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ANNOUNCER'S CAREER READS LIKE A SCRIPT.

Byline: TOM HOFFARTH The Media

There's probably a TV treatment waiting to be written about the process by which Dave Caldwell went from a career pitching his own sitcom scripts to reinventing himself as a play-by-play man for a small radio station that saturates the sports-rabid Santa Clarita Valley.

If so, Caldwell doesn't seem too interested in breaking away from what he's doing these days to type it and hype it.

``I feel privileged to do this; it's been nothing but fun,'' said the 44-year-old sports director at KHTS-AM (1220) in Santa Clarita. ``When I first got started, I didn't know if I could do it. Now there's no reason to want to do anything else. It's been a blast. I feel like I'm 20 again.''

Caldwell is the latest example of someone who proves it's never too late to discover your true passion. The infectious energy and tireless work ethic translates to his broadcasts of high school and community college games, where he's often put in the position to be his own stat person, help set up the transmission and integrate a broadcast with interns and analysts whose priority may not necessarily be a career in sports media.

More than 20 years ago, Caldwell left Colorado State University after studying TV and film. He had some behind-the-scenes experience on local sports production (including a stint with ABC's ``Monday Night Football'') when he arrived in Southern California to try writing TV sitcoms. He found a partner, had a couple of ideas picked up by CBS and ABC and even two movie scripts optioned. But, as Caldwell said, after five years of pounding out punch lines, ``I just didn't feel this was it.''

Living with his wife, Sibylle, in the Santa Clarita area since 1990 and watching it grow as a sports-hungry community, Caldwell volunteered in 1998 to create his own production company, Souvenir Productions, and televise local high school and College of the Canyons games for the cable company's public-access channel. His first event was a go-cart race at the old Saugus Speedway, which he videotaped, edited and did his own call.

Barry McKeever, then the sports director at KBET-AM 1220, brought him on to live local prep games, and Caldwell said the response by the parents and coaches inspired him to continue on the path.

Three years later, he was hired as the sports editor of The Signal, where he'd spend many Friday and Saturday nights not only doing the games over the air but writing the stories for the newspaper.

Meanwhile, Caldwell started ``SCV Sports TV,'' leasing the time on cable channels and doing more games, even if it wasn't profitable until 2002 when enough sponsors were found.

KBET owners Carl and Jeri Goldman sold the station to Clear Channel, but when they bought it back in October 2003 and renamed it KHTS, hiring Caldwell and expanding his play-by-play duties went perfectly with their slogan of promoting the new 1220-AM as ``Your Hometown Station.''

``He's a natural fit in this close-knit community, which as a sports community is even more close knit,'' said Carl Goldman, whose station's signal also covers the Antelope Valley and reaches almost 50 miles north, covering a population of about a quarter of a million.

``He's very involved not just as a broadcaster but as a parent and he relates to the public at all levels.''

Caldwell has a personal life full of challenges, with a 13-year-old son and a wife who continues to work despite suffering from muscular dystrophy. Yet, if someday he catches the attention of a Fox Sports Net or College Sports TV network, he's confident about his abilities to jump on it.

But staying as the voice of Santa Clarita Valley sports - where Saugus, Valencia, Hart and Canyon will be joined by three more high schools in the coming years - wouldn't leave Caldwell unfulfilled, either.

``I am at a point where I'd like to do more because, without sounding egotistical, I know I'm good at this,'' said Caldwell, who wraps up his play-by-play for the school season at Saturday's Division I-A boys basketball final between Hart and Etiwanda from the Pond in Anaheim. ``But from the response I keep getting, it blows me away. People coming up to me in the supermarket wanting to talk about Hart's basketball team ... I know I'm doing something right.

``This has been a long, winding journey for me. I've started with thinking I wanted to do something, then finding out it didn't fit, to now I'm doing something I never thought I'd do, but it's something I really get charged up about now.

``I mean, sports really is pure drama - two opposing forces who want the same thing. In many ways it's better than what you'd find on TV, with the letdowns, the fear, the exhilaration, and then you get to do it all over again.''

This is a script Caldwell can finish on his own.

CAPTION(S):

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Photo:

(color) Dave Caldwell, sports director at KHTS-AM (1220), enjoys covering high school and community college sports in Santa Clarita.

Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 4, 2005
Words:860
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