Spencer Sauter: Pro beach volleyball player, day trader, and now, The Price is Right big winner.
“Yep,” said Rachel Reynolds, one of the TV show’s models as she flipped over the card to reveal the number $18,749, which confirmed that Sauter won a new car.
The typical The Price is Right pandemonium ensued, with buzzers, music, and announcers blaring in the background as the 6-foot 8-Sauter ran over to his new 2019 Ford Fiesta SE hatchback, hugging Reynolds and jumping up and down with a vertical worthy of the AVP Manhattan Beach Open.
The 24-year-old Sauter, who has competed on the AVP and FIVB tour since 2016, making six main draws, also won a tool set, a Bluetooth stereo receiver, a turntable and records, headphones, an indoor garden, and free eggs for a year.
“I like the free eggs,” Sauter said. “That’s the most random one.”
Thanks to AVP announcer Mark Schuermann — more on that later — Sauter won the car this past January 6, but had to sign a non-disclosure agreement and keep mum until the episode aired this past Monday.
“I deleted my Facebook app, and effectively went off the grid,”” Sauter admitted. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
When the show finally aired, Sauter had a viewing party.
“My parents and grandparents all flew from Illinois to be here. My sister and boyfriend also came. Kristen Petrasic (my girlfriend) had her mom and sister in law flew in from Texas.”
As a child growing up in Illinois, Sauter watched The Price is Right with his grandfather Jack, so naturally he jumped at the chance when Schuermann sent out a group text asking who wanted to attend a taping in Burbank, Calif.
Schuermann was visiting with his girlfriend Kim Smith’s parents in Indianapolis, Indiana. Smith’s parents watch The Price is Right daily, and Kim’s mother Debbie remarked how cool it would be to be on the show.
That was enough to get Schuermann fired up to attend a taping.
Schuermann, who announced both indoor and beach volleyball at the Rio Olympics, said he used to get upset when his mother’s kindergarten schedule kept him from watching The Price is Right. What’s more, he emceed a family game of The Price is Right at the age of 11 for a group of 20.
His ambition had been to succeed Bob Barker, which resulted in a story for VolleyballMag.com in 2016.
Schuermann put together a group of 11 to attend the January 6 taping including pro beach volleyball players Kristen Petrasic, Kim Smith, McKenzie Ponnet, Ben Ponnet, and Jake Rosener.
As is customary on The Price is Right, they wore custom t-shirts. Each wore different numbers on the front and back, figuring that when one of the group made it up to the stage, they could communicate prices by arranging themselves by number to communicate the correct bid.
Before the actual taping, producers interview attendees and select contestants. The interviews are in groups of 20 or 30, with each person getting 20 or 30 seconds. Schuermann was eliminated when he told producers that he was an announcer. Evidently they didn’t want competition for host Drew Carey.
Then it was Sauter’s turn.
“It’s a little bit stressful, because that’s your best chance to get on the show. I was trying my best to be as upbeat and energetic as possible. I feel like I was jumping up and down and doing calf raises while I was talking to the guy,” Sauter said. “I think the first thing I said was, ‘I’m just happy to be here, I don’t even care what happens,’ which of course was a complete lie, because I really wanted to get up there.”
Sauter must have interviewed well, because he was picked to be a contestant during the second half of the show. He was caught by surprise when they called his name.
“It was a sober blackout of adrenalin,” said the former Penn State player. “I cannot describe that feeling. I have never had so much adrenalin, going from zero to 100 that quickly. It’s kind of crazy, because inside the studio, it’s so loud that you can barely hear the announcer saying names, or giving descriptions.
“But I saw someone flip a poster, and I thought, ‘Wait a minute, that’s my name.’ I was in the second row, and I just completely lost it. I couldn’t completely control myself at that point, but I just jumped over the chair into bidder’s row, I was ready to go the second they called me.
“Our whole group was in the first and second row, so I felt like it was just one giant mosh pit.”
Sauter and three other contestants bid on products. The objective is to make the closest bid without going over the price of the product.
Sauter, who lives in Redondo Beach, bid unsuccessfully in his first try. It’s a significant disadvantage to bid first. On his second try, he was the third bidder, in this case on a knife set and butcher block.
Sauter said it was so loud in the studio that he really wasn’t sure what he was bidding on, mistakenly thinking that he was going for a tool set.
“I was looking the wrong way, and I didn’t even realize what we were bidding on, and it’s so loud in there, and I couldn’t hear the announcer describing the item, so I saw this tool set behind a curtain, but apparently there was the knife set to the left that I never even saw.”
The first contestant bid $1,250 and the second $1,251.
Smith previously attended culinary school and knew that the butcher block was significantly more than that, so the group tried to encourage Sauter to bid $1,500, but he couldn’t hear them.
“My whole thought process was, ‘If I say $1,252, this guy will say $1,253, and he’ll win, but then I’ll get to go last on the next bid. So I bid $1,252.”
The last bidder, Jose, looked back at his friends and family for guidance. Schuermann leaned over the seat in front of him, almost in Jose’s face, screaming “One dollar! One dollar!”
“And then it clicked into my head, brilliant,” Sauter recalled. “If this guy bids one dollar, I’m going to win!”
Sure enough, Jose bid $1. Even Carey acknowledged Schuermann’s group, telling Jose, “You know, you’re just listening to all of Spencer’s friends there.”
