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April 12, 2010

TALKING A GOOD GAME - Former baseball player Andy Aldrich goes by a different name these days and enjoys a successful career as a radio talk show host

By: Jimmy Robertson

Photo courtesy of WRIFDrew Lane, better known to Tech fans as Andy Aldrich, isn’t afraid to sport his Hokie hat during his popular radio show “Drew and Mike in the Morning.”

For those looking for a different talk show and some different rock music to occupy their morning hours, they ought to get on the Internet, log on to and check out “Drew and Mike in the Morning,” a popular show coming out of Detroit.

If you do, you’ll hear a former Hokie behind the microphone.

The “Drew” part of the show refers to Drew Lane. But folks who keep up with Tech baseball know him better as Andy Aldrich, a former first baseman, outfielder and designated hitter who shined in Blacksburg in the late 1970s and early 80s.

He graduated from Tech in 1981 with a degree in communications and got a nice-paying job selling paper products in Roanoke, Va. Having done some radio work while in college, he decided to continue a hobby that he liked, working a second gig as the host of a sports talk show in Christiansburg. His passion for radio ultimately won out.

“After a year, I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got to give this a shot,’” he said. “It didn’t pay worth a darn. I only made about $115 a week. But I loved radio. When a shift came open, I knew I’d kill myself if I didn’t try it. My father thought I was crazy.”

His decision spawned a career in radio that has lasted more than 25 years and moved him all around the country. He later worked at WROV in Roanoke, and two years later, landed a job in Charlotte – with a nice bump in pay.

While in Charlotte, he underwent a name change, going from Andrew Aldrich to Drew Lane.

“The people in Charlotte didn’t want me to use my last name. They didn’t think it was catchy enough,” Aldrich laughed. “They wanted me to change it and we came up with Lane. But it wasn’t something I wanted to do.”

He went from Charlotte to Boston, where he worked for a couple of years, and then to Phoenix for three years from 1988-91. His Phoenix job, though, didn’t last quite as long as he had planned.

“I got fired and that was heartbreaking,” he said. “But that turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.”

His experience and some good fortune enabled him to land with WRIF in Detroit in November of 1991. He eventually came to team with Mike Clark to form a morning show called “Drew and Mike in the Morning,” and they talk about anything from sports to politics to entertainment and beyond. The show became the No. 1-rated morning show in Detroit.

Aldrich has been in Detroit and with the station ever since – save for a one-year hiatus when he took care of his fiancée, Tess Schuster, while she recovered from breast cancer. Some might question the logic of a person who enjoys living in Detroit, but Aldrich – a Midwest native– has carved out a nice career in the Motor City and likes the area.

“I like the people here,” he said. “You hear all the stuff about Detroit, and the city has its problems, but the suburbs are beautiful. We’re doing just fine.”

Part of the appeal of Detroit comes from Aldrich’s background. He grew up in the Midwest, living outside of Chicago and graduating from high school there before he landed at Tech.

Andy Aldrich started as a freshman and was a productive player under coach Bob Humphreys (1978) and then coach Chuck Hartman (1979-81) while in Blacksburg.

Aldrich planned on playing baseball near the East Coast, and he and his father, who lived in Maryland (his parents were divorced), visited numerous schools in the winter of his senior year. He met up with then Tech coach Bob Humphreys, who had rebuilt Tech’s baseball program. Humphreys took over in 1974, and in three years, had the Hokies in the NCAA regionals.

At the time, Humphreys was looking for a good left-handed hitter and ended up offering Aldrich a scholarship.

“He was such a great guy and he had great credentials,” Aldrich said. “They had such a beautiful park there. It was between the football stadium and Cassell Coliseum, and Hump was the groundskeeper, too. The field was just immaculate.

“He ran that program almost like a pro program. So when he offered me a scholarship, I accepted it.”

Aldrich managed to break into Tech’s veteran lineup as a freshman. In fact, Humphreys decided to hit him third in the lineup right from the start, and one of Aldrich’s most memorable moments came in his seventh game as a collegian – against a traditionally powerful Oklahoma squad.

“I came up with the bases loaded, and I hit a bloop over the third baseman and three runs scored,” Aldrich said of a hit that led Tech to a 4-2 win. “Then I had three hits the next day. I didn’t come in expecting to start. We were a good program and had a lot of guys coming back, but Hump showed a lot of confidence in me.”

Aldrich ended up leading the team in hitting with a .348 average that season, and he also led the team in hits (48) and triples (4). In addition to the hit over Oklahoma, he also rattled off several other memories during his Tech career, including launching two homers against Georgia Tech toward the end of his junior season and following that by hitting two homers against Cincinnati in the first game of the Metro Tournament, leading Tech to a 10-6 victory.

Aldrich played his final three years under coach Chuck Hartman after Humphreys, a major league pitcher with five different teams during a nine-year career, left to go to work in professional baseball. But Aldrich never missed a beat.

In his senior year, he hit .367 on one of the best clubs ever at Tech. Normally, a .367 average would lead the team in hitting, but Brian Rupe hit .420 and Franklin Stubbs hit .417, and that team finished 48-9. But on the way to the Metro Tournament, unfortunate circumstances derailed Tech’s NCAA hopes.

“We stopped and played a game against Georgia Tech, and both me and Jay Phillips got hurt,” Aldrich said. “Then we lost two out of three in the Metro tourney and didn’t receive a bid. We were 48-9 and didn’t get a bid.”

Aldrich still keeps up with the Hokies, particularly the football program, though he hasn’t been back to Blacksburg in five years. On Saturdays in the fall, he and his friends tailgate right across the street from Michigan Stadium – the Big House – and then go to Michigan games. They also take in Michigan basketball games, and of course, the avid sports fan keeps tabs on the Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons.

“Detroit is really a fantastic sports town,” he said.

But it doesn’t quite rival his playing days at Tech.

“We’d have 4,000 or 5,000 sitting on the hill watching us play,” he said. “There would be some crazy stuff going on. But it was a lot of fun.”