Tommy Sanders sweeps to a niche in outdoor tv

LITTLE ROCK, AR (AGFC) - Tommy Sanders is familiar with a broom. He had a job while attending Magnolia High School sweeping out a department store, then his first task in the television world included sweeping the facilities of Arkansas Educational Television Network.

Sanders put down the broom as he moved upward with AETN, found a spot with cable network ESPN and became a familiar figure with the outdoor-related programs on Saturdays and Sundays on ESPN and ESPN2.

Sanders, of Little Rock, joins Cheryl and Bert Haralson of Augusta and Greg Butts of Little Rock as 2009 inductees into the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame. The annual Outdoor Hall of Fame banquet and fund raising will be Friday, Sept. 11, at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.

The fellow who had that store sweeping job in Magnolia ahead of Sanders had gone on to Hendrix College to study, and Sanders did the same. He earned a bachelor's degree in theater, joined AETN and traded broom work for that of a camera man. An early regular task was working on the weekly Game and Fish Highlights program, featuring George Purvis.

He moved up to producer and director work with AETN, took professional post-graduate courses in New York then worked with a Little Rock advertising agency for five years. A friend operated a camera for Jerry McKinnis, the Little Rock outdoor television figure. McKinnis linked with ESPN, and an introducer or master of ceremonies was needed for the shows. Sanders fit the requirements well.

He soon became familiar to viewers, his straightforward, no-frills work told what was coming up in the next several minutes of program following program. The outdoor shows were put together in Little Rock, but they were filmed all over the North American continent. Such is the world of television that Sanders once found himself in Alaska for the start of the Iditarod sled race, back in Little Rock for studio work then returning to Nome, Alaska, for the finish of the Iditarod.

Sanders has been an outdoorsman since boyhood. His television work moved into professional bass fishing events, first with FLW Outdoors competitions then with the Bassmaster series that is now a subsidiary of ESPN. Bassmaster events, including the BASS Classic, are now Internet features along with ESPN television broadcasts.

Outdoor television programs are popular with viewers. They see hosts and guests catching numerous large bass or redfish, scoring with plentiful mallards or pheasants and taking moose and elk. In actuality, Sanders and others may be in the field for days getting these moments of excitement with cameras, then more days follow with editing and splicing, honing and timing the footage into a specified format.

Sanders and his wife Casey, a native of Noel, Mo., enjoy free time with a boat on Lake Greeson, and he often joins family members for duck hunting on Lake Millwood and an occasional deer hunt.

For more information and tickets to the Outdoor Hall of Fame banquet, phone Steve Smith or Wendy Glover at (501) 223-6396.