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Dirk Abraham has been voice of KDOM sports, news and more for 20 years

WINDOM -- From once getting chewed out by Chicago Bears football coach Mike Ditka to announcing a state high school volleyball championship, Dirk Abraham has enjoyed a multitude of experiences during his lengthy career as a sports director for se...

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Dirk Abraham's voice has been heard on the KDOM radio station in Windom for nearly 20 years. (Tim Middagh / Daily Globe)

WINDOM - From once getting chewed out by Chicago Bears football coach Mike Ditka to announcing a state high school volleyball championship, Dirk Abraham has enjoyed a multitude of experiences during his lengthy career as a sports director for several radio stations, including his nearly 20-year current stint with KDOM in Windom.

Growing up in the small southeast Minnesota town of Houston - about 20 miles west of the Mississippi River, bordering Wisconsin, and 20 miles north of the Iowa state line - Dirk frequently thought about becoming a sports announcer.

While in high school, he was active in sports as a student manager and statistician for the Hurricanes. He also wrote sports stories for the town’s weekly newspaper, the Houston Gazette.

After graduating from HHS in the spring of 1973, Dirk headed to Minneapolis and pursued a communications degree at Augsburg College, finishing up after the fall semester in 1978.

“I took the leisurely approach to college,” he said, in his popular low-key tone. “It took me about five-and-a-half years to get through, but I gained some valuable experiences working with the sports information department, helping design game programs and that sort of thing.”

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After college graduation, Dirk returned home and worked for the Gazette for “about a year,” covering the events of the Houston area - both news and sports - as well as the school.

“That was an enjoyable time,” he said. “I covered about everything and ran the editorial side of the newspaper.”

Temporary jobs working at places like Radio Shack and Audio King in the Twin Cities area occupied Dirk for a couple of years in early 1980s before he returned home again and worked for five years at his mother’s restaurant, The Village Inn, in Houston.

Then in 1987, feeling “the need to make a change,” Dirk enrolled at Brown Institute on Lake Street in Minneapolis and completed a nine-month course in radio broadcasting.

“As I had already completed a college degree, I was able to take a shorter course at Brown and get things done in just nine months,” he said. “We logged some time with television broadcasting, too, but about two-thirds of our days were spent learning the ins and outs of working radio.”

Dirk landed his first full-time radio gig in Baraboo, Wis. - the home of the Ringling Brothers and the Circus World Museum. After doing mostly sports reporting there for nearly a year, he moved to Platteville in southwest Wisconsin, where he worked for that town’s radio station for four years from 1989-1992.

It was at Platteville where Dirk met Coach Ditka, as the Bears conducted their summer training camp there. Dirk was assigned to report on the team’s progress while they were in town.

“He was an interesting character,” Dirk said of the Bears’ legend. “When he was in a good mood, he was the funniest guy around. But when he was in a bad mood - look out.”

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Dirk said Ditka “unloaded” on him one time for asking a question which Ditka didn’t want to respond to, saying: “You don’t know anything about football, why would you ask me a dumb question like that?”

Not to be deterred, Dirk continued his work at Platteville with the Bears and also got to know legendary University of Wisconsin at Platteville basketball coach Bo Ryan, who later coached the Wisconsin Badgers to back-to-back NCAA Final Fours in 2014 and 2015.

“I didn’t get to broadcast any of those games at Platteville,” recalled Dirk. “But, I went to a lot of them and got to know Bo a little. He was quite a guy, and his teams were always winning.”

Ryan’s Pioneers won the 1991 NCAA Division III national championship in Springfield, Ohio and later won national titles again in 1995, 1998 and 1999. In 15 seasons at Platteville (’85-99), Ryan had an amazing overall record of 353-76 (.823).

Dirk left Platteville in 1992 and spent the next five years working radio in Knoxville, Iowa.

While there, he did a weekly show from the popular race track, interviewing drivers as the big-time events like the World of Outlaws and Knoxville Nationals were held every summer.

Then in 1997, with 10 years of experience under his belt, Dirk interviewed with station general manager Rich Biever and sports director Dave Cory at KDOM in Windom.

