From the Bench: Travis Jones Reflects on Time at BHS as He Starts Silver Anniversary Behind the Mic

By Jeff Toquinto on August 13, 2017 from Sports Blog via

If you see Travis Jones this week, or in the weeks ahead, you may want to congratulate him or even thank him. First, though, you may want to give a big thank you to Doug Hoffman.
Who’s Doug Hoffman?
Chances are good many that grew up in this area will know exactly who he is. Doug Hoffman is known affectionately as “The Dougger.” Most of us know him from his Dougger Show and Dance that was part of our own local journey through school and even beyond.
If it wasn’t for Doug Hoffman there’s a possibility that you wouldn’t be giving kudos to Travis Jones sometime today or in the near future. There’s a chance that it wouldn’t be the 25th Anniversary of the “Voice of the Indians” getting ready to take the air once again – this time starting August 25.
That’s correct. Travis Jones is entering his 25th year of BHS sports broadcasting and it was The Dougger who unwittingly opened the door.
For those wondering how on earth these two radio personalities collided, I’ll be glad to tell you about it prior to delving into Jones’ quarter century journey through Indians sports. Again, all of which may have never taken place without the Dougger.
Back in the 1970s, in Wood County, Jones wasn’t even in his teens when he was bit by the radio bug. Heck, he hadn’t even reached double digits.
“The interest began when I was 7 or 8 growing up in Parkersburg. One of the first FM stations, WXIL, was actually located at the Grand Central Mall in Vienna. The studios were glass plated toward one of the corridors and you could watch the DJ working all day if you wanted to,” said Jones.
In some respects, he did just that. Jones’ mother had a job at the mall. During the summer, Jones went to work with his her and planted his face on the glass and watched disc jockeys spinning records. One of those on the other side of the glass was “Uncle Dougger,” or the aforementioned Doug Hoffman.
“I actually hung out there so much he befriended me and let me go into the studio,” said Jones.
And the journey was set in motion. Although Hoffman left, he returned in 1986. Jones, now 15, contacted him and The Dougger remembered the kid in the window and that led to a part-time radio gig for Jones. Not exactly the big-time, but Jones’ foot was in the door.
“It was Sunday mornings. I read the weather once an hour and would call my mom so she could listen,” said Jones.
Eventually, he moved up the ladder. By his senior year he was doing overnights and on the week of graduation he began working full time. The journey continued with a pit stop in Charleston and time at WVAQ in 1992 with West Virginia Radio. He’s been with West Virginia Radio ever since.
In 1993, Jones began his gig with Bridgeport High School sports and, in particular, Indians football. Although Jones had done play by play in high school for an AM station that had a game of the week in the Wood County area and then handled the same situation in Charleston for another game of the week concept, this was going to be a weekly gig with the same team and would also branch over into basketball.
Jones said he’s not 100 percent certain how it came about, but knows it occurred after West Virginia Radio Corporation purchased the old WKKW that was on FM 106.5. The company had the opportunity after that to acquire the rights to the games and did so.
“They didn’t have anybody to do play by play, and the acquisition coincided with me being program director so I teamed up with Jim Dodrill and that’s when we got started,” said Jones. “I knew about Bridgeport because of their success, but I was from Parkersburg Catholic and was more familiar with Class A schools like Williamstown and local schools like Parkersburg and Marietta. I went in being on the periphery when it came to knowledge about the program.”
Admittedly, there was a learning curve for Jones as well as Dodrill, who was a Nicholas County guy. Help on familiarizing them with the program came with sideline reporter Billy Reep who was well-schooled in all things related to Bridgeport sports.
Jones also was going to be providing the first regular radio coverage in Harrison County – a technology breakthrough – and he was doing so for a team coached by Wayne Jamison, who was old school. Jamison would gladly tell you to this day he would rather just coach than deal with the media.
Yet, Jones said Jamison was welcoming and accommodating.
“To me personally, he was very gracious and helped. He didn’t like to do interviews so we did pre-games with (assistant Coach) Richard Iaquinta,” said Jones. “But if you just wanted to go into his office and talk football that was never an issue.
“Still, I was just 22 years old … I had to earn that trust from Coach Jamison,” Jones continued. “I don’t know if I earned it by the time he left after 1996.”
Jones said he felt it was earned when the Bruce Carey era started. Jamison was still at the games and always made a point to stop in to say hello to him and eventually his color guy to this day Ryan Nicewarner.
