ESPN’s Negandhi speaks at Kiwanis

As he stood at the podium to address the crowd on Thursday at the Genetti Hotel as part of the annual Ray Keyes Williamsport Kiwanis Luncheon as its guest speaker, ESPN Sports Center anchor Kevin Negandhi mentioned that despite the fact he only lived 165 miles away, he never got to see the Little League World Series prior to 2018.

As part of ESPN’s assignment, Negandhi got to cover this year’s Little League World Series and despite covering college football games, USA games and even being on Sports Center on a daily basis, Negandhi thinks that he may just be remembered for one thing after this year’s Series.

“Now I think I’ll be known as the guy who slid down the hill in his suit as it was raining,” Negandhi joked to the crowd. “It took me back to being a kid. When you come here and you drive into South Williamsport, the air smells differently and it takes you back to your memories. I grew up on baseball, I lived down the street (from a field).”

Negandhi was the first person in his family born in the United States, as his parents both immigrated from India. He mentioned how his dad came in 1969 with $2 in his pocket and lived at a YMCA.

Negandhi’s love and passion for baseball was obvious throughout his address to the many at the Genetti. And being someone who loves the game of baseball, being able to be in South Williamsport to cover it for ESPN is something Negandhi loves.

“The entire baseball world — you can talk about professional league, minor league, college — entire baseball world is centered on Williamsport this week for a reason because this is where we started our passion, our love for Little League Baseball.

“As a kid that grew up outside and down the street from a Babe Ruth League, I was a bat boy and played baseball as a 7-, 8-, 9-year-old kid. … I cannot wait for my sons … for their first real Little League experience. That’s what it is. It’s passing it generation to generation. Learning, teammwork, idea of learning to fail and come back up and get another chance for an at bat. … That’s a reminder. I’ve been blessed and lucky to cover professional athletes and coolest thing aside from going down that hill is reaction that many of these kids have with each other.”

Negandhi recalled this year’s game between Hawaii and New York in which Hawaii’s Sean Yamaguchi hit a grand slam and seeing the sportsmanship the Staten Island players exhibited afterwards caught his eye.

“They’re down 6-0 and what you saw in the field while this kid is running bases, kids from Staten Island giving him high fives. It’s pretty cool. They understand what that kid did was pretty cool,” Negandhi said. “It’s not about themselves. It’s not about losing. It’s ‘wow, that was awesome.’ That’s my biggest takeaway from this whole experience.”

Negandhi spoke about putting together a piece on the Australian team at the International Grove and seeing how happy the players were despite just coming off a 15-0, four-inning loss in a consolation game to Coventry, Rhode Island.

“They couldn’t have been happier. We did piece and afterwards I talked to coach aside and I said ‘I got to commend your kids. They just lost and their whole Little League run is over and you couldn’t tell. It was like they won 15-0’ and he said ‘that’s the great thing about what we do here.'”

Negandhi joined ESPN in 2006. After he realized that a professional athletic career wasn’t in his future, he decided covering sports was the next best thing.

“Closest thing I came to being part of a team was traveling with all-star baseball team at 12. By 13, I realized that I wasn’t good enough and that was OK. By 14, I realized I can get paid to cover athletes and I’m going to do this the rest of my life,” Negandhi said.

Negandhi also spoke about family and support. He recalled getting his start in broadcasting and how a news station recommended he change his last name due to his Indian ancestry. Ultimately, Negandhi never did, but he did speak about how his parents were supportive. And that tale of support is what reminded him of how he feels in his hometown of Phoenixville and also in Williamsport.

“My family always believed in support. Making sure family’s around and that’s the same vibe I get from my hometown of Phoenixville and that’s same vibe I get in Williamsport. It’s like a piece of Phoenixville and I’m honored to share this experience with you guys,” Negandhi said. ”I think every single adult needs to come here. No matter what year it is, you need to experience what Little League can offer you. What it can remind you of and what it can aspire you to be.

“Being on Sports Center, I like to be relateable to the fan and I like to think I’ve done that the last few days (at the Little League World Series).”