SE: Fortner Brings K-State Soccer to the Airwaves

Mitch Fortner had his mind set on going to K-State. He was finishing up at Cloud Community College and was prepared to transfer to the school he cheered for his whole life. 

Then an opportunity derailed his plans, but laid the path for his career. Fortner received an internship with the Howard Stern Show in New York, which in turn helped him land a position with Manhattan Broadcasting Company. 

Fortner worked as on-air talent for multiple MBC stations, but he was “itching” to do more sports broadcasting, the reason he got into radio in the first place. Soon enough, he got his opportunity. 

When K-State Athletics decided to add women’s soccer, the team needed a “Voice.” Fortner filled the void. 

“In no particular order, the criteria for the job was passion, professionalism, previous experience, knowledge of the game, and availability. Mitch was one of a few that met all of these criteria, but separated himself thanks to a few factors,” said K-State’s Sportscasting/Director of Video Services Brian Smoller, listing Fortner’s experience calling soccer solo at Cloud County, his familiarity with radio equipment and his ability to problem solve as the main factors. 

“As one of the few programs nationally with traveling radio and only the second in the Big 12, it was possible whomever got the job would be in other locations with limited space or technology available for broadcasts,” Smoller continued. “Someone would have to be very creative and not panic when facing trouble; Mitch’s personality also fit well with this criteria.

“I think all parties have been pleased with the on-air product and off-air professionalism exhibited by Mitch. We are proud to have his name added to the roster of talented broadcasters who call games for K-State Athletics.”

Fortner, who had not done soccer play-by-play since 2011, said calling K-State’s inaugural season has been a “learning experience.” Fortunately, he said K-State’s coaching staff has helped him understand the game on a deeper level.  

“They’re more than willing to help me out with anything that I need help on and getting to know some of the terminology that I didn’t know,” Fortner said of the staff that includes head coach Mike Dibbini and assistants Gabe Romo, Jessica Smith and Tyler Watkins. “It’s been a fun learning experience, and it’s been great to have all of those guys to help me out.”

Throughout the Wildcats’ season, which ends this week with a road match against Illinois State on Thursday, Fortner, @MitchTheFort on Twitter, has called some historic moments. 

There was the program’s first goal at Saint Louis that was initially scored as an own goal but was eventually credited to Katie Cramer. 

“I’ll never forget that because I thought forever we’d have the first goal as an own goal, and I didn’t really feel like we earned it,” Fortner said, “but when they gave it to Katie, I really appreciated that.”

A week later, Fortner was on hand for the program’s first victory — a 6-0 win over Oakland when six different Wildcats scored. 

“That was amazing. It seemed like everything was clicking that game,” said Fortner, who remembers the second score of that game especially. “The first goal of Dora Gallo’s career, I was not on the air when that happened because my connection dropped, so I missed the second goal but I got the other five.”

Laramie Hall’s first career goal also stands out in Fortner’s mind. The freshman netted a goal with five minutes left in regulation at Creighton to even the match, helping K-State pull out a 1-1 draw against a top-110 team in terms of RPI.

“That’s probably the most excited I’ve been all year. I just lost my mind,” Fortner said. “It kind of set my mind that K-State really has a lot of talent coming back, like Laramie, Tatum (Wagner) and many others. I think they’re going to be really good next year.”

As enjoyable as calling the on-field action has been, Fortner has appreciated other aspects of his job as well. He’s gotten to know many of the players and coaches on a personal level, traveled to seven different states, where bus rides occasionally turned into karaoke sessions, and called matches from a wide range of stadiums. 

The most rewarding part of the season, Fortner added, has been bringing it to parents and fans throughout the country. With K-State’s roster holding players from nine states, 101.5 KROCK’s broadcasts are also available online at www.kstatesports.com, which have allowed anyone interested in the matches the opportunity to listen. 

“That’s where I’ve been getting the most appreciation from fans is to be able to listen online. For parents who live in California, Texas, Oklahoma, even in Overland Park, when they can’t make it to games, they really appreciate that,” said Fortner, who takes pride in helping promote the program. “First of all, I just appreciate when anybody listens because it shows they care. It’s not about me, it’s about the program, because I really want to see this program take off, and it has the potential to do that. When 2,000 people show up to every home game, that’s amazing. For those who can’t come on the road and still know what’s going on, that makes me feel really good.”