His commentary is energetic, his voice is iconic and he’s been called by some “a national treasure.” One thing’s for sure, this time of year Tom Leach goes hard in the paint.
We were lucky enough to steal some time with the “Voice of the Kentucky Wildcats” before he hit the road with the UK men’s basketball team for SEC tournament play in Tampa.
Can you give us a little background? Where did you grow up + how did you get your start in radio?
I grew up in Paris and went to Bourbon County High School. The only sport I played all four years of high school was baseball, because I started working at the radio station in my junior year.
I always knew I wanted to work in radio and do play-by-play. I started working on the high school football broadcasts where I would keep stats. By the time the tournament rolled around, I was actually getting to do a little play-by-play. And the next year, my senior year, I was doing all the play-by-play for football and basketball.
If you had to choose one local restaurant item to bring on a deserted island, what would it be?
Probably the lasagna at Guiseppe’s. Their food is as good as it gets.
What are the three things you’d do in Lexington with an out-of-town guest?
I’d take them to Keeneland + start out with breakfast at the Track Kitchen. Then walk up and watch the horses in their morning workouts. Then off to Paris for a tour of Claiborne Farm which gives you a great sense of what the thoroughbred industry is all about. Obviously, if it’s football or basketball season, I’d take them to a UK game because that’s such a big part of this community.
What do you do when you’re not calling UK games?
Well, I have a daily radio show that is on around the state, so that’s the full-time job year-round. I also work for Keeneland. In April + October there are a lot of extra hours involved with the race meet, but year-round I do some social media things for them, a weekly podcast, and video pick of the week. My role is primarily interviewing trainers, jockeys, and owners, to preview the upcoming races.
If you’re not calling a game, what is your favorite sport to watch?
My favorite two would be football or basketball. I always look forward to football the most because there haven’t been any football or basketball games since April. I like the NFL over NBA. The Bears were my first favorite team and that’s because of Gale Sayers. I was enthralled by Gale Sayers + watched “Brian’s Song” when I was like 10 years old so that probably contributed to it as well.
Favorite sports memory you’ve been a part of?
This is probably unexpected, but in the mid-'80s, my dad and I went to a Reds-Houston game at Riverfront Stadium. Baseball was his best sport + far-and-away his number one favorite sport. It just so happened Nolan Ryan would be pitching. We got seats, they were the blue seats at Riverfront Stadium, about 17 rows behind home plate to watch Nolan Ryan pitch against the Reds.