Everyone has at least one hobby they enjoy participating in. People all over the world enjoy taking up things such as shopping, reading, watching television, playing sports or doing physical activity, among others.
Hobbies allow people to feel at ease and take a break from their everyday lives. They bring a different type of joy to people they can’t get from anywhere else. Yet, some people have hobbies that are not a part of the typical norm.
Shawn Sullivan is a Kankakee native, a Bishop McNamara graduate and is Ball State University’s associate athletic director of marketing and fan engagement. Sullivan has one of those passionate hobbies of his own, only his has allowed him to gain a little notoriety in the process.
Sullivan’s hobby is announcing sporting events near and far, big and small.
“For me, the reason I do it is because I can remember what it felt like as an athlete to hear your name called and how that made you feel,” Sullivan said. “It enhances your experience, so anytime that I can provide a supplement to an athlete’s experience through my voice or public announcing, that is what makes it special to me.”
His interest in sports announcing sparked during the 1990s, when basketball star Michael Jordan became the pinnacle of the sports world, as did the Bulls’ theatrical pregame show, one now emulated by basketball teams from park districts to the pros.
“The ’90s Chicago Bulls era was about as good as you can get as a sports fan,” Sullivan said. “And my little sister had a karaoke machine, and so I would sit there before Bulls games, and they were like, the first team to make the pregame a show ... I would sit there and emulate the PA announcers, and I think that is where it kind of all started.”
Growing up in Kankakee, Sullivan attended Bishop McNamara from 1994-97. He was very much active during his time with the Irish as a multi-sport athlete, playing basketball and running both track and field and cross country. He even went on to become a state champion in the one-mile race his senior year.
“Obviously, he was a great runner,” said Ken Klipp, Sullivan’s former teacher and track/cross country coach. “He did some amazing things at our school, but he is such a great person — a role model for his peers. He was so mature when he came into high school; he was 14 going on 25.”
Some of Sullivan’s fondest memories from his time at McNamara are hearing the starting lineups being announce for his basketball, cross country and track teams.
“Growing up at McNamara, playing basketball, some of my greatest memories are just the starting lineups and listening to Sam Nicholas, our PA announcer at the time,” Sullivan said. “And Coach Klipp was our longtime cross country and track coach at Mac, and he would always do an unbelievable job during track and cross country meets of announcing them, almost giving them play-by-play. … He made it special to all the runners.”
Since graduating from McNamara, Sullivan has made quite the career for himself. He went on to run cross country and track and field at the University of Illinois-Chicago, graduating with a major in Communications. From there, he went on to hold various positions at his alma mater and Northwestern before obtaining his current position at Ball State University.
Knowing he wanted to eventually get into media, Sullivan began his post-college career as the assistant sports information director at UIC. That’s when he took up announcing.
“After a couple of internships, I began volunteering [to work] in the athletic department at UIC, and I was fortunate enough to build relationships,” Sullivan said. “And at some point, someone asked if anyone wanted to announce a soccer game or baseball game, and I raised my hand because I thought it sounded fun.”
Announcing at a variety of different sporting events at UIC, Sullivan gained valuable experience that has allowed him to evolve behind the mic. He said it’s what helped him gain confidence and break into a niche industry.
“I think just in college, the availability and interest in trying it and having the ability to get a ton of reps in helped begin my announcing career a lot,” Sullivan said. “You’re talking literally hundreds of college events, and I was just happy to do it and get comfortable behind the microphone.”
His experience in college helped land his first professional opportunity with the Chicago Rush of the Arena Football League from 2003-05. After showing he was capable of going behind the booth and building new relationships as a reputable announcer, Sullivan has gone on to announce a variety of events such as marathons, amateur sporting championships and even some professional contests.
Alongside his current position at Ball State, Sullivan periodically helps fill in as the PA announcer for the Indiana Pacers and the full-time announcer for the Indiana Fever, Indiana’s WNBA team.
“He has a tremendous work ethic,” Klipp said. “He’s just a hard worker and so dedicated and commits to what he does. I’m glad that he found something he is really passionate about.”