Wednesday, April 6, 2011

He's back

Back after a rest that wasn’t much of a rest.

Always in the market for something different, I ventured into the world of public address announcing during spring training out here at Goodyear Ballpark and discovered it wasn’t as easy as I expected.

Having a considerable background in talk radio – 23 years in the Greater Cleveland market – and a love for the game of baseball, my decision to step into foreign territory unveiled a new respect for the men and women who shepherd you through a baseball game via the PA.

It’s not easy at all. In fact, it requires much more discipline than a radio talk show host, whose only responsibilities are to know what he’s talking about and how to use a microphone and answer telephone calls.

The discipline of a PA announcer is vastly different. It goes far beyond merely opening up a mic and talking.

There’s paying attention to every little detail of a game in addition to making sure you get your pre-game and in-game reads in in a precise manner. Nothing is left to the imagination, especially during spring training.

It’s sell, sell, sell all the time. Make certain the fans know which products they should at least consider spending their money on.

And then there are the between-inning contests that provide entertainment. Contests such as hot-dog eating, kids racing mascots around the bases, spinning your head on a golf club and then and putting a golf ball. All designed to give the people a good laugh.

And who’s in charge of making sure the fans are aware of all this? That’s right, the PA guy.

Then there’s the real reason he’s there. To inform the fans who’s starting, who’s batting, who’s replacing a starter. And in spring training exhibition games, the lineup changes come fast, furious and without warning.

It’s not like a regular-season game where the umpire controls the situation and the PA person waits until the arbiter officially signals a new player into a game. In exhibitions, the trick is getting in all your reads, making certain the fans know who the replacements are and where they’re playing and announcing the leadoff hitter before he steps into the box.

Easy, no? No.

On more than one occasion, there wasn’t nearly enough time to squeeze everything into a two-and-a-half minute hole and it had to be managed on a piecemeal basis. After a while, it became extremely frustrating because the main job of the PA person is to inform.

It’s all about rhythm and that rhythm, with time and experience, becomes easier to manage. Having never done it before, it took nearly the entire season to nail it.

It’s like just about anything else. The more you do something, the more comfortable you feel and the better you get.

If nothing else, it gave me a greater appreciation and respect for what PA announcers do, especially in exhibition games.

I started the job apprehensive and nervous. I ended the season last week confident and hoping my work was good enough to warrant a return next season.

At least those in charge didn’t tell me not to let the door hit me in the hind flanks on the way out. I took that as a good sign.

Tomorrow, it’s back to the grind with football – what else? – in the spotlight.

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