To help out a friend, I did a little PA work this week for the 2013 Cal Ripken Major/60 World Series in Hammond, Indiana. While I consider baseball to be my favorite sport to watch, I confess to being a mostly average (at best) baseball PA announcer. The problem isn’t a lack of understanding of the game as much as it is a familiarity with the behind-the-scenes process.
Having done basketball for the better part of the past 20 years, I can hop on the mic at any gym or arena anytime and sound like a pro. Why? Because I know what to expect, when to expect it. Believe it or not, I was more nervous working these baseball games in Hammond—where no player is older than 12 years old—than I was working in front of 35,000 screaming fans at the NCAA Regional in March.
I worked two games on Friday, plus the opening ceremonies later that evening. Getting through that first game is always a bit nerve-wracking because, no matter how much I prepare, I never feel prepared enough. In this case, I wasn’t even really prepared until I got to the park. I reviewed the starting lineups and the order of announcements that needed to be read. Once I got started with the opening greeting, I felt fine. My problem is—and I really need to work on this—I never feel totally comfortable ad-libbing if I’ve never done it before. It’s my own hang-up that I requires continuous improvement on my part. I felt pretty rusty on Friday afternoon.
I had a couple errors that bothered me (missed a player introduction when he came up to bat, defensive switches) that I need to avoid next time. I pride myself on being professional and those errors are anything but professional.
The games themselves were fun to watch. The kids played hard and never quit. Their families and supporters were loud and spirited and cheered loudly. Best of all, the sportsmanship on display was great. All those overzealous stage parents could learn from them.
The opening ceremonies went off much better. Originally, I wasn’t going to do it, but I was asked if I’d stick around and help with it. About an hour prior to starting, I sat down with Tim Bell, president of Hammond Optimist Youth Sports (the host group for the World Series) and Paul Mullaney, the group’s past president and regular PA announcer for many of its games and events, to go over the script. This helped tremendously. It also helped to have Paul right next to me, cuing me up and keeping me in line.
The event itself, I should mention, was well attended. Ten teams from around the country are playing in this tournament. Teams from as far away as Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York and North Dakota are joining to local teams from Crown Point and Hammond. From what I saw, they all brought vocal contingents of fans. It only made the atmosphere that much better.
Speaking of Atmosphere…
It’s been awhile since I’ve been in a crowded press box. When I work soccer for IUPUI, the press box is usually occupied by only a handful of people. It helps that getting to the press box at Carroll Stadium is similar to climbing the stairs to Mecca, so it keeps the riff-raff out. Kidding (mostly). The press box at the World Series is teeming with activity, all the time. It is the nerve center of the complex, nestled at the apex of three baseball diamonds. For the World Series, only two are being used, but they’re being used concurrently. That makes for lots of people, lots of noise and lots of distractions. It’s a long way from that soccer press box or even press row for basketball games. I can handle a noisy audience at a basketball game easier than a conversation between two people happening right over my shoulder. Figure that out.
Originally, I was only committed to working that one day. I had a few pending situations that prevented me from committing beyond that. But I had so much fun working Friday afternoon that I agreed to come back and work two more games on Monday night. They needed someone and I’m happy to volunteer. It’s worth noting I do have an ulterior motive to coming back: I want to prove to myself that I can do better than what I did on Friday. Personally speaking, I’m not happy with my performance and I want to go back and do it again because I’m certain I can do better. Why? Because you never know who’s listening.