Sitting at the sports desk last Thursday, an announcement came over the radio stating that the Boston Red Sox were holding walk-up public address announcer auditions Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
My first thought was what type of people will show up to an event like that? Without hesitation I texted my friends to see who would be interested in joining me on a pilgrimage up the Mass Pike to Fenway Park for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Carl Beane was just the fifth public address announcer to sit in the coveted chair atop "America's most beloved ballpark," and now the average Joe like myself has the opportunity to follow in his decibel trail. When Beane tragically passed away last May, I remember sitting in my Charlotte apartment thinking this might be an opportunity of a lifetime.
I sent a compassionate email the next day expressing interest in trying out for the vacated announcer position. The Red Sox never returned my call, but my chance to showcase my voice came when I least expected it.
Folks, you might be thinking what type of experience could a young small town sportswriter have in announcing?
One night down in the cave of the student newspaper office at UNC Charlotte, I received an email from the Charlotte 49ers athletics department, asking us to place an advertisement in the sports section for student athletic department assistants.
The advertisement read "looking for students to assist in video production, play-by-play/color commentary broadcasting, and/or stat running.
In my time at UNC Charlotte, I had the opportunity to commentate two Atlantic 10 tournament championships in softball and men's soccer, and a pair of NCAA men's soccer tournament opening-round matches. On average, I would say I easily commentated more than 100 games a year across three different sports. The sport where I had the most fun was baseball. How much experience did I have on the PA system? Answer: zero.
Friends of mine have always said that PA announcing would come natural to me with my booming voice. My family always told me if that if I could find a gig where I could use my loud mouth, it'd be an ideal fit.
Saturday started off like the average run-of-the-mill day. Wake up at 7 a.m., drink my coffee, get dressed, but last week there was something special weighing heavily on my mind. I had the opportunity to try out for one of the coolest gigs in New England sports. All morning I was running through an imaginary script, announcing Red Sox players past and present to the point that the cat was peering at me through the crack in the bathroom door with serious puzzlement.
Ginger lozenges and green tea were necessary to keep my baritone voice at peak performance. When we arrived at the ballpark, it was around 9:15 a.m. There were about seven middle aged to older gentleman waiting outside Gate D.
We weren't sure where to go, and whether or not those gentlemen were just hanging outside Fenway, so we continued to walk around the park's perimeter. When we returned to Gate D, the line quickly grew to approximately 40 people.
The majority of people waiting outside had their briefcases, CDs of their work, and jackets and or hats of the colleges they announce for now. I on the other hand, stood with a notepad and my pride. Standing outside in the bitter New England cold, wind chill in the teens, a young woman walked by in a skirt, and I immediately joked with the man beside me "it's not that cold if she's walking around in a skirt," trying to fool ourselves.
Talking to people in line, I quickly learned that I was the epitome of an underdog in this race. When the gate finally opened at promptly at 10 a.m., Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava was there to greet us as security lifted the gate. Walking into the labyrinth that is Fenway Park, we followed a gentleman up a few ramps to an elevator.
The elevator then carried us announcer hopefuls up to the EMC Club, where there were tables clearly labeled for PA tryouts and national anthem tryouts. The announcer audition line stretched back to the granite bar, and I was right in the middle of it, chitchatting with broadcast professionals from all across New England. When I finally reached the table, a script was handed to me and I received my number.
My number, 328, was in the first platoon of potential announcer to go up to the booth. I was the first in my group, and to be honest, I wasn't nervous one bit. Fenway Park worker "Joey" lined us up by the exit and led the group of eight hopefuls up to the fifth floor to the press box.
We each were briefed by the video productions girl about the process and how to operate the microphone. The gentleman ahead of me belted out the script in a heavy Bostonian accent. When my turn came, I strutted my way down to the announcer booth and took in the majestic birds-eye view of Fenway Park.
Then, I gathered myself, pressed down the rectangle-shaped red button and let my golden pipes bellow over the empty ball-yard and surrounding neighborhoods.
When I was done, I walked up the staircase and was greeted by the other guys in my group with a series of handshakes and back slaps. One of the guys said to me, "Ed, are you sure you never did this before?" When I stepped back on the elevator, it finally hit me that I had just announced on the loudspeaker at Fenway Park. The elevator attendant with whom I chatted with before asked "how'd it go?" I wouldn't know that answer until I reported back to the EMC Club.
If I had a bucket list, that would be near the top. I was living in a dream, and when I went down to ask my friend Monica how she thought I did, she promptly greeted me with a recording of my voice on the Fenway Park sound system. When I heard it, I stopped and grinned like a little kid from ear to ear. The recording of my audition was immediately posted to my Facebook page, and three of my friends shared it with their friends, and many people have since listened and given me great praise.
That smile hasn't left my face since last week; I indeed fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams. Even if I never hear from the Red Sox about coming in for another audition, I still did something that many dream of. I got to sit in the coveted announcer booth and belt out a game script over the loudspeakers at Fenway. Even if it was for only two minutes, it was two minutes of ecstasy I will never forget.
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