The fall of 1997 was a good one for me. I’d just been given the P. A. announcer’s job with my high school, becoming only the second voice of W. T. Woodson football in the history of the school, there were other schools and tournaments asking me to announce for them, and it was looking
The fall of 1997 was a good one for me. I’d just been given the P. A. announcer’s job with my high school, becoming only the second voice of W. T. Woodson football in the history of the school, there were other schools and tournaments asking me to announce for them, and it was looking like I would be able to make some extra money doing something I loved. Then came the phone call.
Earlier that year, I applied for the P. A. announcer position for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks. I prepared my resumes, sent them, and then heartbreak when I got it back from the Diamondbacks with the wrong cover letter. Ok, so there went any chance of getting a job with either of the expansion teams, so I did what any wet-behind-the-ears baseball fan would do. Resend the resumes, but to the correct people. Now, keep in mind, my resume included all the little things I announced and it was eight pages long. Yeah, it turned heads, but probably not in a good way.
But there was that phone call on my answering machine from Eric Rannebarger who was to be the first voice in the history of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Eric was hiring the in-game DJ, came across my resume and interviewed me a couple of times over the phone. As the fall football season turned to basketball, we began to chat more and I was offered the job, but with the agreement that I could finish out the high school basketball season in Fairfax before moving to St. Petersburg.
Well, when you’ve never had a job in professional sports, or a real job for that matter, it’s tough and you’re going to make mistakes. I did. In trying to fit in, I didn’t quite do it the right way and wound up getting a night off from my job during Spring Training, only to be called back a few days later when Eric was released from his position and they needed someone who knew the show, knew where the music was, and knew what was going on to assist a P. A. announcer (Bill Couch) who was being brought in with only a couple of games until the Rays opened Tropicana Field.
About a month into the Major League season, I was frustrated with my role. I was to DJ the games, but wasn’t given the opportunities I was hoping for. The music was scripted long before the game started and I had to stick with it. The few times I could skew from the script, I had the crowd dancing, moving, and/or laughing. The lights at Tropicana Field went out one night and when they came back on, I played Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly”. Even in my booth, I could hear the laughter from the crowd.
The frustration boiled over one night against the Minnesota Twins in which the teams went 14 innings before the Rays won 13-12. During the extra innings, I’d been asked my opinion on what to play. I’d suggested, several times “Do You Believe in Magic” by the Lovin’ Spoonful. It’d worked for my high school several times the previous season and I was feeling it this night.
After being shut down several times and trying to fight for the song, I was asked, “Who do you work for?”
Me being tired, frustrated and young, I said, “We both work for Mr. Naimoli.”
John Franzone was my boss and I’d just talked back to him in the most disrespectful way. I’d been coming from a situation in which I had the right choice with very little to work with. Now, I had a larger library and much more to choose from, but felt I wasn’t getting the respect I’d deserved. Especially after Spring Training and rocking the place when given the opportunity. It was definitely an eye opener and a tough place to be.
During Spring Training, John had asked me to go to Legends Field to get some music off their computer for Tropicana Field, which I did. It was cool to be there. During the visit, I talked to one of the Yankees staffers who mentioned they were looking for a P. A. announcer for the upcoming season. It gave me a chance to announce, and do the music, but it was the Yankees (keep in mind, late 90’s, Orioles and Yankees had a rivalry going). Well, after losing my job with the big team, John mentioned that he’d talked to the “Minor League team down the street” and they’d be interested in having me announce for them to take over for Bill Couch.
That’s when I met the General Manager, Tony Flores who, after the first game, told me the exact wrong thing.
“I want you to push the envelope. If you get thrown out, I will pay your fine.”
And yes, I did push the envelope and was allowed to succeed while making mistakes. Though I did make mistakes, there weren’t as many as I’d made previously, I was allowed to be creative by also running the message board on the scoreboard (which they needed because the St. Pete Devil Rays P. A. announcer was now at Tropicana Field, as was their organist/message board operator who became the organist for the big club). John told me that he was sending me down to the Minors and I never got that call back up to the big show with the Rays. Though I did make it back to major-pro sports in 2013 as the in-game DJ with the Washington Capitals.
My Major League door closed, but my door to really develop what I do and given the ability to succeed opened in the same day. After that inaugural 1998 season, I began announcing kart racing at a kart track in Land O’Lakes, Florida where a young Aric Almirola was racing. The following February, I was offered an internship to work with the St. Petersburg Devil Rays. My first full-time job in baseball at $500 a month!
Well, before I get into too many more stories, let’s end it here for this edition.