Jan. 31, 2013
The "Last Best Place" is a phrase all Montanans like and take pride in.
It turns out that the "Last Best Place" for Doug Greenwald was the home of the University of Montana's Griz and Lady Griz basketball teams - Dahlberg Arena.
Greenwald, the radio play-by-play man for the Fresno Grizzlies Triple-A Pacific Coast League baseball team, recently completed a life-long odyssey here in the Garden City.
His quest was to see an NCAA Division I men's basketball game in every state in our country. He made it number 50 when he attended Montana's recent game here against Idaho State, which the Griz won 70-51 on Jan. 24. That was Montana's ninth victory in a row and improved its Big Sky Conference overall record 13-4 and its league ledger to 9-0 (they are now 14-4 and 10-0).
"Montana will be my 50th state," Greenwald wrote in a recent email that he sent to the UM sports information office in early January. "I guess I'm saving the best for last. Looking forward to meeting, and seeing from what everyone has told me is a beautiful city and campus."
State number 49 was a visit to Wisconsin a few days earlier, where he saw the Badgers lose a 49-47 heart-breaker to Michigan State at UW's Kohl Center on Jan. 22. Kohl Center and Dahlberg Arena were the 233rd and 234th venues where he has seen games.
"It was as advertised," said Greenwald about his visit to Missoula as be partook of a prime rib sandwich at the Depot Restaurant after the ISU game. "There were a lot of good things about Dahlberg Arena. I know the students weren't in session (school started at UM on Jan. 28), but it seemed like they were out there in full force.
"Many other people who I had talked to said it is very well supported, and there are no professional sports, so this (attending Grizzly games) is the thing to do," he said. "The other thing that I really enjoyed was the Hall of Champions. You even had some photos in there of the old University of Montana baseball teams."
In a later email he attached the list of Division I basketball teams he'd seen and venues that he had visited. The single-spaced list took nine-and-a-half pages.
He was the play-by-play announcer in Basketball for nine seasons at Centenary (in Shreveport, Louisiana), which was a Division I Independent and then joined the Summit League, and by the time he left that school (2008-09) he said he was at about 41 states. Last season he watched games in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island (Providence), which boosted his total to 48.
If his last name of Greenwald is familiar to you, that's not too surprising. He is the son of former Major League broadcaster Hank Greenwald, who spent most of his career with the San Francisco Giants.
Doug, 38, named the 2005 Minor League Broadcaster of the Year, obviously spent large chunks of his childhood in Major League stadiums with his famous father.
"Most people think that my dad was just a baseball broadcaster, but back in the early 80's he was doing University of San Francisco basketball," said Greenwald, who almost missed the Griz game (he said he has missed several games due to inclement weather conditions) because his plane was unable to land in Salt Lake City because of a freak ice storm in that city the day of the game. "That was back when they (USF) had NCAA tourney teams. We went to Hawaii to play in the tournament and USF was such a big draw because they were a top 10 team then. That started my love of college basketball.
"But, it really took off a few years later when I was broadcasting at Centenary College in Shreveport, " said Greenwald, whose flight to Missoula was re-routed through North Dakota, got to the Grizzly game just in time to hear UM's starters being introduced. "The first years I broadcasted for them Centenary was an independent, so we'd go just about everywhere. We needed the games. Arkansas one week, Western Michigan the next, then Fresno. Then we go play in the Alaska-Fairbanks tournament, and obviously that's a state that's not easy to get to. These venues just started adding up.
"So, after awhile I compiled a list and said `wow, that's 38 states I've seen a game in'," he said. "And then when Centenary joined the Summit, and later in that league came North Dakota State and South Dakota State, so it was easy to get to them because they were in our league.
"And then after that, I said `well there's 10 more to go," he continued. "Unfortunately, when Centenary went Division III it ended my broadcasting there, but it does allow me some free time in the winter to go and make my own schedule.
"A few years ago I got the likes of Idaho off the list, then Wyoming, and then the `Pit" in New Mexico, and then Colorado," said Greenwald, who hopes some day to follow in his dad's footsteps and be the play-by-play man for a professional baseball team.
Last year was a trip to New England, and I could knock out Vermont, and a couple of other East Coast teams," he said.
So what's next for Greenwald?
"It's funny, because my dad asked me the same thing," Greenwald said. "He said, `now that you've hit the 50 states then what'? There are still arenas that I've yet to visit. Kansas is one - I've never been to Phog Allen (fieldhouse, home of the Jayhawks). That's really the one on the list that I really want to get to. As crazy as it sounds, my mother went to school at the University of Washington and I've never seen a game a Hec Ed (Edmundson Pavilion), or Gill Coliseum, which has a lot of history at Oregon State."
Doug, who has met the likes of Willie Mays, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and Steve Garvey thanks in large part, of course, to his dad as well as his current job as a play-by-play man, can now add Griz basketball head coach Wayne Tinkle to his list of acquaintances.
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