Person of the Week
Kent Sprague: The Eye of the Tigers and the Voice of Reason
Kent Sprague's love for sports led him to volunteer for 35 years as the play-by-play announcer for the Daniel Hand Tigers, Madison's high school football team. (Photo by Maria Caulfield/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Kent Sprague likes to call it the way it is.
Take as an example the outgoing voice message he recorded for his home phone: “You have reached the Spragues. We are either away from the phone or ignoring your call. The odds are very good that we will call you back unless you are a telemarketer who thinks that the No Call List does not apply to you. Please leave a message.”
Kent is the kind of man who mixes honesty with humor. It is this same wit in calling things as he sees them that he brings to his work as a volunteer play-by-play announcer at the football games of the Daniel Hand high School Tigers.
Of course, the only difference is while he can chew out telemarketers, a good high school play-by-play announcer, he says, “should not be critical of the players.”
On a nice day—and occasionally even on a rainy or snowy day—Kent, even at 83, will climb up to the top of the press box to get a better eye on the Hand Tigers’ game and to more accurately announce the play-by play. The videotaped football games are sent to the Madison Public Access TV and aired on Monday and Wednesday evenings.
Kent’s eyesight as an announcer is as clear as his viewpoint as a volunteer.
He has held the volunteer role for 35 years, a reflection of the first of his three philosophies—which in turn, reveal his character and voice of reason.
“My first philosophy is about being a volunteer. Volunteering keeps a town operating as it should,” he says. “Basically, the things that I enjoy working with are the things I volunteer for.”
Indeed, it was his love for sports that led him to volunteer as a play-by-play announcer. He was a star player on his high school baseball and basketball teams in Illinois where he grew up and served as volunteer coach or umpire when his sons were growing.
He is the father of two sons and a daughter, and husband for 59 years to Margaret Sprague, the owner of Madison printing company Two Ems, Inc., and a past Person of the Week herself.
Kent also prides himself in instilling the value of education among his children.
“I figured out that between our three kids and their spouses, they have seven degrees beyond bachelor’s degrees,” he says.
That same love for education seems to have led him to volunteer for the Read Aloud Program, which focuses on reading and literacy among Madison elementary school children.
In addition, Kent has served the town as a volunteer in such places and organizations as the First Congregational Church, the Lions Club, and Meals on Wheels. He is also an army veteran and marches in parades with his fellow veterans.
His second philosophy shows his humility: He focuses on success, not when it’s his own, but most especially when it’s not.
“What I enjoy most is other people’s success. I don’t have any ego that says ‘I want to be king in the world’ anymore. Maybe I was a little like that when I was in my 20s, but I’m not that age anymore. And so, I enjoy helping my wife be successful in her business,” he says. “I enjoy watching my kids and their work, doing well.”
He also finds satisfaction in watching his four grandchildren grow and find success in their own activities and endeavors.
“We try to support what they do,” he says of his grandchildren. “I think that’s important to support—enjoy and support—what people around you do.”
His third philosophy deals with his view of the people around him. He feels that it’s better to judge people according to their uprightness, respectability, and qualities, rather than their accomplishments.
“I judge other people more by their character—integrity and honesty and that sort of thing—than I do by what they’ve done,” he says.
Perhaps an added, yet unspoken, principle for Kent is the importance of remaining active and involved. Kent likes to keep busy and his interest in geology led him to the hobby of building stone walls.
“One of my kids figured out that I have built somewhere in the neighborhood of half a mile of stone walls that are all dry walls—in other words, no mortar in them. Basically, I do that for the fun of doing it,” he says. “The last project I did was at our daughter’s house who lives two miles away from us. Last summer, I built a fire ring out in their yard.”
He also likes to travel and see parts of the country. His years of work in the chemical and water treatment industry led him to relocate to a number of states and, later, to see all 50.
“I worked in the chemical industry for 30 years and we lived in five different places. We lived in South Dakota, we lived in Minnesota, we lived in Northern California, we lived in Southern California and then we moved here,” he says.
Was it his goal to see all 50 states?
“Not initially,” Kent says—but constant traveling made him realize how many states he has seen.
“At one point, I realized, ‘I have been to most of the states in the country.’ I started adding them up and the only ones I had not been to were Hawaii and Alaska. And those were the last two.
Alaska and Hawaii were part of cruises he and Margaret took, the last being a 50th wedding anniversary celebration when they cruised around the islands of Hawaii.
But his wife seems to question his claim: Because Kent was on a train to Montana’s Glacier National Park and merely passed by Idaho instead of setting foot in it, he says his wife asks if he really has been to Idaho.
“If I wasn’t in Idaho, where was I?” he asks with amusement. He adds, “That’s the only one that’s questionable.”
He says he has set foot in the other 49 states.
But of all the towns and states, Madison, Connecticut is still the place he says he is happy to call home.
“Well, we like it quite well. Of course, we stayed here,” he says.
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