‘Voice of the Wildcats’ calls last home game

Seth Kinker
Neosho Daily News

Josh King, the ‘Voice of the Wildcats’ as a play-by-play commentator for the past 26 years, called his last home game on Mar. 11 when the Neosho Wildcat baseball team wrapped up their regular season against the Seneca Indians.

Color commentator John Ball, left, and play-by-play maestro Josh King, right, after King's last home game on May 11.

King entered this year knowing it would be his last on the mic.

Both of his kids, both Neosho athletics alums, will be in college in Tennessee and stepping away gives him the opportunity to visit them without having the broadcasting commitment.

He’ll also be able to focus more on his job as the Manager of Billing Services at New-Mac Electric and plans to get more involved with his church, the Hillcrest Church of Christ in Neosho.

“For me, (when I stepped down) from broadcasting, I knew what (it would mean) for his family and for him,” said Eric Hughes, a broadcasting partner of King’s for a few years who did play-by-play for King when he took a break and with him when he returned. “To be able to spend more time with them and not be on the road so much, I understood that part of it. Of course I was sad to hear it, he’s such a staple in this community as the voice of the Wildcats. When you think of Wildcat sports, you think of Josh King.”

King began working for KBTN radio in 1995 covering East Newton football.

The next year, he took over as the play-by-play commentator for all of Neosho sports and has been on the beat ever since with slight breaks when he worked for the Neosho Daily News as the sports editor.

Even then, his passion for sports broadcasting kept him doing both.

“When I went to work at the Neosho Daily, I started doing both,” said King. “I would broadcast the games and come back to the newspaper and write stories afterwards.”

After leaving the newspaper, he took a few years off but when he started his job at New-Mac Electric he went back to work for KBTN on a talent basis doing play-by-play commentary for Neosho sports for several years.

KBTN would eventually change ownership and the new owners stopped coverage of Neosho sports.

That led to King starting his own business, neoshowildcatsports.com, and for four and a half years he operating streaming audio of Neosho athletics.

Last summer, King sold that business to KNEO radio and worked for them as a broadcast talent, continuing to do play-by-play.

Charles Collinsworth met King through a connection at church and knew he was a sports enthusiast. Collinsworth and King broadcasted together for 11 or so seasons beginning in the late 2000s.

“He’s second to none about game knowledge,” said Collinsworth. “If you turned on the station and had no idea how the season was going, or what the score was, Josh King had a way of pulling you into the game and keeping you there.”

“I’ve always had a passion for sports broadcasting,” said King when asked what made him start his own business to continue coverage of Neosho athletics when KBTN dropped it after changing ownership. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my association with Neosho High School. I’ve enjoyed being a part of what the kids do there on the various sports fields.”

“I’ve raised a couple Neosho Wildcat athletes,” added King. “My son was a basketball and baseball player, my daughter has been a volleyball and basketball player and I got to have some special moments broadcasting my kid’s games, although that is very challenging to do. To be a broadcaster and a father.”

One of those challenging moments came this year when his daughter tore her ACL during volleyball season and wasn’t able to play basketball.

“Neosho head coach Ryan Madison and Seneca head coach Drew Schulte arranged at the first Neosho game for her to score an uncontested layup,” said King. “That was special moment getting to broadcast that. There are so many highlights over the years. I couldn’t begin to list them all.”

King did mention Tim Henson’s walk off grand slam in the late 90s to beat Joplin as one memory that stood out but said that his most cherished moments came when he was able to broadcast the games of his own kids.

“The last season Josh and I worked together, when they were transitioning with KNEO, it was Josh, John Ball and I,” said Collinsworth on a moment that stood out to him with King. “We had a game that came down to the last 2-3 seconds at Republic with the Wildcats winning on the last play, well I guess there was an ensuing kickoff. But that was so exciting to finish our last season together.”

“I appreciate Josh as a role model. A positive person, entertaining,” added Collinsworth. “It’s just hard to beat Josh King, I say that from the bottom of my heart. He will be missed, he’s part of the last quarter century of Neosho sports. I wish him all the best. It’s one of those things you wish would never end, but all good things come to an end. He’s humble but has so many good connections across the conference and state and he doesn’t flaunt it. He’s held in high regard all across the area.”

When asked if he ever though he saw himself being a commentator for this long, King answered that he did, and it didn’t surprise him.

“I’ve always enjoyed (broadcasting),” said King. “I used to drive my friends nuts as I broadcasted our Nintendo game while we were playing years ago. I’ve always had a passion for sports.”

John Ball, King’s broadcasting partner for the past three years, told the Neosho Daily News that KNEO had big shoes to fill when it came to replacing King.

“I appreciate (Josh’s) personal integrity and desire to do it right and help other people out when he gets an opportunity sports wise,” said Ball. “I would say there are not too many things in life that don’t have at least some regret. I can say my association with Josh King, I have zero regrets. We’ve logged a lot of hours together and it’s been a great experience, I’ll miss him.”

King told the Neosho Daily News he’s worked with a lot of great people over the years, including Ball, Collinsworth, Hughes, Charlie Hughes and Eddie Snow and was very thankful and appreciative of Superintendent Dr. Jim Cummins and Athletic Director Brandi Arthur for working with him.

“I think one of my favorite lines from (King), whenever a penalty happened, he would always say, ‘we’ll get over (whatever it is),’” said Hughes. “He’ll be remembered here. Just his passion for the sports is the biggest thing that stands out. He loved the sports and loved the kids.”

Josh King, center, gray shirt, interviews Neosho baseball head coach Danny Powers after their game on May 11 with John Ball.

After the game, King was brought down to the field in between the varsity and junior varsity games to be recognized for his years of service not only to the baseball program but the athletic department as a whole.

Although it was a surprise, King said he had an inkling of an idea that something might be going on whether it was seeing his family slowly trickle in as the game went on or having more of one of his favorite artists, Huey Lewis and the News, being played throughout the day.

“It was kind of surreal, getting to this point where I’ve done it as long as I have. But it was special,” said King on being brought down to the field and honored. “It was very kind and flattering and I appreciate the thoughtfulness of everyone making this happen.”

The good news for Wildcat fans is that he didn’t completely shut the door on his broadcasting career.

“I won’t promise I’m done,” said King. “Maybe I’ll get pulled back in down the road but for the time being, just going to focus more on family and other priorities. It’s been a long run, very enjoyable.”