“I think at some point over those 25 years I’ve earned his respect and him stopping by was one of my favorite things  and not just because he was being friendly,” said Jones. “I think it was a sign that he knew we knew what we were doing.”
By the time Jamison was leaving, Jones was coming into his own.  He knew the system, knew the kids and was learning about the culture of the program. He cruised through the Bruce Carey and Josh Nicewarner eras seeing four state titles along the way and is ready to start covering the John Cole era later this month in Lewis County.
Through it all, there have been some memorable moments. The most memorable, for a unique reason, was the Indians’ game with Wayne for the 2013 state championship.
“That game was special because Wayne was historically good and Bridgeport was the underdog. The other thing is that I called the game for fans statewide and that made it the most challenging game I’ve ever personally done. The other title wins were special, but Bridgeport was a heavy favorite against Frankfort and Tolsia,” Jones said. “I had to be neutral and it was difficult to be neutral.”
Jones said he’s listened to his call of that game since. He said he was “okay” at being neutral, but admits that he “wasn’t great at it either” because he said it was hard to keep his emotions in check.
“I think holding most of that in while calling the game and then finally getting downstairs to hug and congratulate everyone was special. I felt like I was walking on the air,” said Jones. “There’s been so many big games, big wins, big plays it’s hard to break them down.”
Jones also recounts a couple of tough times in the booth. He said watching Dan McNamee’s injury that would leave him paralyzed in a game at Magnolia was the most difficult thing he’s endured.
“That was something you can’t erase and it was something I had a feeling just after it happened that the outcome of his injury was going to severe,” said Jones.
The other thing dealt with the final game of Bruce Carey’s career. After suffering what was basically a spinal cord stroke and needing assistance to walk, Carey decided that he would hang it up after the 2009 season.  The Indians competed that year in Class AAA and had arguably one of the best teams in school history.
“Bruce deserved to go out with a state championship and I remember late the team was driving for what looked like a game-winning touchdown when a holding penalty wiped everything out,” said Jones. “As we’re wrapping it up, I get a text from the field that he had told his players he wasn’t coming back. To make it worse, everyone there for both teams had a strong feeling they would easily handle Brooke in the title game and that proved to be the case.”
The Indians would lose that Class AAA semifinal at Laidley Field by a 28-25 score to South Charleston. The next week, South Charleston would easily beat Brooke for the title.
As Jones rehashed the past, he said you take the good with the bad. And he said some people don’t realize he also has done and continues to do BHS boys basketball for all or parts of the last 25 years – fewer games in recent seasons due to his commitment with Fairmont State University men’s basketball.
“(Former Coach) Gene (Randolph) and I came in together and we have a strong bond that exists today and I consider him one of my dearest friends,” said Jones. “I’ve got a strong relationship with (Coach) Mike (Robey) too and have been blessed with great coaches to work with.”
He’s also been blessed with great help on game day. In recent years his help lineup has featured Nicewarner doing color analysis, Randy Gum on stats, Chris Cleghorn on the field with the microphone and, until recently, the slapstick leader of the group in Tim Brady.
That’s likely one of the reasons Jones said his desires of moving to a big market and serving on the radio for a Division I program are no longer there. He believes the grass – with his family nestled in Bridgeport and his son approaching the age where he’ll don the red and white on the football field – is plenty green right where it’s at.
Because of that, you may read another blog in the future about Jones’ time with the Indians.
“I’m really excited that over the next 10 to 15 years I’ll be calling second generation players. Honestly, I’m looking forward to another 25 years,” said Jones.
As are we Travis. Congratulations on your run as the “Voice of the Indians.” And be sure and thank The Dougger for us.
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Travis Jones talking to WVSSAC Assistant Executive Director Wayne Ryan last year, while he's shown several years earlier with Tim Brady at Wheeling Island Stadium. In the third photo, Jones talks with an official just prior to the BHS-Wheeling Park game in 2015 being canceled due to weather. In the fourth photo, Jones is shown at a Mountain East Conference press conference, where he serves as the "Voice of the Falcons" at Fairmont State University. Bottom pitcure is Jones' view of most games at Jamison Field.

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