In the world of competitive youth sports, not every athlete seeks a full-ride college athletic scholarship. Sometimes they just want to make the high school team and continue to participate in their favorite pasttime.
That was the goal of Christian Ilten. A long-time baseball fan – particularly the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Ilten was involved in the sport since he was 2, when he could first swing a bat. When he entered Orange Lutheran High School as a 14-year-old freshman, he wanted nothing more than to compete for the Lancers.
“My dream was to play first base, not only for the Lancers, but eventually for the Angels,” Ilten says. “That’s really every kid’s dream. But it didn’t work out that way.”
A nagging injury and the depth of talent at the high school level meant there wasn’t a place for Ilten on the team. As a lifelong fan, he had to come to terms with the fact that he would no longer be playing the sport he loved.
But once a fan, always a fan. Ilten continued to follow the Angels and all the sports teams at his high school. He kept track of the players and their stats. Then, during his sophomore year, Ilten was offered the chance to do something that would profoundly change the path of his passion.
“I was asked to fill in as the in-game announcer for an Orange Lutheran varsity boys basketball game,” Ilten says. “I absolutely loved it.”
Ilten eventually began announcing at the Lancers’ basketball, baseball, volleyball and ice hockey games, and he found that this was the perfect way to channel his passion for sports.
“Announcing has allowed me to participate in the games,” Ilten says. “I’m able to stay connected to sports, and that’s important to me.”
After graduating from Orange Lutheran last spring, Ilten is attending a local college and continuing to announce games, not only for his alma mater, but for other schools as well. After announcing Orange Lutheran hockey games at The Rinks at Anaheim Ice, Ilten was asked by officials from Edison High School, in Huntington Beach; JSerra High School, in San Juan Capistrano; and Los Alamitos High School – all members of the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League – to announce their hockey games as well. And for the first time this season, Ilten will be doing online play-by-play broadcasting for USC Ice Hockey.
“It’s not a direction I ever thought I’d take, but it’s been exciting. I’m working hard to make the in-game experience enjoyable for the fans,” Ilten says.
His work involves a lot more than just sitting behind a microphone. Ilten spends plenty of time before every game that he calls reviewing stats of the players on both teams. He often coordinates the in-game music, and he makes sure to meet with the teams’ coaches and parents to get clarification on name pronunciation.
What does Ilten consider the most challenging part of calling a game?
“Staying positive when the home team is losing,” he says. “Regardless of the score, my goal is to keep the fans engaged in the game.”
His advice for young fans who want to participate in some way: Learn all you can, and be willing to create your own opportunities. In the broadcast booth, Ilten has shadowed some well-known local professional announcers, such as Phil Hulett (in-game announcer for the Anaheim Ducks) and Jose Mota and Mark Langston (radio broadcast announcers for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim). Experiences like these, along with taking college courses in broadcasting and finding new opportunities for calling games with local schools, is going a long way toward creating a career in sports announcing.
“God has blessed me and provided me with a way to still participate and enjoy the game, even though I’m not playing. I’m grateful for the opportunity.”