MetroNews’ Fred Persinger marks 50 years on air ahead of Boys State High School Basketball Tournament

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Fred Persinger, the voice of high school sports on the MetroNews Radio Network, is marking a major milestone this week.

Persinger enters his 50th year calling games at the Boys State High School Basketball Tournament.

His first tournament was in 1972, on the air with Jack Fleming, as they followed 12 teams. Today, 32 teams come to Charleston for the chance at winning the state title.

“It was just the two of us. It was much different. We started in the old Civic Center. There were exciting games and that’s what I remember about every year I’ve done this, are the games,” Persinger told MetroNews’ Carrie Hodousek in a sit-down interview.

Persinger joined MetroNews fulltime in Oct. 2001, but called high school sports games on affiliate stations before that. He started his radio career at WWNR in Beckley and later moved to WTNJ in Mount Hope. He also served as the voice of the Beckley Woodrow Wilson Flying Eagles football and basketball teams.

Listeners know Persinger as the host of MetroNews High School Game Night, a show that airs across the state on Fridays during the fall football season.

“Players have changed, yes, officials have changed, but it’s still the game,” he said about high school basketball in West Virginia.

The first of the boys’ games gets started Tuesday after the girls’ tournament wrapped up Saturday at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center.

“We say on the network ‘Here at the State Tournament, memories that last a lifetime.’ That’s not only true for the players and coaches. It’s true for the broadcasters,” he said.

Persinger, at the age of 75, said he’s not ready to give up his headset quit yet, and that’s mostly due to the friendships he’s made over the years.

“I remember the people that you meet and see once a year for two weeks every year for the past 50 years since I made all these friends. It’s like a reunion,” he said.

One of those people to shake hands with Persinger when it comes to tournament week is West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC) Executive Director Bernie Dolan.

“When you think of football, basketball, high school sports, Fred is always the voice,” Dolan said. “As a state, we certainly benefit from that because he recognizes kids in different sports, not just the big ones.”

Persinger said he has a passion for high school sports because it’s all about the kids.

“The kids are not playing for a NIL contract. They’re not playing for anything except their school and that means an awful lot,” he said.

Joan Baldwin, an usher who has worked at the convention center for 48 years, told MetroNews hearing Persinger on the radio during tournament week is all she’s ever known.

“I’ve known Fred as long as I’ve been here,” she said. “He speaks to everyone. He knows no strangers. I think he makes it a point to introduce himself to everybody.”

Persinger has shared his radio knowledge with his son, Fred Persinger II, who works for MetroNews affiliate WJLS Radio in Beckley.

“I sit over and listen to him and I still learn stuff every time he does a game,” Persinger II said. “He has some fun with it, but when he gets down to these close games, he’s still the best at it.”

Persinger II said his dad has been on the air his entire life.

“I was one year old when he started,” he said. “He’s got parents of kids now that he called their games. It’s been amazing to see.”

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, though. Health issues within the Persinger family have created a few roadblocks, but they’ve managed to perservere.

“There were times mom had some health issues. She put off her health issues and getting better because of the state tournament and knowing how it important it was to dad. Dad has had back problems, throat problems, vocal cord surgeries. For him to still be doing it after 50 years and still doing a good job, it’s pretty amazing,” Persinger II said.

One of Persinger’s most memorable moments on the air was when Mullens High School basketball player Herbie Brooks broke the state record for most points scored in a boys high school basketball game against Parkersburg Catholic in 1983.

“He scored 50 before the 3-point shot and I had the opportunity to call the play-by-play on that game,” he said.

Brooks led Mullens High School to three consecutive state championships. Persinger said his record still stands today.

Back then, Persinger said the tournament was held in a much smaller arena and he didn’t post as much on social media. His love for the game, though, hasn’t changed.

“The lights are brighter, the floor is bigger, the arena is bigger, but thank goodness the kids are the same,” he said.

Persinger said it’s a job he plans to do until he can’t anymore.

“I don’t dig a ditch for a living. I’m not a coal miner. As long as I have the voice, then I plan on hanging around,” he said. “If I ever call a game and I listen to it and I think ‘no,’ then I will step away. You won’t have to ask me. I’ll step away on my own because if I can’t give 100 percent to the kids, I don’t want to be here.”

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