As they say, the rest is history.

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Weekly coaches show part of broadcasting legacy “Dirk really does a great job of covering Eagle volleyball,” summed up long-time Windom High School head volleyball coach Ron Wendorff, who guided the Eagles to back-to-back state title matches in 2007 and 2008, winning the state championship in ’08. “His play-by-play of volleyball is second to none. I have listened to other radio stations cover volleyball, and there is no one in this area who makes you feel like you are right in the gym with him the way that Dirk can.”

Announcing those state-tournament matches at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul ranks high on Dirk’s list of broadcasting thrills. He realizes, though, those special times are not a yearly happening and he stays busy throughout each season by calling many games, matches and meets - along with doing a weekly coaches show that airs on Saturday mornings.

“The coaches show has been fun to do,” he said. “Almost all of the coaches have been cooperative and willing to talk about their games and recall how their players performed.”

Red Rock Central head boys basketball coach Brian Walker appreciates Dirk’s work ethic and knows other area coaches do, too.

“Dirk has had a strong commitment to our area high school sports,” Walker said. “He is very dedicated and will try to make a positive out of a negative situation. His Saturday morning coaches show is the best around. I hope that he keeps up the great work and realizes how much the coaches in the KDOM listening area appreciate what he does.”

For Dirk, who is also KDOM’s news director, the days are often long. He’s at the station from early morning through the late afternoon - and then it’s off to cover a sporting event or come up with a report at an area meeting that’s dealing with newsworthy topics.

“I have been to my share of city council meetings and school board meetings,” he says. “I’ve learned a lot about how decisions are made, and feel that I’ve become competent at sorting what’s most important to report about.”

A heart attack last spring put Dirk in the hospital for several days and after a couple of weeks recovering at home, he was back at work - but he’s cut back on his hours and realizes there may be a time looming for retirement.

“I am trying to take better care of myself now,” he said. “I am eating better, exercising more and not working as hard or long. I used to think I could wait until retirement to start working on getting in better physical shape. The heart attack made me realize that I need to put that plan in place sooner.”

Meanwhile, Dirk Abraham continues to give local news reports and sports updates and hosts a morning talk show, “Kaleidoscope” at 10:30 a.m.

“I enjoy talking to people,” he summed up. “With a few, getting good responses is kind of like pulling teeth, but for most of my guests the conversations flow easily and it’s great experience for them, me and - hopefully - the listeners.”

Area activity directors Dane Nielsen at Windom and Leo Theisen at Westbrook-Walnut Grove are among those who have appreciated Dirk’s consistent work ethic as a broadcaster.

“Dirk is a tireless worker,” said Nielsen. “His support and knowledge of area sports has been consistent for many years. Dirk’s finest quality, other than his work ethic, is how completely honest he is to his listeners. As a broadcaster, he paints a wonderful picture of what is happening and listeners get the feel like they are right there watching the action themselves.”

“We are lucky to have Dirk and KDOM do such a great job promoting high school events in our area,” summed up Theisen. “He has put in many long days and really stays on top of the sports scene, as he always does such a thorough job of preparing. He makes fans, players and coaches feel comfortable listening to his radio broadcasts.”

Added Nielsen, “Dirk is always there to support and encourage and, better yet, share a statistic which may have been overlooked. He has been an important fixture on our school’s athletic surfaces in person and over the radio airwaves.”

Wendorff stressed Abraham’s genuine passion for broadcasting and the kids who are playing.

“Dirk does the play-by-play and keeps the necessary stats at the same time,” Wendorff said. “He always keeps up on the results of all the other teams in this part of the state. He does a great job interviewing and makes it very easy for a coach to talk about his team in a positive note. But the thing which impresses me the most about Dirk Abraham is how he cares about the student-athletes in the area. He has great passion for high school sports, but his greatest passion is for the kids who are playing.”

It’s obvious Dirk Abraham has gained a lot of appreciation and met many friends during this nearly 20-year tenure as a daily, and nightly, voice on KDOM Radio in Windom.

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