In the largest class in Oklahoma Christian University’s Hall of Fame, one inductee has been to more sports stadiums across the country than all of the others combined.
Mike Baldwin’s career, the majority of which was spent writing for The Oklahoman, took him to 80 of the country’s 90 NFL stadiums, NBA arenas and Major League Baseball stadiums, in addition to 60 college campuses, Super Bowls and Final Fours.
On Feb. 23, Baldwin was inducted into the Oklahoma Christian Hall of Fame along with six other inductees.
“It’s quite an honor to go in with the greats of the great,” Baldwin said. “For a guy with no hops, speed or quickness to join all these great athletes, it was kind of humbling. I mean, my journey’s been incredible, but I’m envious of some of the athletes because I didn’t have their skill sets.”
Athletic Director Curtis Janz said that Baldwin’s induction was one that honored excellence in his field, comparing the induction to that of Sherri Coale, head coach of the University of Oklahoma Sooners women’s basketball team and an Oklahoma Christian alumna.
“It’s a little bit of a stretch because there wasn’t anything athletically that he did here, but he was someone who was related to athletics when he was here that went out and did great things in his field,” Janz said. “He’s always giving back to OC, always giving back to the athletic program and always giving so many OC journalism students kind of a foothold with papers that he had influence with.”
Baldwin, a 1978 Oklahoma Christian graduate, “pioneered” what became a tradition of strong sports writing and media work among the university’s graduates, according to Murray Evans, Sports Information Director at Oklahoma Christian University.
“Pioneer’s a little strong for me,” Baldwin said. “But it is a little bit rewarding to know that I showed others behind me that, if you work hard and catch a break and do the right things, then maybe you can go somewhere in the media.”
While at Oklahoma Christian, Baldwin worked for both The Talon and KOCC, Oklahoma Christian’s on-campus radio station. After graduating, Baldwin held various sports writing positions at papers around Oklahoma before becoming the Sports Information Director for Oklahoma Christian and then the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
“There will always be a need for someone to go out and get the story,” Baldwin said. “There’s opportunities out there – there will always be opportunities. You just have to make sure you’re versatile enough to be ready for whatever comes your way.”
Baldwin’s approach to reporting focused on the fans and readers more than the subjects.
“I don’t care what my boss thinks,” Baldwin said in an interview with Evans. “I don’t care what the team I’m covering thinks. If I’m doing my job, I represent the guy paying his money, sitting on the 20-yard-line or sitting in bleachers. I tried to ask the questions he wanted asked, because I’ve got access he doesn’t. How good are we? How hurt is he? How bad of shape are we in? How good could we really be? If I’m doing my job well, the reader is happy. I represent the reader, not the paper, not the team.”
Recognizing non-athletes that make contributions to sports is important, according to Baldwin.
“It is good to know that it is being recognized and that it’s not all only on the field,” Baldwin said. “It let’s people know, when they honor people besides just the athletes, that there are other people who make the athletic program.”
In 1982, Baldwin joined The Oklahoman’s sports staff, where he covered various beats from high-school sports to major-college and eventually the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Baldwin, who left The Oklahoman in February 2015, said that his career in sports writing has shaped his current career as a full-time mystery novelist.
“I think sports writing and all that trained me to watch the details,” Baldwin said. “The more details, the more you get to know your subject, the better you’re going to write it…if a writer does a really good job, they can really paint a picture, which is what their job really is.”