Walking around the campus of Stanford University, the mind of a wide-eyed freshman raced with aspirations of playing on the baseball diamond for the Cardinal. The dream was quickly cut short when he didn’t make the team. When one door closes though, another one opens. That is how the story of John Baylor begins.
Baylor spent his childhood in Nebraska before moving to the East Coast where he attended high school in Massachusetts. The urge to play baseball lead him across the country once more to Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.
Even though the door to play college baseball closed on Baylor early in his career, another door opened to what he would do for the rest of his life. Baylor took on several different jobs during college to pay the bills due to him not yet knowing what he wanted to do with his life. The ones that opened his eyes to his future were tutoring high schoolers and announcing sports over the radio at Stanford.
“It was at times difficult for me because I thought I would play college baseball, but I didn’t even make the team. So that was the jagged rocks of reality,” he said.
Not to be deterred, Baylor graduated with a degree in international relations. The curriculum was rigorous, he said, due to all the requirements involved in the major: economics, foreign language and political science.
After college, he was still not quite yet sure what he wanted to do, so he moved to New York where he worked on Wall Street and thought of becoming a lawyer in Omaha but ultimately decided that was not for him, either. His career path took a hard turn after watching a 1988 movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, which led him to pursue a career in acting.
“I was watching the movie, Rain Man, in a movie theatre, and I thought I could do that,” he said. “That’s how much thought went into it.”
That’s all the motivation he needed to move back to California and chase his new dream by doing plays and some casting for commercials. The life of an aspiring actor was a difficult one, he said, and he needed to score some side jobs to help pay the bills. A fellow actor told him of a sportscasting position nearby. With his experience calling baseball and women’s basketball games at Stanford, Baylor thought he would give that another go.
He found a new joy in radio broadcasting, thanks to the subtle suggestion of a castmate, and went on to broadcast all-star football games in the area. He found that for him to get better in the field, he needed more repetition in smaller markets. His experiences in California allowed him to move back to Nebraska and call volleyball matches for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1994.
Now, he knew he wanted a career in radio broadcasting, but he didn’t see calling Nebraska volleyball as his final stop. He originally saw this job as another stepping-stone to a bigger market job, just as he did in California. But soon Baylor saw Lincoln as his new home, a great place to raise a family and be with his father whose health was failing at the time, he said.
Huskers volleyball has had the same voice calling its games for 27 years since Baylor took the radio job in 1994.
The trials and tribulations of becoming a broadcaster are something that John Shrader, a UNL sports media professor, can relate to. Shrader returned home to Nebraska in 2017 after more than 15 years of broadcasting and said he immediately saw Baylor as someone who can help enlighten students.
“What I think he brings for our students and anybody around him are experiences that are different. That are interesting. That molded him into who he is,” Shrader said.
These experiences helped Baylor develop and perfect his unique style — one that Shrader said he has never heard before.
Baylor brings a sense of humor to the booth to help engage the listener. He changes his tone or will make quirky remarks and puns. This unique style of quick and clever wit is what keeps listeners tuned in to his broadcasts.
This energy Baylor brings to the booth is also what he brings to classrooms across the country. His OnToCollege ACT and SAT test prep courses are utilized in 27 states and over 440 high schools. The class prepares high school students for what to expect on the tests and also how the tests are formatted. On average, student’s scores go up one to three points in the ACT and 50 to 200 points on the SAT.
One past student, Kamryn Kautman, a first-year graduate student at the College of Saint Mary pursuing her doctorate in occupational therapy, said the courses helped her not only do well on the test but also calm her nerves going into it.
“It helped me better understand what to expect on the ACT as well as how the test was made,” she said. “The one thing I do still remember that he told us was, ‘When in doubt, answer C.’”
What Baylor initially thought would be a quick stop in Lincoln turned into his final destination that helped grow his business and his family. He is thankful for the opportunity to call volleyball matches for the Huskers and still loves it to this day.
“I highly doubt that I would have greater enjoyment doing other play-by-play play jobs,” he said.