Ninety minutes before Grand Valley faces Ferris State, its biggest rival and the No. 1 team in the nation, Elio Benitez is having the time of his life on the Lubbers Stadium field.
Benitez, wearing a GVSU cap, and his radio partner Miguel Esparza, decked out in a GVSU vest, smile and joke for a collection of portraits. The tension and anxiety from the Lakers’ biggest game of the year hasn’t permeated their jovial mood.
Benitez suggests a few more playful poses to linger on the field before heading up to their radio booth for their final pre-game preparations.
“Sorry, I’m like a 5-year-old,” Benitez said. Esparza nods his head.
Esparza and Benitez, both native Chicagoans, said they quickly felt part of the Laker family since it was announced this fall that they would be the first broadcasting team to call the Lakers’ home games in Spanish. The pair commute to Allendale from their Chicago residences for every game at Lubbers Stadium.
“I was able to bring my family to the home opener, and they talked about it for days. We talked all about it on the drive back,” Benitez said. “The atmosphere was amazing. I couldn’t stop talking about the fans, and it truly is a family atmosphere. How can you not feed off that?”