The announcer then read the price of the knife set: $2,267, sending Sauter to the stage for the next contest.
The game was “line ‘em up,” where the contestant is given the first and last numbers in the price of the Ford Fiesta, and must select the middle numbers from two or three choices each. Sauter had two chances to correctly choose the three middle numbers in order to win.
The 2019 model car would certainly be an upgrade for Sauter, who currently drives a 2012 Chevy Volt that his parents gave him when he moved out to California.
This might be a good time to explain what Sauter does for a living.
He’s a day trader. His father was a Wall Street trader for 40 years, and Sauter spent summers at the Chicago Board of Trade. Sauter’s typical day involves waking at 5:30 a.m. to begin buying and selling stocks before heading out to beach volleyball practice.
“For beach volleyball, it’s great because it gives me the flexibility to make a lot of different practices and workouts. I can plan it around my trading,” Sauter said. “If I don’t have a lot of time I can just write some options, and then not have to spend as much time on it. And then when I have more time, that’s when I can take more positions. When it’s going good, it’s great, or it can be a little frustrating when you’re losing money, but it’s great for the overall lifestyle.”
In trading securities, like sports, you have to be able to absorb losses as well as celebrate wins.
“Honestly, I had to experience some of those losses first, because I was too greedy when I started out, trying to hit a home run with every trade. It was kind of hard to swallow those losses. I feel like you have to have it happen to you and learn from the experience.
“I just try not to make the same mistake over and over again. I can handle the losses a lot better as long as I’m not making the same mistakes.
“It’s kind of like volleyball, if it’s not going well, you just have to clear your head, and it’s on to the next trade. It’s like in volleyball, if the last point didn’t work out, you can’t think any differently, just next point or next trade.”
Sauter’s first estimate at the value of the car was $17,949.
“I made the first guess, and I heard the buzzer go off. I thought I had actually lost, because even being that close to Drew, it’s so loud in there that I couldn’t hear the description of the game. Then I heard Drew say, ‘How many numbers does he have right?’ and it showed that I had one number right, and he said, “I can’t tell you which numbers to change, but you have to change two numbers.’ ”
Sauter said he knows very little about cars.
His friends in the front row had abandoned their strategy of arranging themselves numerically. So he said he formulated a strategy based on cosmetics, not prices.
“My only logic was that I don’t think that the numbers should be pulled all the way out, that just doesn’t look right. I’m going to leave one number in. So I set it up that way, and I looked back, and the thing I remember most, is that I looked back to my friends, and Jake Rosener is shaking his head in disappointment, like I’ve made the worst guess possible.
“I didn’t want to take up too much time on stage, so I said, that’s fine, this is it. All of a sudden, I can’t hear anything, but the model holding the price tag flips it over, I heard the ‘ding, ding, ding!’ and I didn’t even know how to contain myself. I just started sprinting for the car.”
The crew took him backstage. When the group purchased shirts, they guessed at sizes, and inadvertently purchased Sauter a child’s XL, not the best fit for his 6-8 frame. What’s more, he sweated profusely throughout the taping, so two ladies had to come out and blow-dry his armpits for 10 minutes before he could go back out to spin the famous The Price is Right wheel.
But he didn’t win.
“I had always told myself as a little kid, if I ever go on that show, I was going to spin the wheel as hard as I possibly could. At the time, I was only about three months out of shoulder surgery, but I launched the thing as hard as I could.
“I got 20 cents on the first spin, so I had to spin again, and I got 95 on the second spin, so I went over a dollar and busted.
“The wheel is so much heavier than it looks. It is really heavy, I thought that I would be able to spin it a bunch of times, but what you saw on TV is all the mustard I had.”
Sauter isn’t the first beach volleyball player to win a car on the show, CSUN setter and AVP announcer Chris “Geeter” McGee also won one in 1994.
At the watch party, “Mark Schuermann and Kim Smith were there. It was a blast to be able to watch with everyone and see everyone’s reactions. My dad and grandpa were in tears laughing,” Sauter said.
“Since we were in the front row we all got a lot of air time and it was funny to see everyone’s reactions throughout the show. Everyone said that they went harder at The Price is Right than they ever have at any bar or club.”
Sauter returned to social media and the videos he posted had an immediate reaction.
“My phone has never vibrated so many times in a 24-hour span. It’s kind of crazy, too, because they confiscate your phones when you enter the studio, so I had no picture or video evidence for any of it. My memory was so fuzzy, because it all happened so fast on stage, I’ve been kind of nervous, wondering what this would look like on TV. I had no idea what to expect. It was a lot of fun, and most people’s reactions were just laughing at me.”
Sauter’s Volt only has 60,000 miles on it, and the 2019 Ford Fiesta SE carries with it a significant tax burden (plus the fact that the 6-8 Sauter doesn’t fit in the Fiesta well), so Sauter plans to sell the Fiesta and keep the Volt, planning on using some of the money to fund this summer’s volleyball travel.
This year Sauter will partner with left-hander Ben Vaught. Their first competition is the FIVB one-star in Göteburg, Sweden, April 18-21, Sauter’s first time playing outside the United States.
Then they’ll play AVP Huntington May 3-5. And you can only imagine what Schuermann will have to say if he gets to introduce Sauter.