-25 teams in UND and South Dakota in the Alerus Center.
The next night, Heinert jumped to the hockey rink to call a National Collegiate Hockey Conference game between No. 1 UND and No. 11 Omaha in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The following day, he woke up and drove to Brookings, S.D., to call a football game between nationally ranked South Dakota State and Western Illinois.
The next day, he drove to Sioux Falls, S.D., and called two Summit League basketball tournament games featuring North Dakota State, Missouri-Kansas City, UND and Oral Roberts.
This weekend, Heinert will be back in Grand Forks calling the quarterfinals of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff on Friday and Saturday.
Add it all up, and in just over a week, Heinert will drive more than 1,000 miles to call nine marquee games across three different sports featuring 16 different teams, while working with five different color commentators and three different producers.
It's a daunting task -- especially preparing to have background information on 16 different teams and three different conference landscapes -- but those who work at Midco aren't surprised to see Heinert pull it off.
"I've been in the TV industry for almost 10 years in some capacity," Midco producer Jeremy Klein said, "and he's the hardest worker I've seen in 10 years. Being around him, he makes you want to work harder. He's the guy who leads by example. He never has anything poor to say. He always brings a great attitude to work. He makes that working environment so inviting. He's just a really good guy. The guy you see every day at events, that's the same guy every day in the office."
Klein said despite doing so many games in so many days, Heinert's preparation never dropped off.
"You watch the UND football game and Adam Zavalney scores a touchdown and Alex knows right away that's his first-career catch," Klein said. "That's the stuff he can do because of his prep work. From a talent standpoint, a lot of our broadcasts will look similar, but to be able to blend with a new producer and new color guys three days in a row, he just does it. When he goes on air, it's like he's been hanging out with Ryan Kasowski all week talking football. The next day, Jake Brandt steps in the booth and it seems like those two have been talking hockey for years."
Heinert said a lot of his prep work was done the week before the marathon stretch, and the fact that he's watched many of these teams play this year and in previous years helps.
"It's not like I'm starting from scratch," Heinert said. "That would be much more difficult."
Lessons learned from the Pod
Heinert learned two key things from calling the NCHC Pod in Omaha in December, when Midco broadcasted 38 games in 21 days. Heinert had 14 of them.
The first lesson: How to prepare to learn background info on a lot of different teams in a short amount of time.
"To pull that off, the way he did, that's the ultimate example of how thorough and how detail-oriented of a person he is," fellow Midco play-by-play announcer Jay Elsen said. "It's not just him as a broadcaster, but that personality trait definitely carries into the profession. He never ceases to amaze me, that's for sure.
"He's not only just an exceptionally easy guy to work with and get along with, he's a real joy to be around and he sets an awfully high standard for everyone in our business -- not just in our shop -- for what it takes to be a high-level broadcaster."
The second lesson Heinert learned from the Pod: How to save his voice.
Heinert said losing his voice during a marathon stretch of games is a real concern, especially when he's calling a lot of football or hockey games. Because goals and touchdowns are more rare than buckets in basketball, it requires him to crescendo his voice more often.
Heinert used to drink water with lime juice to try to help save his voice.
"It tasted awful, but it helped get you through games," he said.
But in the Pod, color commentator Dave Starman suggested drinking hot tea instead.
"He was always drinking hot tea during games," Heinert said. "I never even considered it before. . . in the middle of a game to have a hot beverage. I started doing that in the Pod and it made a huge difference."
Heinert now drinks one full 24-ounce tumbler of hot tea every game.
"When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is put the tea on," Heinert said.
Looking ahead to the Frozen Faceoff
Heinert, who credits the Midco staff, producers and color commentators for making things run smoothly, will be back at it this weekend, calling all four quarterfinal games at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Colorado College plays St. Cloud State at 2:37 p.m. Friday, followed by UND and Miami at 7:37 p.m.
There's another doubleheader Saturday with Omaha and Denver playing at 2:37, followed by Minnesota Duluth and Western Michigan at 7:37.
After that, Heinert will have a little break from play-by-play as he transitions back to football to call UND and NDSU in the Fargodome on March 20.
"At this point, there's not one thing Alex does that surprises me anymore," Elsen said. "My expectations of him and his preparedness, his energy. . . they're all at the highest level. The only thing that would surprise me is if it didn't come off that way in a broadcast."