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The Voice speaks

There are two names stitched in white script letters on the red breast of Fletcher Mulnix's First Baptist School letter jacket. The first is his given name. The second, in quotation marks just below it, is his nickname.

"The Voice."

It's a nickname Mulnix has been earning for the past three years, first as an eighth grader reading the starting lineups for junior high basketball games at First Baptist School and later as the announcer for the Crusaders' varsity games.

These days, though, The Voice's voice is going out to a much larger audience. Since the beginning of the WNBA season earlier this month Mulnix has been the arena announcer for the Minnesota Lynx.

It's a pretty good gig for a kid who's finishing his junior year of high school this week.

Mulnix's journey to Target Center is equal parts luck and determination. For starters, there's the voice. When Mulnix started announcing lineups three years ago his voice hadn't changed yet. It was high and squeaky. Nothing like the deep, resonant voice he speaks with today. Whether in conversation or on a voice mail message he sounds like he should be an announcer.

It also helped that a family friend knew Rod Johnson, who was the arena announcer for both the Lynx and the Minnesota Timberwolves when Mulnix met him in 2003.

"I had just become a Timberwolves fan," Mulnix said. "I never even thought about being a public address announcer or a sports announcer at all."

But Mulnix's job is hardly an accident. Even before he met Johnson Mulnix had an idea he wanted to make a living with his voice. While his peers were in the driveway pretending to hit last-second shots to win championship games, Mulnix was inside playing with microphones and speakers. He wasn't sure if he wanted to be a musician or a radio announcer or something else he hadn't figured out yet but he knew he liked speaking into a microphone.

"I've had a microphone since I was 4 or 5 years old," Mulnix said. "I'd plug it into my dad's guitar amp."

Mulnix never had a lot of interest in sports growing up but he said working behind the microphone at basketball games has given him an appreciation.

Johnson continued to work with Mulnix over the years and it was Johnson who gave The Voice his first big speaking role. When he had to miss a Lynx game last season, Johnson recommended his bosses allow Mulnix to take his place. He helped Mulnix put together an audition tape and Mulnix got the fill-in job.

Mulnix said it was strange announcing a game with so many people in the audience. He was especially nervous during the pre-game activities, when there was no action on the court to distract people from what he was saying.

"It was a little nerve-wracking," Mulnix said. "The starting line-up was what really made me nervous," he said.

Mulnix's performance wasn't perfect -- he said he called a few fouls wrong -- but he was satisfied with how things went.

Apparently his bosses with the Lynx were, too. This year, when Johnson decided he wanted to spend more time with his family and his new auction business, he again recommended Mulnix to take his place. Now Mulnix is the full-time announcer for the Lynx and the back-up announcer for the Timberwolves. He hasn't gotten to fill in yet for an NBA game, but he said it could happen next season."That would be insane," he said. "It would be blast."

For now, though, Mulnix is happy with what he's doing. He likes being part of the action at the Lynx games. His friends often get to sit courtside while he works. For the Lynx's season opener May 18 there were 10,000 fans in the stands.

"Obviously for a 17-year-old to be announcing for a professional basketball team is unique," he said.

He keeps honing his skills, too. He has books of announcements from old games he goes over at home. He works on pitch and delivery. On knowing the rules and matching the tone of his voice to the excitement of the moment.

Mulnix is branching out a little with his announcing this spring, too. Starting this week he is calling play-by-play for KDWA Radio in Hastings. He will call summer baseball games for the station.

After he graduates next year Mulnix plans to attend college for radio or television broadcasting.

Mulnix still isn't sure whether he wants to go into news or sports broadcasting or some other medium, but with each passing game he gets more certain he wants to make his living behind a microphone.

"This is what I want to be doing," he said.