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Baseball dream turns into a radio career
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More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Welvaert / twelvaert@qconline.com
John Hoscheidt, owner/general manager of WRMJ in Aledo, sits in a studio at the radio station on Dec. 12.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Welvaert / twelvaert@qconline.com
John Hoscheidt, owner/general manager of WRMJ in Aledo, sits in a studio at the radio station on Dec. 12.
ALEDO -- There was a day when John Hoscheidt stood in the center field grass of a baseball diamond, staring at the batter, watching the swing, the baseball flying in the air toward him.

He would back up sometimes a few steps, or run in, blocking out the sun as he camped under the descending ball. Next came the cheers from the stands, the spring air a reminder of a season of youth.

Mr. Hoscheidt was a 20-year-old student at Southern Illinois University playing in the 1974 college world series. Baseball was his future.

He subsequently was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 10th round during the summer of 1975 but stayed in school. After graduating, he was signed as a free agent by the Kansas City Royals in 1976. Mr. Hoscheidt was a baseball All-American who still holds the career record for triples at SIU.

Since growing up in Henry, Ill., on the banks of the Illinois River, Mr. Hoscheidt dreamed of making the big leagues. He was good, playing rookie ball in the Gulf Coast League, then the Florida State League.

But there was a problem, a giant fork in Mr. Hoscheidt's road. The fork was a man named Willie Wilson, who would become a star left and center fielder for the Royals.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hoscheidt's third year in professional baseball was supposed to see a jump to Double A ball. Instead, he was assigned back to Single A.

Reality set in.

"I knew I had problems," Mr. Hoscheidt said. "I mean, when you get, what, age 25, you're told you're done."

Mr. Hoscheidt's major league baseball dreams, the dreams he had since playing on sandlots as a kid, were gone. But, he had another love besides baseball, something he pursued while playing in college.

"Those were my two loves, sports and broadcasting," he said. "So, after the first off-season, I went back and took courses to fill in my minor so I could qualify back then for a teaching certificate.

"I had enough classes to teach social studies. I student taught at a junior high in Carbondale. Then, I applied for and received a teacher's certificate."

In 1979, Mr. Hoscheidt was engaged to his wife, JoAnn, who had just graduated from SIU.

"I needed a job," he said. "I applied for a couple of different jobs, but I didn't get the teaching job."

Then, a radio station owner by the name of Roger Coleman saw Mr. Hoscheidt's resume and interviewed him. That same year, he moved to Aledo when Mr. Coleman's radio station started on June 12, 1979.

"I moved into an apartment in May of 1979," he said. "I was called the station manager. I was just a 25-year-old snot-nosed kid learning the business."

By 1984, he and a group of businessmen bought the station from Mr. Coleman. Through the years, Mr. Hoscheidt bought out the other investors.

Going from college baseball to the radio world wasn't an easy transition, but he trained for broadcasting in college.

"It wasn't too bad," he said. "I had to learn the sales end of it."

At 59, Mr. Hoscheidt's enthusiasm still shows for his job, whether it's spending time on the radio or traveling through Aledo, Monmouth and Galesburg trying to sell ads.

"Normally, on Tuesday, I go to Monmouth to see my clients down there," he said. "Today, I went to Joy to call on a client, then stopped at the (radio) transmitter on the way back and made sure everything was looking good."

The life of a small-town radio owner is an all-duties-assigned type of position. But, Mr. Hoscheidt came from a small town similar to Aledo. He feels comfortable there

He helps with athletic contests and broadcast news, along with longtime news director Jim Taylor.

For Aledo and the surrounding area, WRMJ 102.3 FM, is the radio news source, the place where people can listen to a football or basketball game, a wrestling meet or a school choir presentation.

"You can only do so much," Mr. Hoscheidt said. "We cannot compete with the Quad-Cities' stations for music. We can't give away a car or anything like that.

"We do a 'Who's Minding the Store.' Today, someone could have won $30. And, we're a little on the fringe to cover Quad-City news. If something happens in the Quad-Cities that affects Mercer or Rock Island counties, we'll cover that."

The key, Mr. Hoscheidt said, is to cover the local news and events.

"We really couldn't survive without our high school sports programming," he said. "It gives us something in the evening we can program that is unique, that is local.

"During football, they (listeners) like to take their radios while sitting in the stands, hear the interviews and stats. They also like our farm programming and our news."

Now, with Facebook and Twitter accounts, Mr. Hoscheidt said the radio station is moving into the future. Live streams on their website of local athletic contests, tweeting, it's part of the radio world Mr. Hoscheidt has adapted to.

After 34 years in the business, he still is on the move, a small radio station owner and a familiar face in the community.

"I'm kind of a dinosaur," Mr. Hoscheidt said. "There just aren't very many standalone FM or AMs for that matter.

"When I first started, I went to the local car dealer to make sure people could have FM radios so the farmers then could have FM radios in their trucks to hear the market reports.

"Vehicles then were ordered with standard AM radio.

"As for the future of radio, I think it's local. Aledo and Mercer County is a strong business community. And, being the county seat especially helps."







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